When it comes to making food for our families, we’re looking for meals to be healthy, easy, and low cost, but it can be hard to accomplish all three at the same time. I’m all for making short cuts in the kitchen, and I’ll admit that I buy my fair share of convenience foods, but lately I’ve been striving for progress, not perfection – little swaps I can make here and there to make healthier choices for my family. Below is a list of some items I have made at home that are just as easy (or pretty close) to store bought and, bonus, they’re almost always cheaper, as well, not to mention they definitely taste much better too!
- Taco Mix – This is by far the easiest swap I’ve made. All you need is a bowl and spices that you probably already have in your pantry. Mix them up and set them aside for a quick and easy taco night!
- Pancake Mix – We save our pancake days for breakfast, dinner, or lazy Saturday mornings. I love making my own pancake mix with the white, whole wheat flour we always have on hand, just to make it a little healthier. It’s not any more difficult than mixing all the ingredients from a box. In the fall, I’ll add a cup of pumpkin to the mix.
- Pasta Sauce – Jarred pasta sauce tends to have a lot of extra sugar and ingredients. Buying plain crushed tomatoes and adding spices at home ensures you know exactly what’s going in it. Just mix everything in a sauce pan and let it simmer together on the stove. (Hint: I use a frozen pepper and onion mix, as well as already crushed garlic in this recipe so I don’t have to chop anything. I also omit the ground beef when I need to).
- Applesauce – This is definitely NOT easier than picking up your Go-Go squeeze pouches, but it’s not that difficult and the taste and way it makes your house smell is well worth the small extra effort.
- Oatmeal – Instead of oatmeal packets, just make your own overnight in a crockpot. It doesn’t get much easier than dumping everything in and letting your crockpot do the work for you while you sleep.
- Whole Chicken – Our go-to “I have no idea what to make for dinner” meal is a rotisserie chicken, that we affectionately call “pick-a-chick.” We’ll definitely still pick up an already cooked chicken every now and then (you can’t beat the deal at Costco), but I’ve been experimenting with making my own whole chicken in the crockpot (sensing a theme here? Crockpots make all these swaps SO much easier). I used to be extremely raw meat averse, but it’s really not that bad, and it’s so easy.
- Chicken Stock – Once you are done roasting your chicken, take the bones and make some homemade chicken stock. Perfect for soup weather and sick season!
Don’t worry, I’m not churning my own butter or making tortillas from scratch (though God bless my friends who do). And please don’t think I do all these swaps all the time (lest you spot me picking up all these things at the local King Soopers), I just try to do it as often as I can. So try these simple homemade substitutions if you’re up for it, but no worries if you don’t. And if it’s been a rough day? Pass the Chipotle for everybody please.