Store-Bought Kitchen Staples You Can Easily Make Yourself!

Kitchen Staples

I have a theory and it goes something like this……

My grandparents’ generation was definitely a much more “self-reliant” bunch than my parents’ generation, and likewise, my parents’ generation was a great deal more “self-reliant” compared to MY generation. But as I look back over the years…I feel like we are coming back around to full circle.

More and more OUR generation(s) are looking at the way our parents and grandparents did things and trying to emulate that. I believe people really want to get back to a time where common household essentials were more natural, less costly (in more ways than just financially) and were something to take pride in.

So along that train of thought…I got to thinking about some of the things most of us purchase at the grocery store that I’m almost certain our grandparents (and parents) made from scratch. I decided to compile a list of kitchen staples that over the years I have started making from scratch (that I used to buy at the store) and included a few I hadn’t tried before!

Let’s start with those…..

BROWN SUGAR – Well this is a little embarrassing to admit, but I did NOT know that brown sugar was simply granulated sugar and molasses. Maybe I did…in some dark recess of my mind. I’m not sure. Anyway, this recent revelation had me immediately searching through my pantry to find that bottle of molasses that was hiding somewhere!

Kitchen Staples

How to Make Brown Sugar

1 cup granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon molasses (add more for a darker brown sugar)

Add sugar and molasses to a bowl and mix together. I used a whisk because it helped to incorporate all the molasses. It takes a few minutes until it’s completely mixed in…but that’s it. You just made your own brown sugar. Umm…it doesn’t get any easier than that people!  For dark brown sugar, add another tablespoon of molasses. Store in an airtight container.

Kitchen Staples

SELF-RISING FLOUR – Once in a while I will run across a recipe that requires “self-rising flour”. (Many southern cooks won’t use anything else in their biscuits or shortcakes.) I never questioned this. I would just go to the store and buy a bag. Finally, one day I asked the question (to no one in particular), “What exactly IS self-rising flour anyway?” Here is the answer:

Kitchen Staples

To make one cup of self-rising flour:

Sift together-

1 cup of all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt

Once again, that’s it. Which begs the question…..why would you buy a box or bag of this when you already have everything on hand to make it??  It’s a mystery I tell ya!

Kitchen Staples


more kitchen staples:

Kitchen Staples

SALAD DRESSING – this is a “gray area” for me. I RARELY buy bottled dressing (ugh! Can’t stand it after I started making my own!)…BUT, more often than not, I use Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing & Seasoning Mix (the dry stuff) and add my own mayonnaise and milk (or buttermilk.) So it’s SORTA homemade.

Kitchen Staples

BREAD CRUMBS – I started making these more as a CONVENIENCE than anything else. I got sick of having to run to the store to get some if I wanted to make my Parmesan Chicken. Then one day it hit me, I ALWAYS (well, mostly) have BREAD in the house!  Why not just MAKE some! duh.

Kitchen Staples

GRANOLA/BARS – granola & granola bars have become SO popular during the last decade or so because they are SO handy to keep in your pantry, your purse, your lunch box, your car…for a quick snack that’s fairly healthy. Before this the go-to snacks were mostly candy bars! The thing is, they are expensive when you buy them in boxes all individually wrapped (not to mention wasteful!) and making your own is SO easy!

Kitchen Staples

PANCAKES – Somewhere along the way we decided throwing a few different ingredients in a bowl and mixing them up was just TOO much work!  Now we want to simply ADD WATER and have instant pancake batter. This is just plain silliness to me. We need to change this. :-)

Kitchen Staples 12

PANCAKE SYRUP – Sugar, water, maple flavoring, done. Aunt Jemima, isn’t it time you retired? :-)

Kitchen Staples 13

WHIPPED CREAM – Another silliness thing to me. Why would you buy this already made up in plastic tub, or worse, an aerosol can, when it’s so SIMPLE to make at home?

Kitchen Staples 14

OATMEAL – I’ll admit, the little packets are handy…but, again, expensive and wasteful. Making oatmeal the “old-fashioned” way HAS to make a comeback!

Kitchen Staples 15

SPAGHETTI SAUCE – I know it’s fun to re-purpose the jars for other fun projects….but that’s about the only reason we should be buying jar after jar after jar of this stuff! At the very LEAST…buy some spaghetti sauce seasoning packets and add tomato paste and water! Better yet, make some on the stove, let it simmer all day long like Grandma used to do. The house will smell wonderful and the TASTE cannot be duplicated in a bottle.

