Make the ___, buy the ___

I’ve been hearing a lot about Bake the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese. (Sharon Astyk has a nice review posted today.) I want to read the whole thing soon, and see what her conclusions are. One item mentioned in the review above mystifies me:  Reese thinks Del Monte peaches are as good as home-canned. Not a chance! But then, she apparently thinks all canning is too hard to bother with, so that would definitely color one’s opinion of whether home-canned peaches are “worth it.”

If anyone’s still out there reading this blog, tell me – what do you find you find “worth it” to make yourself, and what would you prefer to buy? What kitchen/garden tasks are fun to you, and which do you abhor?




  1. January 17, 2012 at 4:39 pm

    Today, I’m finding that laundry detergent is worth it to make, but fabric softener (at least the conditioner/water mess I’m doing) is not. Any baked goods are worth it to me, but I’m not comfortable with processing my own meat. I love to weed, but I hate setting up watering systems.

    • Derek said,

      January 18, 2012 at 10:34 am

      The only recipe for detergent I’ve seen involves buying Naptha Soap. By its name I’m guessing its made from naptha oil, which isn’t a renewable resource. Do you know of any detergent recipes that are renewable?

      • Alexia said,

        January 18, 2012 at 11:01 am

        Fels-Naptha soap no longer contains naptha oil. Here’s the ingredient list from their website:

        Soap (sodium tallowate*, sodium cocoate* (or) sodium palmate kernelate*, and sodium palmate*), water, talc, cocnut acid*, palm acid*, tallow acid*, PEG-6 methyl ether, glycerin, sorbitol, sodium chloride, pentasodium pentetate and/or tetrasodium etidronate, titatium dioxide, fragrance, Acid Orange (CI 20170), Acid yellow 73 (ci43350)

        *contains one or more of these ingredients

  2. January 17, 2012 at 4:55 pm

    Bread, stock, and vinegar are worth making at home. Bread and stock because the quality is so much better than store bought, and the vinegar because it’s just so trivially easy to do it. If I lived in the SF bay area, as I used to, I wouldn’t make bread. Out there ridiculously good bread is available for ridiculously reasonable prices. So many fabulous bakeries in one place keep the prices down.

    We have no dairy animals, so we buy all our dairy. I’m not really sure I would give up buying the firm and hard cheeses even if we had our own supply of milk. I think I would do the simpler cheeses, and whatever could be done without investing in much equipment. Beyond that I’d need to see numbers that made those investments make sense. I’ve heard one can spend a small fortune on cheesemaking gear.

  3. January 17, 2012 at 5:06 pm

    I will say that I was not a huge fan of the book — just skimmed it pretty hard — but then I think Reese and I definitely come from different backgrounds and have different lives.

    That said, it’s worth it to me to make:
    –bread (duh)
    –pizza sauce
    –dried fruit
    –whipped cream
    –chutneys and relishes (she completely disses chutney; for shame!)
    –canned peaches, pears, cherries
    –pestos of any sort
    –some spice mixes
    –liqueurs (on occasion)

    And I barter for homemade yogurt and cheese as well as sausage. 🙂

    Most kitchen tasks are fun to me but I would definitely love to hand the deep cleaning to someone else!

  4. Ken said,

    January 17, 2012 at 5:14 pm

    I’ll second the whipped cream. (I’ll also scarf most of it down…)

    Also worth making: jerk seasoning, ramen (which is surprisingly lovely if you make it yourself.), yogurt

    Buy the: sushi (unless you’re way better than i…)

    I’d put croissants on both lists. I like making them, but I am really glad to be able to buy them more often than I feel like devoting my day to making them.

    • Emily said,

      January 17, 2012 at 7:57 pm

      How do you make ramen??

      • Ken said,

        January 17, 2012 at 11:44 pm

        Emily’s Splendid Ramen
        3.5 cups water
        2 Tbs. Ramen Powder (see below)
        2 Tbs. soy sauce
        2 Tbs. mirin
        1 block ramen noodles, (available at any asian grocery)
        broken into thirds
        Boil together until pliable,
        stirring constantly.
        Once pliable, turn off heat,
        rest noodles for 10 minutes

        Ramen Powder Recipe
        4 Tbs. onion powder
        3 tsp. ground ginger
        3 tsp. garlic powder
        2 tsp. MSG
        2 tsp. sugar
        2 tsp. salt
        1/2 tsp. ground pepper
        1/2 tsp. chili powder

        I did these two sections up in InDesign and printed them out so they fit on a spice jar that fits about one batch of the powder. I’ll send you a PDF.

