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5 things you should never buy at the grocery store


Things like salad dressing and hummas are cheaper and healthier to make at home. (Reuters)

Not going to lie: After a long day of work, I’ve definitely gone the hummus-for-dinner route. What can I say? Those supermarket stacks of brightly-colored hummus tubs sometimes get the better of me.

But not anymore. Not since I realized how much cheaper it is to make hummus myself.

The same goes for a lot of prepared foods at the grocery store. They're convenient, but when I break it down, they ain't cheap.

And break it down I have. I pulled some of my favorite recipes, did the math for individual ingredients using Instacart’s quotes for Whole Foods and Fairway, and compared the cost of making these foods against the cost of buying them pre-made in stores. In almost every instance, it turned out to be cheaper to cook instead of buy.

Disclaimer: Unless otherwise noted, I've calculated the cost of the portion of the ingredient used to make the recipe. I've also excluded common kitchen staples such as salt, pepper, and olive oil.


The ingredients for the simplest salad dressing (oil+vinegar+Dijon) are probably already in your kitchen, but even if you want to get a little fancy—say, with this cashew Caesar dressing—it still pays to prepare your dressing instead of buying one.

Epi Math

  • BOUGHT: $4.29 for an 8-ounce Annie’s Caesar Salad Dressing at Whole Foods
  • HOMEMADE: $1.44 for 2 ounces of cashews (from Whole Foods bulk) + $1 for 4 oil-packed anchovies (from a 2-ounce can) + $.22 for 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard + $.50 for lemon juice + $.15 for 2 teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce = $3.31 for 8 ounces of cashew Caesar dressing.


A kimchi relish takes cabbage and lets it get funky with things you may already have on hand, like lime juice and Sriracha. Buying a head of cabbage will give you a lot more than the recipe calls for, meaning you’re getting so much more kimchi (or slaw, or even some cabbage to burn) for so much less.

Epi Math

  • BOUGHT: $10.99 for a 16-ounce jar of Mother in Law Kimchi at Fairway
  • HOMEMADE: $.26 for 3/4 cup napa cabbage + $.27 for 1 1/2 tablespoons agave nectar + $.33 for 2 tablespoons soy sauce + $.18 for 1 1/2 tablespoons Sriracha + $1.26 for 1/4 cup lime juice (from about 2 limes) + $1.99 for chives (you won't use all of them though) = $4.29 for 1 1/2 cups of kimchi.


Avocado, peppers, cilantro. It doesn't get much better—or simpler—than guacamole. You save money when you leave out expensive limes—guacamole’s better without them anyways—yet it may nevertheless be more expensive to make at home. But hey, at least your guac will be fresh, you know?

Epi Math

  • BOUGHT: $7.99/pound (about 2 cups) prepared guacamole at Whole Foods
  • HOMEMADE: $5 for avocados + $1.99 for cilantro (with plenty leftover) + $.45 for 1/2 white onion + $1.32 for serrano peppers = $9.16 for 2 cups guacamole.


You save a lot of money when you shop for salsa, but you also end up with a lot of leftover ingredients: half an onion, a healthy handful of cilantro, and more than half of a can of chipotles in adobo. The onions and cilantro are easy enough to use in other dishes, but what to do with those chipotles? Keep them in an air-tight container for up to 10 days and stir them into a mayo, black beans, chicken tostadas, or even a tequila cocktail.

Epi Math

  • BOUGHT: $6.49 for 15-ounce jar chipotle salsa at Fairway
  • HOMEMADE: $.45 for white onion + $1.80 for two large tomatoes + $1.99 for cilantro (with plenty leftover) + $.85 for chipotles in adobo (a 7-ounce can costs $2.99) = $5.09 for 2 ½ cups of Chipotle Salsa


Having spent the better part of a grocery budget on it, I'll say it: the hummus market is a racket. So stick it to the man and make your own. Yes, a container of tahini will set you back a little bit, and you’ll have a lot leftover; luckily, there's plenty of ways to use it beyond hummus.

  • BOUGHT: $4.29 for 10-ounce container (roughly 1 1/4 cups) classic hummus at Fairway
  • HOMEMADE: $1.98 for 2 cans of chickpeas + $1.87 for 4 ounces tahini from Fairway + $.50 for a lemon + $.88 for garlic= $5.23 for around 2 1/2 cups of hummus

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