CHICKEN STOCK/BROTH –  So many recipes call for chicken stock or broth to add flavor, but since I rarely buy it, I would usually skip those recipes and move on to something that DIDN’T require it. That is until I realized that you can easily substitute chicken bouillon in your recipe. Each bouillon cube, added to 1 cup of water, makes 1 cup of broth. Done. No more lugging home all those cans or cartons.

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I could keep going….but I will spare you! ;-)  I think I’ve made my point. Hopefully, if nothing else, this post will help you see the “convenience” items you purchase in the grocery store in a different light and realize how EASY (not to mention cheaper and better-tasting!) they are to make yourself at home.

Now it’s YOUR turn!  Tell us what YOU make vs. buy!

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  1. Mari T. says

    Brown sugar is not usually white sugar ad molasses. If you buy the kind that´s kinda sticky then it is but there is other kinds too. like cane-sugar which is brown sugar that had not been bleached yet. -sugar is NOT naturally white

    • Tammy says

      Brown sugar that you use in most recipes is molasses and white sugar. Every recipient that I’ve ever ran across that calls for the I bleached cane calls for raw sugar…not brown sugar.

      • Kim says

        Molasses is the by product of turning cane sugar into white sugar. Brown sugar is just cane sugar that is partially processed so some of the molasses remains.

      • Dawn says

        If you read the wikipedia article on brown sugar (, you will see that natural brown sugar is indeed partially processed so that some of the molasses remains. However a lot of what you buy as brown sugar is actually refined white sugar with a certain ratio of molasses added back into it. Demerara sugar would be an example of a natural brown sugar. At my local grocery store, the ingredient list on the back of the bag of light brown sugar says: sugar, molasses. I was a little disappointed to find that for years I had been spending more money for something I could easily put together on my own with ingredients on hand. I do keep a bag of demerara sugar on hand, but it doesn’t cook up the same in recipes as the regular brown sugar. But it’s great sprinkled on the top of muffins right before you pop them in the oven. Makes a kind of crystally, crunchy topping like the muffins you buy at the bakery have. Mmmmm!

      • Sarah says

        “Real” brown sugar is not just white sugar and molasses. If you buy real quality brown sugar you will not go back to buying the cheap stuff. Just check the ingredients the only ingredient should be brown sugar.

  2. Penny Hannah says

    DO folk actually BUY whipped cream? – heaven help us! Before I became unable to make things, most of the above list were just what one did as a matter of course. Thank you, mother for teaching me well.

      • Victoria says

        And it is soooo delicious! I made some about a month ago. I was blown away by how simple it was and I felt a bit stupid. lol! I will never buy the container of it again.

    • Julie says

      Most people I know outside of Utah, don’t know what making whipped cream is. Even most cooks / bakers. They think Cool Whip = whipped cream. They don’t know what they are missing.

    • Gretchen Dietz says

      Real whipped cream is sooooooo much better and if you look at the ingredients in cool whip, chances are you’ll never buy it again. It’s just junk, pure and simple.

  3. Dawn says

    Brown sugar that is labeled “brown sugar” at the store is indeed white sugar and molasses. Unless you find it on sale, it’s more expensive than making your own. I used to mix mine up separately when a recipe called for it. Now I just add the white sugar and molasses to whatever I’m making up and mix it with everything else. It’s a lot easier.

  4. Juliet says

    You can always can chicken stock after you make your rotisserie chicken — add some veggies and herbs and water to the bones, boil and simmer. Then pressure can. Time consuming, yes, but most of it is hands-off time, letting the stove do the work for you. Tasty and a low sodium. Turkey stock, beef stock and veggie stock as well. Even corn cob stock, for a taste of summer in your winter soups.

    • Christy says

      Juliet…What are the pressure canning details for canning the stock? I love to make chicken stock after I get all the meat off my (rather expensive) organic chicken…so what better thing to do but boil the bones in some water (love the idea of adding some veggies), along with the drippings, and you’ve got some chicken stock. Until now, I have only ever stored it in half-gallon jars in the fridge. If I don’t use it in time, I have to throw it out. I have also frozen it in ice cube trays…but the trays are a pain to clean from all the oil residue that is left on them. I love to can, and my daughter is learning along side me…so I would love to do this! Thanks for the idea.

      • Ayshela says

        Or measure one or two cups into freezer zippie bags, label which measure the bag has, and freeze flat. Laying them down so they freeze flat, they thaw really quickly, and if you need it faster you can drop the bag into warm water.

