Making foods at home instead of buying them is a great way to make them way healthier. This article covers 26 foods anyone can make at home from scratch instead of buying from the store.
Some foods just taste way better homemade.
Probably because most store-bought, processed foods can be made at home with simple, healthy, whole foods. Leave the preservatives, added sugar, and other mystery ingredients behind, and the result is something much fresher, tastier, and healthier. (and often cheaper too!)
Here at Life and Dirt, we are all about reducing processed foods and added sugars. There’s no question that reducing these things will result in an all-round much healthier diet.
One easy and effective way to reduce processed foods and added sugars, is to implement healthy food swaps into your daily diet, as we talked about in this post. Check it out for 10 healthy food swaps you can make today.
But if you’re ready to take it to the next level, another easy and highly effective way to reduce processed foods and added sugars, is to swap certain store-bought items for homemade items.
If you read my article on 5 Ways to Cut Down on Sugar, one of the tips is to try making certain grocery items and pantry staples yourself at home from scratch if you notice that a lot of your go-to grocery store purchases tend to have too much sugar in them.
So, which are the best foods to make from scratch instead of buying?
Technically, all foods should be able to be made from scratch. If a food requires industrial equipment/chemicals in order to be made, maybe that’s an indication that it is not the most wholesome food.
But let’s also be smart and realistic about it. Some foods are definitely easier to make from scratch than others, and some foods are not necessarily healthier and are really just not worth trying to make at home. (I’m not about to start pressing my own olive oil at home, for example).
So here I’ll only be sharing quick, easy, and inexpensive foods that anyone can make at home with ease, and that are not a waste of time to make yourself.
From condiments, sauces, and spreads, to classic breakfast foods, to popular desserts, drinks, and even fermented foods, this list has got you covered!
These are just ideas, so if you notice that a few of these food items are foods you are eating everyday, it might be helpful to start making those items from scratch!
Here is a compilation of the best grocery items to make at home, with recipes linked. Guaranteed to be healthier, tastier, and cheaper!
26 Healthy Foods to Make at Home
1. Salad dressing
If there’s one to start with, it’s this one.
Salad dressing can be as simple as a drizzle of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, and a dash of salt and pepper. That’s it!
Throw in some balsamic vinegar too if you want!
Compare this to store-bought dressing which are packed with preservatives, sugar, and other additives. It’s pretty clear which option is healthier.
I also just prefer to mix up a fresh dressing. It’s super easy and quick, and turns out much fresher and flavourful. I find bottles of salad dressing tend to kick around the fridge for a questionably long time and by the time I need to use it, it’s hard to tell if it’s still good.
Easy, everyday salad dressing recipe here.
2. Ranch dressing or veggie dip
Similarly, ranch dressing/dip can easily be made from scratch.
Dips are one of those foods that are packed with way more ingredients than they need to be.
And same as with salad dressings, store-bought bottles of ranch or other dips tend to hang around in the fridge for a while until the bottle becomes somewhat gross and questionably usable.
Recipe for ranch dressing here.
Before you go whip up some ranch, why not make your own mayonnaise to make it with?
Mayo can be whipped up in literal minutes with minimal ingredients.
It definitely won’t last as long as store-bought processed mayo, but it’s much better fresh anyways. And, like the ranch, it will avoid hanging around in the fridge for too long and getting funky.
Another condiment to try making at home, is ketchup.
Store-bought ketchup has tons of sugar in it. Homemade ketchup recipes still call for sugar, but definitely not as much. And honestly, why does ketchup need to be that sweet? With homemade ketchup, you control exactly how much sugar, which flavours, and other ingredients go into it.
Ketchup recipe here.
Now that you’ve made some ketchup, go ahead and make your own BBQ sauce with it as well!
5. Gravy & Stock
Along the same lines as ditching store-bought condiments, is ditching ready-made packets of flavouring.
Seriously, just stocking up on dried spices, and making your own gravy and stock, eliminates all need for artificial flavour packs or chicken cubes.
