Thanks to the efficiency of industry and globalisation there aren’t too many things worth making yourself to save money.
I’ve considered making my own clothes, but once you take into account the cost of fabric and patterns it comes out more expensive than most fast fashion and way more then what you can get at the thrift shop. Plus I’m not that good a seamstress and you know, style is all in the fit.
Camembert making? Not worth it once you pay for 20 litres of unhomgenised milk, cultures and rennet.
Soap? Fun, but unless your skin requires you to spend $3 a bar on pure olive oil or goats milk soap, the supermarket options are way cheaper.
There’s also a time / cost benefit to consider. My definition of simple living means not complicating your life by adding in time consuming tasks for the sake of a few bucks. I’d rather work on creating an enjoyable side hustle.
Here’s my list of foods and other things worth making yourself to save money that are quick and easy to do
The sound of the coffee machine purring is what gets me out of bed in the morning. Well it used to until we had a baby. Anyway, a good morning coffee is one of life’s little pleasures and the most significant way to save.
Over the last 10 years of loyal service, our coffee machine has saved us around $25,000 compared to each of us buying 1 coffee a day.
That includes the $120 upfront cost of the machine, beans and milk. Definitely worth the effort to save a year’s worth of home loan repayments.
2. Birthday Cakes
A good cake from a nice bakery or patisserie is very expensive, compared to the cost of ingredients and difficulty in making your own. There’s plenty of occasions throughout the year when cake is necessary, so it’s an easy place to save by making your own.
One of my favourites is Delia’s Ultimate Carrot Cake. Despite the somewhat long winded explanation it’s quick, easy and tastes divine.
Fancy looking decorations like pineapple flowers are actually surprisingly easy to make and Spotlight sell great templates and moulds for kids’ cakes. You can even get tins that make a checkerboard pattern.
3. Baby Food
Store bought baby food is relatively expensive. For a product that contains 5 pureed vegetables and nothing else, $13 per kilo is quite a bit. Especially if your baby happens to have a great appetite. There’s also the packaging waste issue.
Making your own baby food from seasonally available fruit and vegetables makes good financial sense. Especially as you can batch and freeze to make life easier at a time when any extra effort is a burden.
I cooked from Annabel Karmel’s Top 100 Baby Purees and some of the recipes were so good, we would make them for the main family meal and puree some for our baby.
Yoghurt is surprisingly easy to make at home, even though it’s a fairly pricey product at around $4-5 a kilo. If you eat enough of it (and don’t live in Holland) it makes sense to make it yourself when milk costs $1 per litre.
Plain yoghurt is a breakfast staple around here and we eat around 2 kilograms of it per week. So we save $280 per year or 2 weeks worth of groceries, with a little effort.
5. Soda Water
I love the fizzy refreshingness of mineral water. Yes, we have virtually free, clean water that comes straight from the tap for our drinking convenience. But nothing can beat the fizz to quench a hard earned thirst.
A cheap bottle from the supermarket costs around 70 cents a litre, tap water costs 76 cents…per kilolitre. That’s a 1000% markup for some added CO2 and a plastic bottle that’s a big environmental problem.
That’s why I love my Soda Stream. A $20 bottle of CO2 makes 60L of soda water so 33 cents a litre. The machine cost $50, about 6 years ago and we go through about 2 litres a day.
We’ve saved around $1,600 over that time and a tonne of plastic.
The price of bread isn’t history making. We’re not likely to have a revolution over it any time soon. However, the good stuff ain’t cheap.
Ranging from $5 to $7 a loaf for even the supermarket sour doughs, baking bread at home is worthwhile. If you have a bread machine and use a bread mix, it’s a piece of cake. Ha ha…just in time for Bastille Day.
Our $150 machine is still going strong after 13 years and a loaf using a bread mix costs just $2.25. And the scent of fresh bread at 5am is worth every penny.
7. Beer & Cider
Speaking of hard earned thirsts, unless you live in Germany where beer is cheaper than water, or something like that, brewing your own beer can save you heaps.
Thanks to modern brew kits, home brew tastes nothing like it once did. Apparently, it’s pretty close to boutique beer for 50% of the cost. I can vouch for the cider at least.
There’s a bit of a setup cost involved for a kit, but this pays for itself with a few brews especially if you’ve got expensive taste.
Of course as with any hobby, the risk is that once you get started, you might ‘need’ more equipment. Like a keg system or brew fridge.
8. Growing Your Own
If you find a cheap place to buy fresh fruit and veggies, then growing your own doesn’t make any sense unless you normally purchase organic.
But there are some high value crops worth growing. I wouldn’t go throwing potatoes or carrots in the ground, but herbs make sense. As does produce that spoils quickly like lettuce, rocket and tomatoes.
Bananas are normally very cheap, so not worth growing. Except of course after a cyclone wipes out the whole crop and prices skyrocket to $16 per kilo. We planted a couple of banana trees a few years ago to ensure our supply.
9. Kids Toys
Children’s toys make me really angry. Apparently, Aussie parents are spending at least $100 per child per year on toys.
What annoys me, is that up to a certain age, kids don’t seem all that interested in toys. They want to play with adult stuff. Like anything vaguely edible, jar lids, pots and pans, spatulas, watering cans, spoons, magazines, bits of plastic that crinkle etc.
What’s more, they grow out of toys very, very quickly.
I’ve stopped buying toys at the moment. Instead I find awesome baby and toddler toys and activities online that I can make for pennies. I like it, because even the setup engages my toddler in a way that a piece of plastic just doesn’t seem to.
10. Birthday Cards
What happened to funny birthday cards? Once upon a time you could walk into a newsagent get a good laugh and walk out with a card that you knew would be appreciated. Birthday cards, you’ve changed.
These days, funny seems to involve telling the recipient how old they are. Which, after about 30 is not what you want to hear on your birthday.
So I started making my own cards. I no longer part with $5 worth of cardboard that in all likelihood ends up in the recycling bin sooner or later.
As long as you don’t leave it to the last minute, it’s pretty fun and there’s so many ideas on the internet for the more or less artistic.
Since many of these are country specific, I’d be curious to know what is and isn’t worth making in your part of the world?
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