In Which I am Judging Your Store-Bought Spreads

Spoiler alert: I’m about to get a bit judgmental.

Whenever I see store-bought hummus at somebody else’s house, I am always a bit surprised. If the person says they love hummus, I know there must be multiple containers of it lurking in their refrigerator or recycling bin. The usual store-bought hummus costs about $3, sometimes more– multiply that by the number of hummus-lovers in the household, and well, that gets expensive quickly!

If you have basic pantry staples and make your own, you will save a lot of money, the hummus will taste better because there are no weird non-olive oils or stabilizers in it, and you will– this is important– have a virtually unending supply of the stuff. Yeah. That got your attention, didn’t it? Okay, I’ll admit that tahini may not be a pantry staple for everyone (yet) but a little goes a long way, and you don’t have to buy it very often. That’s my only caveat. Budget Bytes has a great hummus recipe, plus variations on the theme, and she even does a price breakdown.

Guacamole is another exorbitantly priced dip, usually costing $3-5 (for a ridiculously small container, if you ask me). There’s never enough guac at a party! At its most basic, mash up some avocados and mix in a tablespoon of salsa. But if you want to get more involved, you can’t go wrong with a Rick Bayless recipe.

When I make a gift basket for someone, I like to include a jar of tapenade. Store-bought, they usually have pretty labels and rather decorative jars. For gift giving, that’s fine– but for home use, making your own is much more affordable. I usually just toss some black olives, a clove of garlic, and some olive oil in a food processor and call it a day, but there are so many variations that it’s kind of silly to actually buy it at the store. I like this one, because it’s inspired by Ancient Cretans. Let’s put a little history on our crackers!

Pesto is another pricey example of something quick and simple that is better made at home. You can use nice oil and it’s fresh! This David Lebovitz recipe is superb, but don’t be afraid to leave out the pine nuts or even use a mix of different herbs. It’s one of those things that you can’t mess up.

The last money saver is sweet. Frosting. If you don’t have a food processor or blender, then hummus, tapenade, and pesto are admittedly difficult. But frosting? There’s just no excuse. The only equipment you need is a spoon and a bowl. One of the great joys of life is that magical mixture of sugar and butter, and that’s really all frosting is. If you make it yourself, not only is it cheaper, but there are no preservatives and barring a bizarre kitchen catastrophe, it will taste better than any canned frosting available.

I will probably never understand why anyone would buy any of these things on a regular basis. I’m sure I have a few friends and family members who would be chafed by that statement! But really, none of these spreads take more than ten minutes to make, and they are all cheaper made at home. Is there really any reason not to? What are your homemade money savers?





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