“You’ll spend $10 to make something that costs $1 at the store!” he exclaimed last week after I whipped up some homemade tartar sauce to go with our (store-bought) fish sticks and tater tots.
While the tartar sauce didn’t actually cost us anything — I had all the ingredients on hand — his sentiment is right. I make a lot of typically store-bought things from scratch. The other day he caught me looking up recipes for homemade A1 Steak Sauce (which we also have all the ingredients for). But money doesn’t really have anything to do with why I cook from scratch — it’s the ingredients.
Since I became a mom, I’ve become more aware of what I feed my family. And if you look at the ingredients in a lot of ready-made products on store shelves, sugar and/or corn syrup are up at the top of the list. My kids can destroy a clean room in a matter of minutes at any given time — why would I want to add that much more unneeded energy to their destructive force with sugar?
Not to mention the artificial colors, flavors and preservatives. And, despite my husband’s claims, it usually is cheaper to make things from scratch — and it usually tastes better.
Peanut butter is a great example. When it’s not on sale, a 16-18 ounce jar of peanut butter costs at least $3. And my favorite flavor, Peter Pan Creamy Honey Roast, contains not only peanuts, but two types of hydrogenated oils and a partially hydrogenated oil, all of which contain the dreaded “trans fats.” Plus molasses, sugar and honey.
It turns out that making homemade peanut butter is actually pretty easy, and pretty cheap. All you need are peanuts and a food processor. I bought a pound of shelled, unsalted dry roasted peanuts for about $2 at the grocery store. Due to the laws of physics, those same peanuts will weigh the same in butter form as they do whole, so I saved $1 by doing about 2 minutes of active work making it from scratch, versus buying it at the store.
Now getting whole peanuts down to creamy peanut butter takes a bit of work from a food processor, so if you’re still using that cheap 2-cup food processor from your college days, it won’t cut it. Go console yourself with a jar of Jif … or better yet, a grown-up food processor. If you have kids like mine, who could easily eat a PB&J a day, it’ll pay for itself in just a matter of months with the money you’ll save.
To make the peanut butter, just dump the peanuts into the food processor, turn it on high and let it go. It will go through several stages: sundae-topping size, peanut meal, rough chunky ball, smooth ball … and then, all of a sudden, liquid. The entire process took about five minutes on my KitchenAid processor (thanks, Mom!). The liquid stage isn’t really liquid, but it looks like it when the blade of the food processor is whipping through it.
You can make completely usable peanut butter from just peanuts — no other ingredients necessary. It’s almost amazing how peanut-y it tastes … and makes you wonder what you are actually tasting in the store-bought version. But I found the peanut-only butter to be a little difficult to spread, so on my next batch I mixed in some local honey (good for seasonal allergies, by the way) and a little bit of vegetable oil — peanut oil would be even better, but that’s the one thing I don’t keep on hand. I didn’t measure anything, just added both to my taste and texture preferences, but I’d say it was a tablespoon or so of each.
Just store it in an airtight container and enjoy at any given opportunity — I’m not opposed to giving my kids spoonfuls of peanut butter to quiet them down for a minute. The butter will last months in the fridge and indefinitely in the freezer. At some point, the oil may begin to separate, but you just have to mix it back together. And at my house, it usually doesn’t have time to get to that point.
This butter pairs exceptionally well with my latest batch of homemade strawberry jam. And sometimes, when I’m feeling especially health-conscious, it all gets slathered on a couple slices of homemade bread.
The only thing crazy about it is how good it tastes.