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Published on August 27, 2013, by in Au Pair.

Between the demands of a career, over-scheduled kids and the management of a busy household, there doesn’t always seem to be enough time in the day. When faced with the choice between making foods from scratch or opting for pre-packaged convenience, it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that you’re sacrificing your health to a small degree for a large measure of convenience. Many staple items, however, are actually very simple to make at home and taste so much better that going back to processed, pre-packaged versions is as much an assault on the taste buds as it is the rest of your body. Before you make your next trip to the grocery store, consider trying your hand at these ten items yourself, rather than purchasing them premade.

  • Meatballs – Snagging a box or a bag of meatballs from the freezer section of your grocery store allows you to dump them in a pot of sauce with almost no effort, but you can also be sure that they contain a plethora of preservatives and artificial flavorings along the way. Instead, whip up your own batch and freeze the leftovers. You’ll still be able to enjoy a quick and easy dinner on busy nights, but you’ll be in control of the ingredients.
  • Pasta Sauce – If you’re going to go to the trouble of making your own meatballs, even if it’s minimal, there’s not much sense in slathering them in a processed sauce full of ingredients you can’t pronounce. Pasta sauce is easy to make and can be frozen in resealable bags for reheating later, making dinner a delicious and nutritious snap.
  • Salsa – Finding salsa that’s warm enough to tickle your taste buds without burning your mouth is challenging enough. Scouring the shelves for a brand that also contains no preservatives, artificial flavorings or genetically modified produce is even harder. When you make your own salsa, you’re able to customize the flavor profile and heat level while sourcing your own ingredients.
  • Hummus – This creamy, delicious spread might seem complicated, but it really only contains a few ingredients. Snap up some chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, garlic and lemon juice, and you have all the makings for delectable hummus at a fraction of the store price.
  • Salad Dressings – Salads are the go-to dish when you’re in the mood for something fresh and nutritious, but much of that nutritional value goes out the window when the organic greens and veggies you paid top dollar for are swimming in the sea of preservatives, additives and chemicals that are present in most store-brand salad dressings. With a simple base and a handful of seasonings, you can quickly and easily replicate your favorite dressings at home, and they’re usually much cheaper and have far fewer questionable ingredients.
  • Granola Bars – The granola bars on store shelves are marketed in a way that leads consumers to believe that they’re a healthier alternative, but the truth is that they can be just as chock-full of chemicals as anything else on the market. Making your own granola bars is easier and quicker than you might think, and you control the ingredients so you can eat them with ease.
  • Trail Mix – The beauty of making your own trail mix over buying it prepackaged is that you can not only eliminate the preservatives and fixatives present in those brands, but also the leftover, wasted bits of things you don’t like at the bottom of the bag. Omit dried bananas if you’re not a fan. Leave out almonds if you don’t like the texture. You won’t throw out anything when you customize your trail mix because it’s exactly what you want.
  • Popsicles – The box might bear pictures of fruit, but most popsicles contain high fructose corn syrup and chemical flavorings engineered in a lab. Control the ingredients in your frozen treats by investing in a popsicle mold and making them yourself for a fraction of the price and with almost no time investment at all.
  • Peanut Butter – If no one in your household is allergic to peanuts, peanut butter is probably a staple in your pantry. What you may not realize unless you carefully read labels, however, is that even such a simple food item can contain a ton of preservatives and chemicals. It’s easy to make at home and tastes even better that way, making peanut butter one item you may never buy pre-made again.
  • Tortilla Chips – In addition to the dangerously high levels of sodium, commercially available tortilla chips are often fried and coated in chemical preservatives. Slicing up leftover corn tortillas and tossing them in the oven nets better tasting chips than you’d buy from a store, and for less money and a bigger flavor pay-off.
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