Gravy can be made from the drippings of a nice roasted chicken or turkey.
Stock (chicken, beef, vegetable, etc.) can be made with leftover bones, or vegetables in the case of vegetable stock, and is very low maintenance. Just put a pot of water to simmer in the morning and it’s ready to use at dinner time! Or store it in the freezer for future use.
Here is a guide on how to make stock.
Hummus is one of those spreads that is just good on everything.
And while all hummus is delicious (in my opinion), homemade hummus is leagues above store-bought.
Hummus can be whipped up from scratch very quickly and easily. All you need is a handful of ingredients and a powerful blender or food processor.
Classic hummus recipe here.
Another amazing dip to make from scratch is guacamole. Especially in those moments when all your avocados decide to ripen at the same time and you’re running out of time to use them. (they always catch me off guard!)
Only a couple ingredients needed, and highly customizable.
Classic guacamole recipe here.
Like guacamole, salsa does not need to be bought ready-made from the store. Just chop up some fresh tomatoes and herbs. And for spice-wimps like me, you can customize it to be as zesty and spicy (or lack thereof) as you’d like!
Pesto sauce is great to make from scratch because you can make a big batch and store it in the freezer.
In the summer, I like to grow some basil plants, stock up and make a big batch of pesto, and then freeze it to have all throughout the winter. You can spoon out and freeze little pesto blobs, which are the perfect little flavour punch for any saucy recipe.
Pesto recipe here.
10. Tomato sauce
Same deal here as with the pesto – make a big batch and freeze it for long-term use!
Minimal ingredients and effort is needed to make a classic, cozy, versatile tomato sauce.
Pro tip: I like to make tomato sauce with an added blob of homemade pesto!
Basic tomato sauce recipe here.
Put old bread to good use by making your own croutons. Just chop up the bread, add some olive oil and spices, and bake till crispy!
Great for salads instead of store-bought packaged croutons. Or eat them straight off the pan as a tasty, crunchy snack!
Crouton recipe here.
12. Nut butters
Nut butters like peanut butter and almond butter are so easy to make at home – you literally only need a food processor and one ingredient!
Healthier than regular nut butters, and cheaper than organic, all-natural nut butters. Homemade peanut butter recipe here.
Fresh, homemade jam is even more delicious than store-bought, minus the heaps of sugar and preservatives!
Easy homemade jam recipe here.
Make your own chocolate-hazelnut spread with fewer, healthier ingredients. Homemade Nutella is leagues above store-bought, and is very easy to make. All you need is a food processor and a couple ingredients.
When made from scratch without an excess of added sugars, this chocolatey spread is much healthier.
Homemade Nutella recipe here.
Granola is super easy to make from scratch, and is so much healthier than your typical sugar-packed granola from the store.
It’s also way more fun to make at home because you can customize it with all your favourite nuts, seeds, grains, and flavours.
Easy, healthy granola recipe here.
One of my favourite breakfast foods ever, oatmeal, can be made very healthy and nutritious at home.
This classic breakfast food can be bought in sugar-packed instant packages, but the better option is to buy just the oats and your choice of toppings and easily make it at home.
Fibre-rich, whole grain oatmeal topped with nutrient-rich fresh fruits and healthy fats, makes for a very nutritious breakfast.
Steel cut oats are the healthiest option. Other options include plain rolled or instant oats which can be make in literal minutes.
Healthy oatmeal recipes here.
While pancake mix is certainly convenient (I remember buying this cheap box of mix, along with some chocolate chips to toss in, all the time in university), you can make much more nutritious pancakes from the actual ingredients.
There are so many ways to make healthy but delicious pancakes, such as this recipe.
The same goes for frozen toastable frozen pancakes and waffles. Eggo waffles certainly take me back to my childhood, but one bite into a fresh, toasty, from-scratch waffle and you can immediately see the difference.
To rival the convenience of pancake mix, you can actually make your own pancake mix by mixing the dry ingredients ahead of time and then just adding in the few wet ingredients to make the pancakes in the morning.
