One of the ways in which I save the most money on my grocery budget is by cooking the majority of my family's food from scratch. In today's society where the focus is usually on quick and convenient, making foods from scratch could seem impractical. However, with a little practice and planning, homemade food can be surprisingly easy and is a huge moneysaver. I would estimate that each homemade item that I make costs about a third of its prepared price in the store - some even less. So dust off your pots and pans and try some of these ideas!
Bread - A bread machine makes baking homemade bread a no-brainer. You can layer your ingredients in the machine and three or four hours later have a fresh loaf of homemade bread. You can also use the "dough only" cycle to make rolls, shaped breads, and even pizza dough and foccacia.
Waffles and Pancakes - Waffles and pancakes are very simple to make, and you may already cook them on the weekends. Next time, why not make a double batch and freeze the extras for quick breakfasts during the week? You or your kids will have a delicious, hot breakfast any day for a fraction of the cost of a box of Eggos.
Salad dressings - You really only need your preferred varieties of oil and vinegar to make a decent salad dressing, but you can also really get creative with fresh and dried herbs and spices. Your homemade dressing will probably be a lot healthier than store bought as well, with no additives or extra sodium.
Snack foods - Snack foods can eat up a huge amount of any grocery budget, but some common snack standbys are suprisingly easy to make. Granola bars are a snap to mix up and spread in a pan, and you can use any kind of nuts, dried fruit, or chocolate to liven them up. Chex mix or other similar snack mixes take just minutes to prepare, and many of them use ingredients you may already have on hand. Even something like homemade hummus is really quite quick and simple with a food processor and canned chickpeas.
These are just a few ideas to get you started on homemade cooking. I have also tried my hand at homemade bagels, doughnuts, and tortillas, and although some items take more time then others, all are easier and quicker than you might think. They also all have been delicious! (If you're interested, you can see some of the results on my blog, Frugally Blonde, under "Bake It -- Don't Buy It."
It is really surprising how practical it can actually be to cook your own food, and even beyond the money saving, the rewards are obvious. Nothing ever beats homemade!