3 Things You Should Never Buy in a Bottle

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3 things you should never buy in a bottleCanned and bottled foods have been a boon to home cooks all over time and space. The ability to buy shelf-stable, prepared food is a luxury that our ancestors probably never even dreamed of.

But, unfortunately, the quality and taste of many of these items pales in comparison to the real deal. Often, the cost of convenience isn’t always there. That’s why it behooves you to make your own, especially these three things.

Don’t ever buy these in a bottle when you can make them yourself.

1. Salsa

I started making salsa about 17 years ago. Back then I bought a $3 container of Santa Barbara salsa each week. Once I got the hang of it, I realized that I could make twice as much salsa for less than a dollar. Total money saver, not to mention better tasting and healthier.

Check out these great salsa recipes so that you can make your own.

bolognese pasta sauce with spaghetti squash

2. Pasta Sauce

The same goes for spaghetti sauce. When we were newlyweds we bought Classico pasta sauce in jars. Often we wouldn’t use the full jar before it started to grow fuzz and so we wasted quite a bit of it. Around the same time as the salsa discovery, I learned that I could make homemade pasta sauce for a few pennies on the dollar.

Here are some of our favorites:

Salad dressing

3. Salad Dressings

Salad dressings are so remarkably easy, it’s ridiculous to buy them in a bottle. The bottled variety contains a lot of dubious ingredients and an inordinate amount of sugar — often in the form of corn syrup — and salt.

Vinaigrette-style salad dressing is just vinegar and spices mixed with some olive oil. Voila! Here are some faves:

What do YOU shun in bottled form?

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

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About Jessica Fisher

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

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  1. Molly says

    Not going to lie, I buy all of these things.
    But I don’t buy bottled coffee! I make double-triple concentrate, chill it, then mix half and half with milk.

  2. Karen says

    Barbeque sauce and mayo,

  3. Kjane says

    Packaged taco seasoning. So easy to find a recipe, quadruple it and keep it in a labeled glass jar with your spices.

  4. Kjane says

    Okay, so store bought taco seasoning doesn’t actually come in a bottle, buy hey.

  5. maura says

    mayo, and salad dressing

  6. Lisa says

    I can’t agree with you more!

    Can I suggest 2 things that aren’t in a bottle also? Boxed Mac and Cheese (so easy & better tasting) and if people must use Cream of Whatever soup – don’t buy it, make it yourself. If one wants an easy method search on the internet for SOS mix (Soup or Sauce)- it works great!

  7. Melissa says

    Your red sauce recipe, is that 10 oz of crushed tomatoes or 10 cans? I’m confused with how it was typed. Thanks!

    • The bulk can is called a number 10 can. It’s REALLY big. It’s 108 ounces.

    • Diana says

      I’ve done a half-recipe of the red sauce with 2 of the 29-oz cans. It worked out really well (although I have to admit that I do still buy Classico to keep on hand for true emergencies! The kind where you don’t even have time to thaw the jar of sauce 🙂 )

      • Ha! I getcha. I reheat it from frozen. 😉

        • Diana says

          Do you freeze it in bags or in jars? It takes forever for me to thaw a jar of broth or sauce–at least a good 6-8 minutes in the microwave. Bags might be easier but I don’t always have the right type on hand.

          • I use plastic containers, so the sauce pops out and I reheat it in a saucepan.

        • Diana says

          ah ha! I have done that before, now that I think of it. Thanks!

  8. Jen says

    Pizza sauce. Easy peasy.

    I do buy jarred salsa; I make my own and jar it, but we get tired of that one flavor (and the batches I make always seem to have yields beyond those predicted). So a few times a year we get something else.

  9. Shannon says

    I do buy salsa and salad dressing. We don’t go through them fast enough and the homemade goes to waste. I tried making smaller batches, but had the same problem.

    • Really? I usually make only enough dressing for one or two salads. That works well for us.

  10. LizA says

    Garlic in a jar?

    Never, never, never!

    • Actually, I buy the bottle from Trader Joe’s. It has no weird additives and saves me a ton of time. (ducks for cover)

  11. Claire says

    We do make our own pasta sauce and dressings. Great money saver. Plus no NB e of those added nasty ingredients.

    Salsa, um…no 🙁

    With Summer over it may not taste as good. Hubby is always a skiing me to make it.

    • I use canned tomatoes and we really like it. Do you normally use fresh tomatoes?

      • claire says

        Yes, fresh. Didn’t think to use can. I’ll run it past hubby & see what he thinks. Thanks for letting me know about using can tomatoes 🙂

  12. M says

    sauerkraut- The stuff from the store tastes nothing like making it at home.

  13. Sandi says

    I do make a lot of things from scratch, but haven’t done salsa. Pico a few times, but not full-on salsa. Those Pace and Old El Paso things are not very good. The kid quite likes Costco’s organic salsa, so that’s what we have done for the past few years. Before we found Costco’s salsa, we just rarely bothered using salsa at home. I don’t have any at the moment, so I might consider making some using your recipe, but I greatly disagree with your cost breakdown (even understanding that the post is 3 years old). I’m glad you can get things that cheaply, but it definitely costs more over here on the east coast.

  14. How true! I make my own of all three, and fully agree how much more one can make if going homemade and for so much less 🙂

  15. Jennifer says

    I use minced garlic from a jar 99% of the time. Its easy, inexpensive, and tastes fine. The only time I buy fresh garlic is when I’m roasting the cloves with grape tomatoes.

  16. Crystal says

    I never buy brown sugar, I make my own. It’s just white table sugar mixed with a tiny bit of molasses. When you diy, you can control how light or dark it is, and it is soooo much cheaper.
    I don’t buy powdered sugar, either, I usually grind my own in a coffee grinder I use for sugar and spices. Not only is it cheaper, it tastes better. The commercial stuff usually has corn starch added to keep it from caking up, which makes it taste off.
    I know those two weren’t exactly bottles, lol, but very good money savers that have better results/flavor.
    Jam- so easy to make, and much tastier. I like to slow cook it and use less sugar and more lemon juice, for a richer flavor that still has that fresh tang to it.
    Syrups- we make our own chocolate syrup, like Hershey’s, hot fudge sauce, butterscotch syrup, honey-lemon and ginger syrup (to add to jot water for sore throats), rose syrup, simple syrup, and orange syrup, etc.
    Sour mix- lemon or lime juice plus simple syrup
    This one isn’t food, but glass cleaner and all purpose cleaner and scouring powder (like comet). I keep a jar of vinegar in the fridge with orange rind in it, (sometimes I switch it up, and use other citrus or lavender instead). For windows I mix it with water, for counters I mix it with a water and a few drops of tea tree oil. Instead of comet, I use baking powder. It removes stains, grease (even the old plasticized kind, lol), and soap scum, and if you can’t rinse the area (like a stovetop), remove as much powder as you can with a damp cloth, then spritz with the vinegar water. The vinegar reacts chemically with the soda, which turns them into oxygen and salt water (which isn’t gritty like baking powder).

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