    • sqwook said,

      January 17, 2012 at 10:19 pm

      Hm, I’d love the jerk seasoning recipe. The one I made, not the best. 😉

      • Ken said,

        January 17, 2012 at 11:47 pm

        Jerk Seasoning of unknown provenance

        2 Tbs onion powder
        2.5 tsp thyme
        2 tsp allspice
        2 tsp black pepper
        .5 tsp cinnamon
        .5 tsp cayenne
        .5 tsp salt

        • Anonymous said,

          January 18, 2012 at 12:32 pm

          woooooooooot! 😀

        • sqwook said,

          January 18, 2012 at 12:32 pm

          (oh, that was me…) ❤

  5. Emily said,

    January 17, 2012 at 8:02 pm

    Make: Jam, yogurt, salsa, peaches (or beg my mom for them), tomatoes, stock, stew meat, pickles
    Buy: Mayo, butter, cheese (I’d make it if I had dairy animals, or a neighbor with them), tortillas, sandwich bread

    I don’t mind weeding, but I detest thinning. I rather enjoy digging potatoes, but hate knitting and sewing. I much prefer whole-body tasks to things that require most of me to be still and only my hands to move.

    • Ken said,

      January 17, 2012 at 11:50 pm

      I agree about the mayo — though it’s nice to be able to make it in a pinch. I had to do that a while back and was grateful to be able to. Gonna make another stab at cheese this year. The first mozzarella experiment was not what was hoped!

  6. January 18, 2012 at 1:34 am

    Still reading…

    After having milk cows my whole life, I still buy hard cheese, besides the equipment investment (did that) the time factor was staggering and the 60 day wait for irregular results drove me crazy. Soft cheeses, and a years worth of butter not a problem.

    My only problem with the garden is the actual preserving after all the other gardening chores. That’s where I buck. I get it done, but it’s not my favorite task.

    I buy tortillas too, never could get them to turn out the way I like 😦

    • Ken said,

      January 18, 2012 at 8:52 am

      I’ve come upon a great solution to the August Dilemma (ie, time in the garden cannot be spent preserving, and vice versa).

      I am a mediocre gardener at best, and while I want results I’m not interested enough to devote my time to improving them. Which means that I have lots more time for preserving my non-existant harvest.

      So: I’ve struck up deals with some more serious gardeners and farmers I know — they give me big piles of produce, and I do the preservation. I keep some and they get the rest back. I’ve done tomatoes, beans, herbs, fruit, kraut, and maybe a few other things as well. Maybe you too can farm out some of the work you dislike.

  7. Derek said,

    January 18, 2012 at 10:32 am

    Beer! For a while I had decided to only refill growlers at MBC as that was the least wasteful way to get tasty beer. But my neighbors got into brewing and I caught the bug.

    For about $350 (or less if you just go with the basics) worth of equipment you can brew for about $0.50-$0.80 per bottle and you get ~50 bottles per 5-gallon batch. It pays off quite quickly, especially if you like beer as much as I do.

    I’ve heard that home winemaking ends up at $8-$10 per bottle but allows you to use high quality grapes. However, I don’t see that as interesting as beer.

    • Ken said,

      January 18, 2012 at 10:43 am

      So true! I find about the same cost: typically in the neighborhood of $30-35 for a 50-bottle batch. I’d estimate the initial equipment cost closer to $100-150 as an entry-level proposition (and less, with the judicious use of craigslist!) though certainly I have at this point accumulated rather more.

      I know lots of beer makers who make stuff that’s as good as many a microbrew, but I’ve never found a home winemaker who can rival the quality of a perfectly adequate $6 bottle of wine. (It sure is cheap though!) The jury is still out on cider, but it’s certainly one of the easiest brews to source from your own backyard. (Mead is easy to source locally too, of course, though I’ve been doing less of that lately.)

      • Anna said,

        February 11, 2012 at 9:38 pm

        I know someone who makes big-batch wine. The price per gallon is about half that of milk. Tasty, too : )

  8. Aimee said,

    January 18, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    I do most basics in the kitchen myself, including canning (water bath only) cheese and yogurt making, baking with my own sourdough starter. I just like all that, and the quality is superior. Thus year I added brewing (apple cider- great success!) and we also do some of our own slaughtering and butchering. In my mind, goats are worth it, pigs are not. Mostly because I have not yet learned to make my own ham and bacon – it’s on the list.

    Also worth it to garden, even though I am a poor gardener. It’s just so satisfying to eat something I grew myself.

    However, I do no crafty stuff at all – not even gem clothes or sew patches on jeans. I don’t knit or spin. I can’t fix anything mire complicated than a doorknob, and maybe not even that. And if I could afford it, I’d pay somebody to clean for me every day.

    It’s less about saving money and more about which skills j enjoy developing.

  9. jj said,

    January 18, 2012 at 9:15 pm

    Jam, jelly, canned fruit, fruit syrup, pickles, ricotta – we always make our own.

