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Some things are worth paying a little extra for. These prepackaged products are not.
Precut fruit, bottled water, ranch — these are all things that you can make at home for a fraction of the cost. Next time you’re grocery shopping, make sure these overpriced, prepackaged items are on your do-not-buy list.
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1. Buy the whole fruit for the same price as the pre-cut stuff — and get more than 5x the fruit.
Precut and packaged fruit might be one of the most overpriced things you can buy.
Take watermelon for example. A 26-pound Red Seedless Watermelon from the store (Kroger, Safeway, Costco, Walmart, you name it) will run, on average, between $5 and $6. A 20-ounce plastic container of watermelon chunks will also cost you about $5. That’s $5 for about 1.25 pounds or 4.8% of the weight of an actual watermelon!
The same is true for pineapple, cantaloupe, fruit medleys and the rest. Next time you pass by prepackaged fruit at the grocery store, just keep on walking.
2. Don’t pay $5 per pound for baby carrots when you can make your own for $1 per pound.
Did you know that baby carrots are just regular carrots that are whittled down and shaped into the rounded, snackable versions we are used to seeing in the store and restaurants? If you or your kids prefer baby carrots, that’s fine, but you’ll save dollars on every bag of carrots you buy if you consider cutting them into sticks yourself at home.
Baby carrots typically cost about $2 per pound but could run as much as $5 per pound if you’re going the organic route. Meanwhile, a bag of “adult” (i.e. regular) carrots is about $1 per pound or $1.50 for organic.
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3. Save up to $11 when you blend your own almond or peanut butter.
Almond butter is notoriously pricey and peanut butter, while more affordable, is filled with ingredients that I can’t pronounce.
It’s actually pretty easy to make your favorite nut butter at home. One pound of nuts will make one pound of butter. A 16-ounce jar of almond or another specialty butter costs anywhere from $9 to $17. Meanwhile, a pound of almonds typically cost between $6 and $8. All you need is a food processor or blender and some patience; it can take as long as 15 minutes for it to fully blend.
You don’t need to add in any water or oil but you could add salt to taste. (You could also add other yummies like hemp, chia, flax, coconut, or chocolate.)
4. Invest in a Soda Stream and you’ll never have to buy La Croix again.
Carbonated water is having its moment and if you’re a big fan, it might be worth it for you to invest in an at-home Soda Stream.
You can buy a SodaStream for $69.99 from Amazon and make sparkling water at home, any time you want. Just add water, literally!
A 12-pack of La Croix, for example, is about $6 or $0.50 per can. A SodaStream would pay for itself after about four-and-a-half months if you drink one 12-ounce carbonated beverage a day.
5. Skip the pre-made guac to make a better-tasting version at home for half the price.
A 16-ounce container of guacamole runs about $7 to $8 from the grocery store. Meanwhile, with three avocados ($0.68 each from Walmart), one lime ($0.38), tomatoes ($0.29) and/or red onion ($0.78), and stuff you have in your pantry — salt, pepper, a clove of garlic — you can make the same amount of guac at home for about $3.
Plus, I think we can all agree the homemade stuff just tastes better.
6. Make your own jerky to save about $25 a pound (and have better jerky).
To make beef (or whatever) jerky, you need to start with the leanest meat possible — top round, bottom round and sirloin, for example, are great for jerky-making. The less fat the better, because fat doesn’t dehydrate and you’ll need a smoker or dehydrator to dry up your meats. You can buy a dehydrator for as little as $24 from Kohl’s — make sure to check our website for the latest Kohl’s deals and coupons.
One pound of prepackaged, store-bought beef jerky is about $32 from Walmart and $36 from Amazon. Meanwhile,16 ounces of bottom round might run about $5.99 per pound at Albertsons and a top sirloin is about $6.94 per pound from Walmart. Not bad savings, especially if you plan to use the dehydrator regularly.
Bonus: You can season it how you like!
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7. Make ranch dip or dressing at home for less than half the cost of the pre-made stuff.
Most 16-ounce jars of ranch dressing or ranch dip usually run about $5, and contain monosodium glutamate (MSG) which makes my fingers puff up like sausages and gives me a thirst like I’ve been crawling across Death Valley, on my knees, in August.
Instead, you could buy a 16-ounce container of sour cream for $1 and add in a packet of Hidden Valley ranch mix for $1.69 if you must have the MSG, or just use spices you have at home. To make a ranch seasoning, you’d need: salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, dill, parsley and preferably, if you have them, dried chives.
8. Mix your own salad dressing using ingredients you already have at home.
I find salad dressings to be weirdly expensive — $5 for a bottle that’ll only last a few family dinners — and full of ingredients that, again, I can’t pronounce.
I actually prefer the taste of making my own dressing at home. For a simple recipe, simply combine equal parts olive oil (or your preferred oil) with balsamic vinegar and lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste.
The dressing is fresh, delicious, keeps well in the fridge and is made of things you probably already have in your pantry.
9. Never pay for bottled water again and save money and create less waste.
I flat-out refuse to pay for bottled water, because it’s so cost prohibitive and bad for the environment. While a single bottle of water might be around $1.50 at checkout, even buying in bulk is a bad deal: A 24-pack of generic 16.9-ounce bottles might run $3.50, while a name brand — like Smartwater — could be $9.99 fo a pack of six or more. Yikes.
Instead, buy a reusable water bottle (or a couple, so you can have one in your purse and/or once in the car at all times). You can find a reusable bottle for as little as $6 on Amazon. Fill it up with your tap water or, if you don’t have a filtering system but want one, invest in a Brita or similar water filtering pitcher. They cost around $20 on Amazon.
10. Skip overpriced kale chips and crisp your own for just $1.
Kale chips are actually pretty delicious, but can cost $5 or more for just a 2-ounce bag. Luckily, they’re super-easy to make.
You can buy bushels of kale for just $0.98 at Walmart. To make chips, spray them with oil, sprinkle with salt, and put them in the oven (over parchment paper on a cooking tray) for about 10 minutes at 350 degrees or until they’re as crispy as you like them.