It started well over a year ago. Specifically, it began with almond milk and its obvious expense at the grocery store, questionable ingredient list, and the “I’m not sure if this Tetra Pak is recyclable” packaging. After a quick internet search, making almond milk by hand is easy. Stupid easy. You soak some almonds overnight, strain the almonds and dump out the gross brown phytic acid–laden water the next morning, throw the almonds into a blender with some fresh water (and any desired flavorings like vanilla, cocoa powder, honey), and voilà! You have almond milk after you separate the pulp from the liquid. And don’t throw out that pulp, either. It’s essentially almond flour once you put it in a low oven to dry out, and we all know that almond flour is hella expensive as well.
I don’t actually make almond milk anymore because I gave up cereal, but it certainly sparked the DIY spirit in me, and I’ve been keeping our kitchen stocked ever since.
The reasons for making much of this stuff by hand are aplenty:
1) It’s cheaper. Exponentially so. For example, the ridiculous artisanal kimchi in the Bay Area is about $7–$8 a jar; I can make it for maybe $3 and get almost 4x the yield. Almond butter? There’s a brand out there that literally costs almost $20 a jar. I buy a four-pound bag of raw almonds at the farmers’ market for $20, and it lasts about four to six months, depending on how much butter I decide to churn out or if I need almonds for other recipes.
2) It’s simple. Sure, some of these things take time to ferment or culture or dry out. But 95% of that is simply waiting. The hands-on time is minimal. Today I had bone broth brewing in the crockpot, tea gummies setting up in the fridge, hot cocoa mix whisked up, and sauerkraut lacto-fermenting at room temperature—all under two hours.
3) I control the additives, thus ending up with a product containing as few ingredients as possible.
4) No packaging. This is a big one for me. I absolutely hate waste. But ever since I started my endeavor to make as much as possible, our single bag of trash gets taken out once every six to eight weeks. We do have compost and recycling that get disposed of more frequently, but I don’t have nearly as many pangs of guilt when I’m dumping out egg shells or glass bottles into their respective green and blue bins.
5) Above all, I enjoy it. I’ve always loved baking, more recently became a better cook, but keeping our pantry full of staple items that would otherwise be purchased from the shelves has become a passion, if not an obsession, of mine.
A list of our homemade items:
- Coconut butter, raw and toasted—two very distinct flavors, so we must have both on hand at all times
- Almond butter—almonds are soaked first, dried, then roasted
- Cashew butter—same process as almond butter
- Sunbutter—sunflower seeds, processed the same way
- Chocolate macadamia nut butter—not a staple since mac nuts are pricey, but it’s delicious
- Homemade Nutella—an extra step involved with removing the skins from hazelnuts, but better for you because you can control the sweetness (but let’s be honest, it’s still not a health food)
- Marmalades and jams
- Pesto—a giant bunch of fresh sweet basil is $1 at the market at the height of the season, and a batch of pesto freezes well and lasts a long time
- Naz’s BBQ sauce—he takes the drippings from various braised meats, throws in some mustard, vinegars, molasses, and whatever else, and cooks the mixture way down
- Naz’s mayonnaise—we’re lucky to get a 30-pack of pastured organic brown eggs for only $7
- Yogurt—just added this to the roster, so it’s a work in progress
- Banana soft serve
- Bone broth
- Chia pudding
- Chocolate—still working on perfecting this, but it’s damn fun
- Hot cocoa mix
- Imposter Larabars and other energy bars
- Tea gummies—beats the heck out of taking glucosamine tablets
- Naz’s cold brew coffee
I would love to get kombucha on this list since it’s a favorite of ours.
(This list doesn’t even include all the various baked treats I make.)