Providing real food meals is totally worth the extra preparation time, but that doesn’t mean every. single. item. has to be completely 100% homemade (thank goodness)! There are some decent store bought options out there, many of which only have one ingredient, and there are also plenty of food-like substances I’d recommend steering away from no matter what.
So here’s a little guide to help you decide when to go that extra made-from-scratch mile…
If you’re eating a salad, it’s got to be healthy, right? Well, not if you aren’t paying attention to the dressing that you put on top! Store bought salad dressings are often FULL of unnecessary processed additives that you would not use at home (including high-fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated oils—i.e. trans fat). So my answer to this one is always to make your own. And if you don’t have time, just drizzle some olive oil and balsamic vinegar over top—easy enough!
Answer: Make (recommended equipment: salad dressing bottle)
People frequently ask me if I make my own yogurt. Truth be told? I’ve never even tried it. I’m sure it tastes awesome and all, but why would I add one more thing to my to-do list when there are quite a few perfectly “clean” yogurt brands out there? I buy a 32-ounce tub of plain, organic, whole-milk yogurt almost every week at the store and just flavor it ourselves at home.
Bread is one of the trickiest real food items to find! I can tell you this: Most standard grocery store shelves are lined with highly processed versions of that pure whole wheat loaf we are all seeking. Just check the ingredients to see for yourself. And the bakery at the grocery store is usually no better. It may look like they are baking fresh bread back there (same trick as Subway), but what they are really doing is just baking some highly processed dough that was premade in a factory. So in the case of bread, either find a real bakery that is making real bread (it only takes 4 or 5 whole ingredients), or make it yourself.
Answer: Make (recommended equipment: bread maker / or find a good bakery to make it for you)
Now there aren’t a lot of whole grain cracker options out there, but there are a few—enough to get us by if need be! My favorite (ingredients wise) is ak-mak, but I do also occasionally buy knock-off Triscuits and Crunchmaster Original. It’s also super easy to make your own, and if you use my recipe, it only takes 3 ingredients.
Answer: Buy or Make (depending on your mood / recommended equipment: food processor)
Yes, I know. Making applesauce is so easy (just throw some sliced apples in the crock pot!). But many days I already feel like I spend enough time in the kitchen, so my health food store’s one ingredient organic applesauce is very tempting…and usually wins me over.
Answer: Buy (although it is easy to make)
You’ve gotta just trust me on this one. Homemade ice cream is easy to do and deeeelicious. The consistency is just perfect, and not only can you use your sweetener of choice, but you can also control how much. I tried ice cream out of a box after a year or two of exclusively making our own, and strangely enough the only thing I could taste was the box. Plus we’ll make Michael Pollan happy by “eating all the junk food you want as long as you make it yourself.”
Answer: Make! (recommended equipment: ice cream maker)
What items do you make versus buy?