    We grew a big garden last year, and are still enjoying the harvest. We froze a lot of veggies, and also kept a root cellar. That was completely worth it. Root cellaring takes little effort, and even blanching and freezing is less effort than I thought it would be. We’ll do that again.

    We keep chickens and goats. We love having our own eggs, and we drink the goat milk and make soft cheese. The goats especially do take a fair bit of effort, but we enjoy them as pets, too.

    Bread and yogurt – sometimes it’s worth making, sometimes, we don’t want to heat up the house (summer). Also, I can buy organic yogurt cheaper than organic milk to make it, for some reason. I never did get the goat yogurt figured out (I got yogurt, alright, but it tasted terrible).

    I’ve made soap before (tallow soap), and will do it again, but have not gotten around to it. I do think that’s worth it, but mostly for me because of allergies that make most store-bought and a lot of artisan soaps problematic for me.

    I’m not a fan of sewing. I can put a button back on, or repair a seam, but making our own clothing is just not worth it for us, especially with the cost of fabric.

    • January 31, 2012 at 9:26 am

      I also have a root cellar and it is the bomb. It’s so fun to just stick things down there like apples & root veggies and they just STAY. No energy investment. It’s kind of magical.

      • Emily said,

        January 31, 2012 at 1:28 pm

        I just pulled a cabbage out of the root cellar – roots 5″ long, and so juicy it practically cracked open when I touched it with a knife! Root cellars are definitely high on my list of awesome home adaptations.

  10. Rebecca Haughn said,

    January 19, 2012 at 12:32 am

    I can and dehydrate and freeze all sorts of things. They are fresher, more natural and I know normally where they all come from. Less chemicals, few or no additives and i am in control of quality. The frozen things are normally thawed a time or two and refrozen by the time we buy them. Corn syrup and other sorts of unpronounceable named things are all through out the stuff at the stores. Putting stuff by like this is another way to not worry if power goes out, less cooking to be comfortably edible. Also less sodium is in my foods so hypertension and high blood pressure (!?) will an issue for this family.

  11. Sarah Lenz said,

    January 19, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    Sauerkraut –as the quality of fresh is so much better, but it’s not worth it to can it.

    For canning:
    jams, jellies, and preserves

    Homemade Disinfecting Spray: totally worth it! 10 drops lavender essential oil + 10 drops of tea tree oil + 2 cups water.

    Not worth it:
    laundry soap–I’ve found that I’m just too lazy. It takes too long, but sometimes I can convince my husband to make it, and he does all our laundry anyway.

    • Emily said,

      January 20, 2012 at 10:56 am

      I’ve never “gotten” the whole making laundry detergent thing. You have to buy all the ingredients and mix them together…what’s the advantage of that? Just price? It’s always struck me kind of like buying cream of mushroom soup, canned chicken and peas, and potato chips, mixing it together and calling it “homemade chicken pie.”

      • January 31, 2012 at 9:24 am

        Yeah, it seems a little like that. BUT, you buy the basic ingredients once for less than $10 and then they last and last and last. For that investment, I’ve probably made 2 years worth of laundry soap.

        And actually it’s not like canned chicken & peas. You’re mixing together staples like flour, oil, salt & water — it’s more like baking bread. And you can make it smell however you like (mine is ylang-ylang).

      • Anna said,

        February 11, 2012 at 9:57 pm

        1. It’s very concentrated (2T/load) so there is less packaging waste.
        2. There are no environmental pollutants in the ingredients.
        3. You have control of the ingredients (for instance, I prefer a detergent without Tallow, so I use a Castile soap to make mine instead of the FelsNaphtha)
        4. You can avoid allergens
        5. It’s cheaper
        6. And, you’re right – it’s about as hard as making that “homemade” pie – which, to me, is an advantage.

  12. EdgeWiseInAnnArbor said,

    January 25, 2012 at 11:33 am

    Fried food – totally not worth it. Especially samosas. I just buy ’em now.
    Since I had kids, I’ve had to downgrade what is “worth it”. No more 10 hour cranberry creme brulee.

    Meals I can make in bulk ahead of time instant meals like Pesto, etc., are usually great. Because of those, I’ve got a handful of “family meals in 10 minutes” like Bean Dip Dinner (refried beans, cheddar and munster cheese, our canned green tomatilla salsa), or using our frozen Pesto with pasta and beans, etc.

    On the weekends I generally make something more ambitious that the kids can help with. Homemade pizza is great.

    I like to make Creamy Creamless Tomato soup (carmelize the whole tomatoes in the oven and some sauteed leaks). I haven’t tried freezing it (because we devour it so fast) but it should work.

    Most of the really long recipes produce food the kids won’t eat anyway, so they’re usually just for my wife and me.

