3 Recipes That Beat the Box

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. We participate in other affiliate programs as well. For more details, please see our disclosure policy.

Got a craving for pie, granola, or the comforting macaroni and cheese? Forget the box; make it yourself.

3 recipes that beat the box

Years ago when we were contemplating parenthood and a switch to one income, I read the book Miserly Moms (affiliate link). It’s outdated now, but it’s what I cut my frugal teeth on back in 1996. In that book, author Jonni McCoy addresses the issue of reducing grocery spending since it’s one of the most flexible line items on your budget.

That year, we worked to save money and cut our expenses so that we could feel “responsible” as we entered parenting. (Note: you will never be perfectly ready, so don’t overthink the “getting ready” part. Doing is what gets you ready.)

Anyway, I worked to make our favorite prepared items from scratch. Like the sauce, salsa, and salad dressing, I learned that homemade tastes better than the prepared versions; it’s typically healthier; and of course, it’s less expensive.

We ditched the bottle that year — as well as the box.

Here are three favorite recipes that are better than the box:

homemade pie crust

Pie Crust

Homemade pie crust is really not hard, especially if you have a handy-dandy food processor nearby. Pie crust comes together in minutes.

Now, you may feel timid of the rolling pin. I get that. I used to be, too. That’s why Gramma John’s Pat-in-Pan Pie Crust totally rocks. Even my five year old can do it. You can, too. Promise.


Granola is so incredibly easy to make, there’s no excuse to buy it in a box, especially at the prices they charge. Mix up a batch and slide it in the oven to bake while you tackle some other task.

Here are some of our favorites:

stovetop macaroni and cheese

Macaroni and Cheese

Mac and Cheese is a delicious comfort food. And, I confess, I do love Annie’s boxed versions. But, it’s better to make homemade. I’ve got two favorite methods to make it at home, both easy in their own right:

Boxed food is convenient and often tasty. But, don’t feel like you’re locked into buying things in a box. You can make your own and it’ll beat the box flat.

What boxed item do you make yourself?

diy-convenience-150This is part of the DIY Convenience Foods series.

Don’t want to miss a post in this series? Subscribe to 31 Days of DIY Convenience food here. Get updates via email here.

About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

Subscribe to Good Cheap Eats
Read Newer Post
Read Older Post


  1. Nia says

    Well I make just about all foods from scratch same as you. One Item we love that beats the box any day is spinach. Frozen boxed spinach tastes like, well… a box if you ask me. And the texture can’t compare to fresh either. Speaking of spinach were overdue to have some this week.

    • I use it in some casseroles and dips, but I wouldn’t dream of just eating it. LOL

    • Sandi says

      I have a box of frozen chopped spinach that I got for some recipe that I had planned to make “in a few days” and I didn’t want to risk fresh spoiling before I got to it. I’ve since forgotten what recipe I wanted to use it for, it’s been a couple of months now, and now I’m trying to decide what I can use it in to get rid of it. Yes, fresh tastes so much better! I bet if I took a handful of fresh and put it in a bag and froze it, it would still taste better than the frozen box of spinach. I wonder why? We ate the frozen boxed stuff as the side veggie all the time when I was growing up and I didn’t mind it at all. How tastes have changed! Mom doesn’t like it like that anymore either.

  2. Donna says

    One thing we never eat from a box (actually a can) is soup. Soup is such a great way to use up any leftover produce you have and it freezes beautifully. We always have a stash of frozen pint mason jars of soup for anyone who needs a quick lunch around here… and the best part is you can control the contents and the salt. My family cannot even fathom eating canned soup anymore!

    • Yep. My kids have never really had canned soup, we’ve been making it so long. I’ll have to so a soup post round-up. It’s a weekly thing on our menu in the fall and winter. Thanks for the reminder.

  3. Kerry says

    I second Donna. Canned soup was the last holdout of processed convenience items. Now there is always a stash of our big three in the freezer: chicken noodle, sausage meatball (Italian wedding), and creamy tomato. The tomato was the most surprising one – it won my tomato soup-loving kiddo over right away. I expected resistance, but she made the switch effortlessly. I make big batches and keep all the soups in mason jars in the freezer. Perfect for school lunches, my lunches, soup night…

    • I only discovered cream of tomato last year and I love it. Yum! Might need to make some for lunch!

      • Kristen says

        Could you share a recipe for tomato soup that will freeze well? I’m always convinced it won’t for some reason! Thanks!

        • I freeze tomato sauce all the time, so there’s no reason tomato (without the cream) won’t freeze just as well. Do you have a recipe you love? Just freeze a small portion next time you make it and test it. (I have two in my last two cookbooks that we like a lot.)

  4. Katie says

    I regularly make pancakes, waffles, and bread from scratch. Pancakes and waffles are not much harder than using a mix and I know exactly what went into them.

  5. Mashed potatoes and scalloped potatoes are so much better homemade and not that much more work. I especially like to make scalloped potatoes in the slow cooker.

    I agree with Katie on the pancakes and waffles, and I tried your Gramma John’s pie crust recipe this week. I used it in the mini apples pies recipe. I loved it! So easy and yummy!

    • Yep. You’re right. Homemade potatoes are better. And now that all my kids can peel, I am thrilled! Glad you liked the pies!

  6. We don’t do cake from a box anymore. It really isn’t that difficult, and the taste difference is huge.

Share Your Thoughts