Skip the snack aisle and whip up these tasty treats at home
Credit: Flickr / I Believe I Can Fry

Skip the snack aisle and whip up these tasty treats at home

There’s no question that packaged foods are quick and convenient, but they aren’t always the best option for your health or your wallet. With a little extra time and planning, you can learn to master simple staples that will liberate you from the packaged food aisles.

Cooking these five items at home will save you cash, improve your health (because you can control what you add to them) and protect the environment, since you won’t be tossing out empty packaging.

Hummus
Credit: Flickr / I Believe I Can Fry

Hummus

The beauty of homemade hummus is you can play around with flavours and spices to create myriad variations. Start off with a basic recipe by blending 2 cups of cooked chickpeas, a couple of tablespoons of tahini, a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice, a big glug of olive oil, a clove of garlic and a few pinches of salt. Taste as you go, and adjust the seasonings to your personal preferences.

Then it’s time to have a little fun with it! You can add:

  • Ground cumin, coriander and cayenne
  • Roasted red peppers
  • A few handfuls of baby spinach
  • Basil and roasted garlic
  • Sundried tomatoes and rosemary
  • Jalapenos and olives
  • Cooked butternut squash or sweet potato

Basically, the sky is the limit when it comes to hummus. And once you start creating your own, you’ll be hard-pressed to buy it from the store ever again.

Granola
Credit: Flickr / mrsdkrebs

Granola

You don’t need to be a whiz in the kitchen to create delicious, mouth-watering granola. All it takes is about half an hour and the ability to stir.

Start off with:

  • 4 cups of rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup of oil (coconut oil works beautifully)
  • ½ cup of maple syrup
  • 1 tsp of cinnamon

Then add:

  • 1 to 2 cups of chopped nuts and seeds
  • Choose your favourites: almonds, pecans, cashews, pumpkin seeds, shredded coconut, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, hazelnuts, etc.

Instructions:

  • Stir everything together and spread it onto two large baking sheets lined with parchment paper
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so, until everything is lightly browned
  • Once the granola has cooled, you can add dried fruit or even chocolate chips
  • If you love clumpy granola, try using honey instead of maple syrup, and don’t stir the granola as much after it’s in the oven

Kale Chips
Credit: Flickr / aMichiganMom

Kale Chips

Kale chips are all the rage these days, and with good reason. Kale is packed with stress-fighting B vitamins, immune-boosting vitamin C, vision-enhancing vitamin A and loads of fibre. It contains nutrients that fight inflammation and prevent cancer, and because kale chips are often baked or dehydrated, they’re a better alternative to fried potato chips.

What’s not so great is their price tag, which can be anywhere from $5 to $10, and most store-bought brands only yield a few handfuls per package. You can make kale chips at home for a fraction of the price.

Instructions

  • Buy a large bunch of kale, wash and dry it, then tear it into pieces in a large bowl
  • Add a few tablespoons of olive oil, a tablespoon of lemon juice and a few pinches of salt, then massage everything into the kale. Get in there with your hands!
  • Spread the pieces out onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at your oven’s lowest temperature for 1-2 hours, until the chips are crispy
  • Explore using different flavours, such as: Salt and vinegar: use apple cider, balsamic, rice wine, red wine, etc.; Cayenne and chilli powder; Onion and garlic powder; Nutritional yeast (this gives it a cheesy taste); Soy sauce Cocoa powder; Coconut oil and maple syrup for a sweet version

Here's a recipe for all-dressed kale chips.

Salad Dressing
Credit: Flickr / lynn.gardner

Salad Dressing

Dressings are the ultimate free-form condiment, and pretty much anything goes. A standard vinaigrette has only a few components: oil, vinegar and herbs. That’s it! A common ratio of oil to vinegar is 3:1, but you can alter that depending on your tastes.

Instructions

  • Grab a mason jar and start off with 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar (or lemon juice) and a pinch of salt, then shake.
  • Dijon mustard and minced garlic are great basic additions, too.
  • Using different vinegars will dramatically change the taste. Try balsamic, red wine, white wine, malt, distilled white, or rice vinegar.
  • The same goes for oils: there’s olive, grapeseed, flax, hemp, sesame and more to experiment with.

Here are a few other ways to jazz up your dressing:

  • Add a dollop of tahini or yogurt for creaminess
  • Make it Italian with dried basil, oregano, parsley, marjoram and thyme
  • Go Asian with sesame oil, rice vinegar, soy sauce, garlic and a pinch of chilli flakes
  • Add notes of sweetness with honey or maple syrup
  • Throw in poppy seeds or sesame seeds for a bit of colour and crunch

Canned Beans
Credit: Flickr / magical-world

Canned Beans

Canned beans are quick and convenient. Unfortunately, they can also be loaded with added sodium and packaged in cans that are lined with bisphenol A, a chemical that disrupts our endocrine system.

Cooking beans at home is simple and cheap.

Here’s what you do:

  • Soak your dried beans (chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans, etc.) for eight hours in clean water (you can leave them overnight). Make sure you add plenty of water, as the beans will soak up the liquid.
  • In the morning, drain and rinse the beans, then add them to a pot and cover with fresh water.
  • Bring to a boil and cook for 45 minutes to an hour, until they are tender when you bite them (times will vary depending on the size of the bean).
  • If you have a slow cooker, you can leave the beans in there on low in the morning and they’ll be ready by the time you arrive home.
  • Drain and rinse, and you’re done!

You can make large batches and freeze them, too. And if you love beans, but aren’t a fan of the awkward gas that comes along with them, try adding a bit of baking soda while they’re soaking, or place a piece of seaweed like kombu or kelp in the pot while they’re cooking.

Make 5 Foods You'll Never Need to Buy Again