      • Susan says

        We freeze ours also…I ended up with almost 50 quarts from our 26 lb turkey. We’re almost out of it again. ;)

    • Teresa says

      Another bonus is that your stock will be free of MSG almost all stock, and bullion has MSG (as well as the ranch packets but that’s another story) A lot of chicken stock says *No Added MSG with a little disclamer that some is “naturally” created in the making process. yuck!

    • Barbara Ferrington says

      When pressure canning stock….how long and at what pressure? I live in Louisiana and have to adjust for altitudes! Thanks

  5. Carole May says

    Jillee, why not make your Ranch dressing ingredients? There are a million recipes out there and the best part? no preservatives and you control the salt!
    Since I have become “financially challenged” I have really learned lots of tricks! Thanks to you for adding to my education!

    • Mandy says

      I mix my own “Ranch” dressing from scratch too. I have a recipe but you can’t go wrong by eyeballing it. Equal parts buttermilk & mayo. Garlic powder, onion salt, black pepper & thyme. Whisk it together. It’s so good! Once you make it yourself, you’ll never be able to use bottled or prepackaged mix again.

      • Yvonne S says

        Here is the recipe that I use. The crackers give it the thickness and texture that you need. I use sour cream for dip and milk or cream for dressing. Don’t use mayo with lemon because it makes it too tart.
        Dressing Mix:
        9 Saltines 1 C. parsley flakes
        1 T. dill weed 2 T. salt
        1/4 C. onion powder 1/4 C. garlic powder
        Put crackers through blender or food processor on high speed until powdered. Add parsley, dill weed, salt, onion powder, and garlic powder. Blend again until powdered.
        Put into container with tight-fitting lid.
        Store dry mix at room temperature for 1 year
        Makes 24 – 1 T. servings
        Salad Dressing:
        1 T. mix 1 C. mayonnaise
        1 C. buttermilk or sour cream
        Yield: 1 pint.

    • says

      also, i’ve started making homemade ranch dressing with ranch flavoring in *yogurt* (with some olive oil to make it smoother and yummier) rather than mayo and milk. it’s delicious!

      it has the slight tangyness of yogurt (which i think is a bonus, but also it isn’t that strong), but otherwise is extremely similar. as an added bonus, you can use as much as you want – other than the salt, you could eat it with a spoon without concern…which is good, ’cause that’s basically the proportions my kids want it in.

  6. melissa says

    oh man…i never knew what self rising flour was, lol i always avoided those recipes but now that i know what it is and its so darn easy to make myself i can go back an find those biscuit recipes that i wanted to try but never did, thanks jillee

  7. says

    I make my own chocolate syrup. Desperately wanted chocolate syrup for ice cream one evening and didn’t want to burn gas to head to the store…lol Checked online, and felt like a dummy when I realized how simple and cheap it is to make your own. 1 cup of water, 1/2 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder, 2 cups of sugar, pinch of salt, and 1/4 tsp. of vanilla. What I love about anything you make yourself is that you can tweak it to you and your family’s tastes, and most are much cheaper!

    This syrup makes great chocolate milk also!!

    • Jennifer says

      I just recently started making my own chocolate syrup. Now my children do not want me to purchase it again. They tell me how much better it is, and I agree. It mixes into the milk so much better. At a recent trip to a science museum, we noted that store-bought chocolate syrup has a form of petroleum in it. YUCK! So glad to get back to the basics! Thanks for your posts, Jillee!

    • Landon says

      Does it need refrigeration? I haven’t bought chocolate syrup in years, and didn’t realize it was so easy to make. Just this week my daughter said she wished we had some to make chocolate milk.

      • says

        I do refrigerate mine, and it can be good for a couple of months….not that it lasts that long!! After you combine everything and heat it up a bit so that the sugar dissolves and everything gets mixed together, I just pour it into a canning jar, pop a top on it, and throw it into the fridge.

  8. Sonya says

    You can also make your own baking powder by combining 1 tsp baking soda, 2 tsp cream of tarter, and 1 tsp cornstarch.

      • Rebekah says

        Rumford brand cornstarch is aluminum free (clearly labeled on the front of the container). If you don’t see it in the baking aisle at your store, check the natural section.

  9. Jennifer says

    Spaghetti sauce and salad dressing are my main make vs. buy items. They’re so easy to make and the taste is SO much better than store bought, its just silly to buy it in jars! I also “make” my own buttermilk for recipes that require it because I rarely remember to buy it. By “make”, I mean that I add about 1 tablespoon of white vinegar to 1 cup of milk. I think you can also use lemon juice.