“Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.” -Warren Buffett

In the Kitchen: Homemade!

Chocolate Black Bean Muffins
I've been slow to get back into the routine of blogging this fall after taking some time to relax this summer... Thanks for sticking with us in spite of that!!

Today I'm going to share some of our tips for saving money in the kitchen by making things at home. So many items can be made at home for a fraction of the cost and can be customized to suit tastes, while often being a healthier option. They're also delicious and make great "gifts" when you find an opportunity where you want to help someone out but don't quite know how. Dropping off fresh baked muffins, bread or a meal can be so welcome through life's transitions (births, deaths, weddings, moves and so on).
Muffins: this is one of my favourite ways to get some secret veggies into my kids! Did you know my children can't detect swiss chard in chocolate muffins?! My kids would NEVER eat swiss chard otherwise. Same goes for zucchini, carrots, sweet potatoes and black beans. Throw a bit of cinnamon and/or chocolate chips in there, and the kids think they are getting a treat while you know they are getting some great nutrition and not loaded up with the saturated fats that tend to be in the "muffins" (read: cake) you purchase. I do believe kids should also know and be equipped to make healthy choices on their own, but there are times when I can't be there (school lunches) and they are choosing not to eat their veggies and fruit. This makes a good compromise between them feeling like they have a treat in their lunch while they are still getting some nutritional value from their food.

Cookies: This is another one that is SO easy to make at home, and so much more delicious that most
Watermelon Cookies (seedless and with seeds!)
store purchased items. The possibilities are endless with cookies, and I have a few basic recipes I change up to suit. One of our favs is Hermit Cookies, I usually cut back the sugar because of the dates, but these are a favourite and we sub in whatever nuts, chocolate chips or other "stir in" options we have on hand!

My kids also love whoopie pies for a quick and easy dessert. You can even make a mini version for a more appropriate sized snack (I use my mini cookie scoop for these). We've done chocolate and oatmeal with great success.

Sauces/condiments: There is nothing like a good garlic aioli, or BBQ sauce for ribs, etc. We love making our sauces and condiments from scratch. They taste a lot better than store purchased versions and you can adjust them to suite the preferences of those eating. Not only that but they are way cheaper and you can make the amount you need instead of opening something that will just go bad in your fridge waiting for you to eat the same meal again.

If you've never had homemade tomato paste, you don't know what you are missing! And with a food mill it's simple and easy to prep, the majority of the time is hands off, and you have enough delicious tomato paste to last all winter. I got a box of tomatoes on FlashFood a week or so ago for exactly this reason! Then once it's made I drop it by tablespoons onto a baking sheet and throw in the freezer to take out one by one as I need them. Saves opening a crazy expensive can of tomato paste for just a few tablespoons that most recipes call for.

Chili (vegetarian or not) is a crowd pleaser here
when served with cheese and tortilla chips!
Slow cooker meals: This one is a bit bigger so I'll likely dedicate an entire post to it at some point... but what I want to get across here is it's far cheaper, healthier and I would argue even easier to prep a few slow cooker meals ahead than grab take out. Some favourites at my house are chicken or beef stew, chili and soups. You can control what's in them, account for taste and health goals and so on. At times I knew we were coming into a busy season of life (such as going back to work after maternity leave) I prepped a dozen or more meals, froze them in bags in the freezer. Then once a week at a minimum we would eat that, with zero prep time and a hot meal with leftovers. It made the weeks so much easier. I work part time from home these days so don't need to prep ahead the way I used to, but still often use some time Monday to prep a slow cooker meal for later in the week. It's just so nice and easy to have it ready and waiting when the days are busy and you want a few minutes to relax.

That's it for today, I'll likely expand on some of these tips in larger posts in the future. What do you like to make at home vs purchase?

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