Is homemade always cheaper than pre-made?

Sandra puts pre-made and homemade food to the financial test. Which one do you think comes out on top?

By Sandra E. Martin
Is homemade always cheaper than pre-made?

Sandra's homemade tomato sauce

I’m happy to report I’ve been faithful to my bulk-cooking pledge. Every Sunday, I cook that evening’s meal as well as a big batch of something else. So far: lentil soup (twice); lasagna; beef bourguignon; and homemade tomato sauce.
Clearly, the latter would be a super-cheap freezer-filler if I’d had a garden full of ripe tomatoes to use up. Alas, no such luck (tiny urban backyard, no time to cultivate, lots of hungry squirrels that sabotage even my annual potted sage); I had to base my sauce on canned tomatoes.
Still, it seemed to me that my giant Dutch oven full of low-sodium, homemade goodness must trump individual glass jars of mass-manufactured sauce. So let’s compare.
My usual jarred pasta sauce: $2.49 for 650 mL on sale
My homemade, big-batch pasta sauce:
No-salt added canned tomatoes: $1.89 x 3
2 onions: $0.50
1 red pepper: $2.00
½ bunch fresh flatleaf parsley: $0.79
4 cloves garlic: negligible (3 heads of garlic were on sale for $0.59)
Dried oregano and basil from pantry: negligible
Sliced cremini mushrooms: $2
Olive oil from pantry: negligible
TOTAL: $10.96
Makes: approximately 6 jars worth of sauce
Cost per “jar”: $1.83
So, huge savings? Not really – especially if I factor in the value of my labour. But huge satisfaction? Absolutely.
What’s your take – do you feel that cooking in bulk saves you a ton of money, or is the payoff the ability to serve your family home-cooked meals, even on busy weeknights? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

This article was originally published on Nov 08, 2011

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