  13. Anonymous said,

    January 28, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    We live in a small urban apartment with a “one-butt” kitchen (only room for one butt at a time, according to my mom).

    In theory we could do a lot more food preservation, but its AWFULLY unpleasant to heat up the whole apartment on a hot summer day. Best solution I’ve found for this is to buddy up to someone who has a grand kitchen and leave them with some of the results… stone fruit, dilly beans, pestos, etc.

    Bread and stock are definite make at home, especially since I mostly eat gluten-free. (Store bought GF bread is awful.)

    Beans… soak, simmer, drain and freeze.

    I prefer pico de gallo over other kinds of salsa, so that’s a definite make at home for freshness.

    Miso, tofu, tempeh are all “buy” items for me, as are meat and eggs when we eat them.

  14. January 31, 2012 at 9:18 am

    I am in accord with most of your responders. We make tons of things, and buy just a few. I realized recently that our plastic containers reflect the fact that we’re hardly purchasing commercial foods anymore.

    So I make bread, trade for eggs, make yogurt, make mayo, make mustard, make hot sauce, make vinegar, raise bees & make honey, make chicken stock, can tomatoes/ corn/ pickles/ squash/ , trade for jam, dry peppers & herbs, make salves/ tinctures/ teas, grow lots of fresh food, make sausage/ pancetta/ bacon/ ham, trade for venison, make mead & wine, sew/ quilt/ do needle crafts, make cleansers and scrubs and laundry soap. I grow berries & plums & hazelnuts. (Some of these things are really my partner’s crafts, but I’m speaking for our family.) I also sing & draw & bike, work part-time and volunteer a lot.

    I buy local butter & milk, local cheese, buy coffee, buy black tea, buy chocolate. I buy bulk beans & nuts & dried fruits (though I’m trying to grow some of these). I buy flour & sugar & oil.

    I think my goals are many — I want to live a LIVED life. I want to provide everything for myself that I CAN provide (including making a community that will trade with me for things I don’t like making). It’s fun and challenging. I want to learn to love and find replacements for items that may not be available in lower energy future. Plus, I just love to make something from nothing.

  15. jake said,

    January 31, 2012 at 11:15 am

    great post/replies,

    i definitely am still reading your blog!

    i’m making/preserving more and more things. Pickles, chutneys, relishes are must haves and used on a regular basis. Haven’t bought them or jams for years. Frozen fruit yes, canned fruit no – too sweet and not used often – only a few jars of pears. Some frozen veg – favs are peas, spinach, and green beens. Larder sorts of veg are better in the basement cold room, then i buy them.

    Mostly i try to preserve things in abundance (grown/gathered) in seaon and use them throughout the year (apples, berries, rhubarb, tomatoes, walnuts).

    Handmade soap i’ve been making for about 15 years.

    Buy dairy and cheese products.

    Eat homegrown potatoes from early august until late winter. Some years a small crop of winter squash – short growing season here.

    Bake many products when i have time and really enjoy making ethnic foods from scratch such as samosas, pierogis, potstickers, tamales, pasta, etc.

    Trying to become more self sufficient. Best new thing i’ve started is drying mint, chamomile, dandelion root and other plants for herbal teas -very high quality, and has made a impact on my coffee/tea consumption.

    Exploring more sources of local plant proteins to grow, and interested in any oils can be produced/extracted on a small scale (sunflower, etc?), although there are local sources of organic flax and non-gmo canola oils.

    Support local egg and honey producers.

    Lolo Holbein’s book One Magic Square has increased my interesting in food production, organic gardening and self sufficency.

    Also exploring a bio-regional fibres and textiles – i have a dye garden (woad, japanese indigo, madder, weld, coreopsis, walnut, etc) and source local yarn for dyeing/knitting so far. I wish there were local sources of hemp, linen or wool fabrics.

    • Lisa Bashert said,

      February 2, 2012 at 10:46 am

      Jake, very interesting and unusual set of activities. Love your recipe for WW pasta — I just decided it might be better homemade that commercial.

      I’m on a roll lately of pointing out that we don’t want to be self-sufficient, but instead, interdependent. Just think if all of us began a trade network to share these wonderful specialties we’re all involved in making!!!

      Also love to hear about your interest in oils. I’ve been thinking for awhile about walnut oil, since I live in a very walnut heavy neighborhood. An oil press would be a fantastic shared purchase! And did anybody hear about the planned community kitchen being explored thru Washtenaw County? Anyone have more info on that?

      • Emily said,

        February 2, 2012 at 11:20 am

        I have a Piteba oil press I’ve not gotten it to work yet, but if someone wants to borrow it, I’m very willing to lend it out locally!

        There’s gotta be software to facilitate a local trading network. Anyone know of any?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: