10 things to make or grow yourself that will actually save you money.

Picture this scenario:

It’s 3 o’clock in the morning. You’ve worked a majority of the day canning and preserving your produce. You found a great recipe for tomato paste and are patiently waiting by your oven for the liquid to evaporate. When you finally pull your concoction out of the oven it only gives you a small jar of tomato paste. To your horror, you remember the amount you made only costs about a dollar at the grocery store.  When you think about the time, money on equipment, and utilities it cost you to make your own tomato paste you come up with a number that doesn’t seem worth it. Not to mention all the other things you’ve grown that have actually cost you more growing and harvesting than you’ve saved. All of the hours you spent harvesting black beans from their pods just to remember they cost a $2 a pound at your local grocery store. (And I’m not even going to tell you about the time I wanted to make my own mustard from plant to bottle). You start to wonder if you made a mistake putting in all this work for these small rewards, and even worse, you start to question if you should garden at all.

Don’t let this scenario happen to you! Here are 10 recipes that will make your garden 100% worth the time and effort! Not only will it reduce your grocery bill, or give you presents for family come Christmas time, it will most importantly give you a renewed sense or purpose for your love of gardening!

 Raw Sauerkraut

Sure non-raw canned saurkraut is going to cost you around $2 at the grocery store. But it’s going to taste like garbage and all of the nutritional benefit will have been cooked away. The second you go in the natural foods section of the grocert store and look at that raw saurkraut selling for $10 for a small bag, you are going to suddenly realize why you need to make your own! Saurkraut is easiest of all the fermented things you can make. All you need is cabbage, caraway seeds and kosher or sea salt. A whole batch will cost you about $2 a quart, and since it is fermented has a very long shelf life in your refrigerator. I mean, A really LONG SHELF-LIFE! Never once have I had it gone bad on me. Here is how I made my own Sauerkraut.

Raw Kimchi

Kimchi is even worse! Even non-raw kimchi is still about $4 a jar. Take the time to make your own and you not only can have the pride and ownership of a product you made yourself, but it will save your wallet and gut bacteria too! You can think of the long history Kimchi has had in Korea, and how with each batch you are preserving a little bit of history. Here is how I made my own  Kimchi!

Hot Pepper Jelly

Dare I say this is the easiest thing to make on the list yet? Even though I have seen jars of this go for $12 a pop. This is because the public knows that there is nothing more tasty or party pleasing than a cracker with cream cheese and hot pepper jelly. What they do not know is how truly simple is it so recreate this concoction in your kitchen.


  • 1-1/2 cups white vinegar
  • 1 medium sweet red pepper, cut into wedges
  • 2/3 cup chopped habanero peppers or any you have in your garden!
  • 6 cups sugar, divided
  • 2 pouches (3 ounces each) liquid fruit pectin


Place vinegar and peppers in a blender; cover and puree. Add 2 cups sugar; blend well. Pour into a saucepan. Stir in the remaining sugar; bring to a boil. Strain mixture (or don’t if you like it kinda gritty like I do!) and return to pan. Stir in pectin. Return to a rolling boil over high heat. Boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat; skim off foam. Carefully ladle hot mixture into hot sterilized half-pint jars, leaving 1/4-in. head-space. Remove air bubbles, wipe rims and adjust lids. Process for 5 minutes in a boiling-water canner. Serve with cream cheese on cracker. or don’t let the sky be your limit! Makes 5 pints!


Hops are one of those things that grow back year to year whether you want them to or not. Living in one of the roughest zones (Zone 5) I do not get the pleasure of having many perennials that actually survive the winter. However, there isn’t anything I haven’t seen hops be able to handle. Japanese Beetle invasions, -30 degree weather, they can do anything. After owning them for a few years you can even break up their rhizome and plant a bunch more. It’s a hardy crop that was initially used to keep beer preserved over long voyages over seas. Unfortunately, if sold whole, these crops are worth much more than they cost to grow. And dry hopped beer is one of the best ways to brew!

Pickled eggs

A lot of pickled egg recipes call for beets so it will turn the eggs a nice pinkish red color. I hate beets so here is one with jalepenos! This recipe is a little bit spicy, a little bit sweet, and a little bit vinegary! Enjoy!

  • 1 1/2 cups white vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1 fresh jalepeno
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp. pickling salt
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 8 hard boiled eggs peeled

Put all liquid and spices into a pan and heat to boiling. Reduce heat and let simmer for 6 minutes. Remove from heat until cooled to room temperature. Pour over 8 hard boiled eggs and put in refrigerator for up to a week.

Herbed Vinegars and Olive Oils


Aldis has some cheap infused oils and vinegars. Outside of Aldis I have never seen these sold cheaply at any other grocery store. Spend a Saturday perusing Goodwill for un-chipped or broken bottles. You can purchase corks or lids online, or if you’re lucky enough the bottle will come with one. Take it home, sterilize it, and fill it with oil and a mixture of your favorite herbs. Make sure to use your oil and vinegar as soon as you can. They do not last very long or look pretty forever in this state.


Pesto will be expensive to buy and make on your own for one reason, PINE NUTS! At $5 a jar these little nuts can be a killer for delicious DIY pesto. However, if you make your own pesto you can use almonds which will be much cheaper. Try these recipes.


Nope! Not Giardia!

Real vanilla


Do you have vodka? Do you have vanilla beans usually from madagascar? Then you don’t have to pay $10 for a tiny bottle of “real” vanilla.

Here is a recipe:

  1. 8 oz. Glass Bottle or Jar. (Free-$3)
  2. 7 Vanilla Beans ($7-$25)
  3. 1 cup Vodka 70 Proof/35% Alcohol (or you can also use Bourbon, Rum or Brandy; any brand/quality) ($10-$20)

Gently shake your jar every day and in a matter of weeks you will have your own vanilla!


This fizzy, vinegary, drink will cost you anywhere from $3-$5 a bottle. But once you get the SCOBY, jar, and lid it won’t cost you any more than the cost of tea, sugar, and additional fruit or herbs of your choice to make your own. AND! Each SCOBY makes a new SCOBY with every batch. So you can share with friends and family. Here is a link to how I make my own.