Save money without sparing any flavor with these decadent homemade recipes.

Welcome to Thrifty. A weekly column where assistant nutrition editor and registered dietitian, Jessica Ball, keeps it real on how to grocery shop on a budget, make healthy meals for one or two, and make earth-friendly choices without overhauling your entire life. 

Pictured Recipe: Chia-Spiced Apple Pie

Desserts are a mark of any good celebration, but buying them prepared can get expensive (looking at you, $80 bakery cakes). Not to mention, many people are still trying to limit extra trips out of the house. Beyond saving money, making desserts from scratch can help you better control what's in them, so you can make a healthier sweet treat and accommodate for different dietary preferences. Not to mention, baking is an excellent creative outlet the whole family can join in on and is shown to lower stress levels. Say goodbye to overpriced cookies and cupcakes and hello to your house smelling almost as delicious as the desserts taste. 

chai spiced apple pie

5 Desserts You Should Be Making, Not Buying 

Here are some desserts to make from scratch to eat healthier, save money and spare no deliciousness. 



For a birthday, anniversary or a holiday, cakes are universal for celebration. But buying them at a bakery can get really expensive, especially if you want them customized (it can surpass $100 real quick). Save yourself the money and make something more thoughtful and adaptable yourself. When you make your own cakes, you can easily accommodate dietary preferences and customize flavors and decorations free of charge. From elaborate Carrot Cake with Candied Carrot Curls to something simple like our One-Bowl Chocolate Cake or Confetti Birthday Cake (pictured above), we have ample cake recipes to inspire your next gathering. 


To all the people who think cake is overrated and would rather have a gooey, fruit-centric dessert instead, this one's for you. Even if you typically lean towards cakes for celebrating, pies are a friendly homemade dessert for beginner bakers. Also, pies are not one-size-fits all. You can stick to the classics, like our Brown Butter Apple Pie, or make something chocolatey and more decadent. Seriously, do yourself a favor and make this S'mores Pie. Your quarantine crew will thank you. 


For something lower maintenance than a full cake or pie, cookies are a perfect casual dessert option for when you just need something sweet. Aside from being so versatile and lending themselves to endless flavor combinations, cookies are the perfect dessert for the fall. Make these spooky Ghost Meringue Cookies, or enjoy the seasons favorite flavors in these Pumpkin Sugar Cookies. Plus, it is never too early for Christmas cookies (everyone agrees). Or can also keep it simple and make classic chocolate chip cookies. Taking only 35 minutes from start to finish, they are a perfect impulsive pantry dessert for nights when you don't have anything already made (speaking from experience).

Mini Cheesecake

Cupcakes & Mini Desserts

Not only are cupcakes and mini desserts like Mini New York Cheesecakes totally adorable, but also they make the perfect socially-distanced dessert. They can be made in bulk, easily saved and shared without having to be handled by everyone in the group. Everyone gets their own so you can safely celebrate and enjoy a flavorful treat. Bakery cupcakes are nearly as expensive as cakes, so making Apple Cupcakes with Cinnamon-Marshmallow Frosting from scratch instead will save you money, too. Oh, did I forget to mention we actually have a Poop Emoji Cupcake recipe? It is a sure-fire conversation starter. 

Ice Cream 

Sick of the oven, after making all of the previously mentioned baked goods? With a little planning, these no-cook desserts are a perfect option when you want to chill out. Making your own ice cream is especially easy if you have an ice cream maker, but you don't need one to make a tasty frozen treat. Give this dessert a better-for-you spin by making one of our Nice Creams, which use frozen fruit to create this creamy naturally-sweet treat. As a bonus, flavors like Strawberry-Mango and Piña Colada are even diary-free and vegan-friendly. 

Bottom Line

Making your own desserts from scratch can help save you money and adapt treats to your flavor and dietary preferences. Whether it's a classic cake for a celebration or miniature apple pies for an individual treat, you'll find baking is not only affordable but enjoyable. You can also make better-for-you versions of your favorite treats, like nice cream, to indulge in whenever you want to satisfy your sweet tooth.