7 Plant-Based Foods You Should Be Making, Not Buying

You can save money, customize flavors and eat healthier by making these foods from scratch.

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.

Every month there is more and more research around the health benefits of a plant-based diet. It can help you lose weight, keep your heart healthy, reduce your cancer risk and more. Though the premise of the diet is simple (omitting or limiting animal products from your diet), it can feel challenging and expensive to put into practice. One way to save money when trying to eat more plant-based is by making foods from scratch. You can customize ingredients to your preference for a fraction of the price—it just takes a little planning.

7 Plant-Based Foods You Should Be Making, Not Buying

Instead of buying them, try making these plant-based staples at home. They are lower cost, easily customizable and healthier than what you can find at the store.

1. Hummus & Dips

One super easy go-to food I always make from scratch is hummus. It comes together with pantry staples like chickpeas, olive oil, lemon juice, tahini and garlic. When you make your own hummus, it is easy to add any herbs, vegetables or aromatics for flavoring. This way you can add flavor while keeping sodium in check and also avoid any flavor additives used in some store-bought versions.

Beyond hummus, there are plenty of plant-based dips like this Vegan Queso or Goat Cheese & Chive Guacamole that are perfect for snacking or adding to a sandwich, wrap or bowl. Condiments can help take the flavor of your meal up a notch. Make your own using whole foods to boost your nutrition and save you money.

2. Non-Dairy Milk

Non-dairy milks are rising in popularity, and they are a great option for people avoiding traditional dairy milk. However, non-dairy milks you find at the store can be flavored or have sugar added to alter their taste. Avoid the added sugar by making Homemade Almond Milk or other non-dairy milk. Plus, making your own non-dairy milk helps to save you on the premium prices at the grocery store.

3. Seitan

TikTok has spoken with the latest trend about how to make your own seitan from scratch. If you are not familiar, seitan is a combination of wheat gluten, which is the protein found in wheat, and water. This makes it a naturally high-protein and soy-free vegan substitute for meat that has a similar texture and mouthfeel. It is packed with nutrients and goes great in everything from Vegan "Chicken" Nuggets to Crispy Seitan Stir-Fry, but it can be expensive to buy. Making your own is easy and saves you money.

4. Salad Dressing

It's no secret that the dressing makes the salad. Always have crave-worthy salads by making your own salad dressing from scratch. You can add flavors like lemon, roasted garlic, honey, fresh herbs and more to your homemade dressing for a fraction of the price of store bought. Plus, making your Caesar Salad Dressing or Lemon-Garlic Vinaigrette from scratch helps you ensure that no thickeners, added sugars or excess sodium are added.

5. Nut Butters

While certain types of peanut butter are inexpensive pantry classics, opting for something natural or a different nut can make the price go up. Contrary to what you may think, making your own nut butter is easy and cost-effective. All you need is a food processor, and you can grind the nuts until they release their natural oil and turn into nut butter. When you make your own, you can also add spices like cinnamon and nutmeg to meet your preference.

6. Energy Bars and Balls

To always have a healthy snack ready on the go, try making your own energy bars and energy balls. We have several energy ball recipes, like Caramel Delight Energy Balls (yep, like the Girl Scout Cookie!) and Peanut Butter Energy Balls, to make your snack something worth looking forward to. When you make your own, you use all whole-food ingredients to make a healthier take on pre-packaged granola bars or treats for a lower cost. With a little planning, it is easy and affordable to have healthy, plant-based snacks at home.

Homemade Seitan

7. Bread

I'm not just talking about sourdough when I say that homemade bread comes together with simple pantry ingredients for amazing results. Many breads use only flour, yeast and water, making their ingredients super affordable. Though it can take a little know-how, recipes like No-Knead Refrigerator Bread and Everyday Whole-Wheat Bread come together easily and relatively quickly so you can have delicious and healthy homemade bread on a budget.

Bottom Line

Whether it's non-dairy milks or nut butters, making certain plant-based foods from scratch can save you money, help you eat healthier and allow you to customize the flavor of your food. With some planning ahead, you can make all of these popular vegan and vegetarian standbys with affordable, whole-food ingredients. For more on foods you should be making, not buying, check out our Thrifty page.

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