18. Granola bars
This one is a major money saver. You can find healthy granola/energy bars at the store, but those all-natural, few-ingredient bars can be so expensive!
Making granola bars will not only save you a ton of money, but they will also be so much healthier by reducing sugar and using only real, whole food ingredients. They are also so convenient and customizable.
Here’s a simple, healthy granola bar recipe to try.
The same goes for snacks in general – it is so easy to make healthy snacks at home from a few simple ingredients, instead of buying pre-packaged, processed snack foods from the store.
Apple sauce can be made with just cooked apples. Very quick and easy to make, and you can make a big batch to enjoy all throughout the week.
Homemade yogurt is bound to be fresher, creamier, healthier, and more cost-effective than store-bought.
Store-bought yogurt is often packed with added sugars and artificial flavours, and healthier organic brands can get pricy.
Homemade yogurt is surprizingly simple to make at home. All you need is one ingredient (milk) and a bacteria culture (aka probiotics – great for your gut!) to get it going.
Check out this guide for how to make yogurt.
This fermented specialty health drink is shockingly expensive to buy in stores. Its quality also seems to depend on the brand and where you buy it, and it can be hard to find in some stores.
The good news is, kombucha is a lot cheaper to make yourself than to buy. All you’ve got to do is brew some sweet tea, add in a SCOBY (probiotics!), and let it ferment. You can also control how much sugar you add, customize the flavouring, and decide how long you want it to ferment and carbonate.
Check out this guide to brewing kombucha.
22. Sourdough bread
Instead of buying processed bread from the store, try your hand at making healthy sourdough bread from scratch! (see this post to learn what makes sourdough a healthy bread option).
While working with sourdough takes a lot of practice to master, the cool thing is that it only requires three ingredients to make your very own artisanal loaves right at home! (And one of those ingredients is just water!).
Check out my simplified guide to making sourdough bread (and starter) here.
23. Whipped cream
Forget Cool Whip and other packaged whipped creams. Homemade, freshly whipped cream is where it’s at.
It’s so simple to make. Whipped cream is just that – cream that is whipped. No more, no less. No preservatives or additives, and you control how much sugar you want to put in.
Simple whipped cream recipe here. (https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/homemade-whipped-cream/)
24. Any dessert/baked good
Cookies, cakes, pies, pastries…whatever the dessert, you can usually drastically reduce the sugar content by making it from scratch instead of buying it from the store. No need for all the preservatives and highly-processed ingredients that packages desserts come with.
And the taste will be a million times better, guaranteed.
25. Juice, lemonade, other drinks
Many drinks can be easily made from scratch, and are going to be much more nutritious (and cheaper) when made at home.
Drinks like lemonade or orange juice can be a huge source of sugar in your diet. Making these fruity drinks at home is a great way to reduce the sugar content and get more of the nutrients that fruits can provide.
Other great drinks to make at home include green juices, protein shakes, and specialty smoothies – mostly because it is a major money-saver. Just buy your own produce and make it at home! All you need is a blender. (If you don’t have a juicer for fancy green juices, just use a blender – you’ll get the beneficial fibre that juicers get rid of!).
Last but not least, is sprouts. You can easily grow all kinds of sprouts at home – broccoli sprouts, bean sprouts, alfalfa, radish, etc. It’s really simple – you just need to soak and rinse the seeds and let them grow – kind of like those little paper-towel bean sprouting experiments you may have done back in grade school.
Sprouting from seed is a lot more cost-efficient than buying fresh sprouts from the store (fresh organic sprouts can also be hard to find).
And sprouts are incredibly nutritious. By sprouting them at home, you’ll end up getting in a lot more healthful greens that you otherwise would.
Check out this mini-series on everything you need to start sprouting broccoli sprouts at home.
That wraps up the top 26 healthy foods to make at home for a much tastier and healthier result! Let me know in the comments which foods are your favourite to make from scratch instead of buying from the store!