Simplified Menu Planning: Day 9 – Choosing Homemade and Store-Bought Ingredients

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31 Days to Simplify Your Menu Planning

31 Easy Steps to Real Foods Planned, Purchased, & Prepared

Reduce the mental effort and time you invest in your pantry, grocery list, menu plan, and dinner recipes process. This 31 Days to Simplified Menu Planning series will break down the simplification into baby steps and show you how to develop a simple, easy, and effective strategy for feeding your family every day: without an overflowing pantry or extra trips to the grocery store.

So, now that you have your meal ideas listed out, the next step is to think about the components of those meals.

Step 9: Decide What You Will Make from Scratch & What You Will Buy Ready-Made

When making your mastery grocery list, you’ll want to consider what you want to make from scratch and what you will buy ready-made or mixes: barbecue sauce? sandwich bread? marinades? ketchup? spaghetti sauce? brownies?

This is a tricky subject, but one that is best to think through up front and rationally. Banish the vague feelings that because you can make something from scratch, you therefore should. That is not true. You need to take into consideration all that goes into the decision:

  1. The cost of the ready-made ingredient v. the cost of the ingredients of the ingredient.
  2. The time involved in making the item from scratch.
  3. Your family’s health and quality standards.
  4. The difficulty in keeping the item on hand (can it be frozen? how long does it store? would you have to make it every time you wanted it?)
  5. Whether you love or hate diy.

So, what do you use in your cooking? What shortcuts are worth the expense to you? What is worth your time because you love the quality? How much time do you want to spend in the kitchen? There is no wrong or right or one-size-fits-all answer. But as you decide, make the note on your master grocery list.

Will your mastery grocery list say “salsa” because you use it all the time and have a brand you like, or will it say “cilantro” because you love PW’s Restaurant-Style Salsa (which freezes nicely)?

Tomorrow we’ll finalize the master pantry list we’ve been working on all month.

Resources for DIY Ingredients & Foods

With delightful humor, Jennifer Reece not only gives 120 recipes with eminently practical yet deliciously fun “make or buy” recommendations, she also weaves a tale of living with a backyard full of cheerful chickens, muttering ducks, and adorable baby goats; countertops laden with lacto-fermenting pickles; and closets full of mellowing cheeses. She gives a full picture of what is involved in a truly homemade life and tips for getting the most out of your time in the kitchen — with the good news that you shouldn’t try to make everything yourself.

From Amazon: “The Homemade Pantry was born of a tight budget, Alana’s love for sharing recipes with her farmers’ market customers, and a desire to enjoy a happy cooking and eating life with her young family. On a mission to kick their packaged-food habit, she learned that with a little determination, anything she could buy at the store could be made in her kitchen, and her homemade versions were more satisfying, easier to make than she expected, and tastier.”

From the author: “Easy Homemade features recipes for more than 60 homemade kitchen staples as well as kitchen tips, information about choosing various ingredients and more. As a self-proclaimed kitchen dunce, I’m far from an accomplished chef, but I’ve found that making things from scratch — even the things we typically buy without even considering that we could make them at home — is actually pretty easy. I’m passionate about empowering other busy families to do the same with tried-and-true recipes that can be made with basic ingredients and don’t require a lot of time.”

Tomorrow: Choose a few Plan-B Dinners.


Mystie Winckler began menu planning at 11 years old when her mom delegated one dinner a week to her. Marrying at 19, she’s had a lot of practice over the years. But between growing and homeschooling her family, meal planning often requires brain power that just isn’t there any more. Simplified Dinners is her solution to take the effort and thought out of healthy, frugal cooking. And now it is available for you, too!

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