If you’re anything like me, you love saving every penny you can on your grocery bill. If you’re anything like me, you also don’t have a bazillion hours a week to prep every single sauce, dressing, and dip you eat throughout the week. I’m a full time special educator, a part-time graduate student, and trying my darndest to be a blogger somewhere in my free time. So what I’m saying here is sometimes it’s worth it to buy some staples to keep in the fridge and pantry. Ya feel?
When buying your sauces, dips, and dressings try to think of them as a pair of boots or the perfect coat. They are necessary to have in your closet but you want to be able to wear them with lots of outfits. If you’re going to buy a pricey dressing, make sure you could use it as a marinade or a base for a dip too to get some extra bang for your buck.
Some of the things I think are worth buying include
- Red Boat fish sauce- this bad boy pack an umami kick! A few dabs will do ya in any dish that needs a little extra savory something something
- Coconut aminos- similar to the fish sauce, this isn’t something I could make myself at home. I always keep a bottle of coconut aminos in the fridge to add to stir fry, to whip up a quick steak marinade by adding garlic, ginger, and green onion. Also, try mixing some into mayo with onions and pepper to make a great burger topping, or to top Asian salmon.
- Nut butters- this one is a tricky one, because I COULD make my own. But, let’s be real here, I don’t. You don’t save a great deal of moolah by making your own nut butter especially if you buy them from somewhere like Thrive Market or Costco. I often use nut butters in dips for veggies or mixed into chia pudding for a hearty breakfast.
- High-quality oils- Again, ain’t nobody got time to squeeze olives long enough to yield your own oil. I recommend investing in a variety of high-quality oils to use in your dishes. Thrive Market and Costco have the best prices on these items I’ve found and the occasional sale at Sprouts or Natural Grocers (per usual)
- Coconut milk- This is a pantry staple in my household. I go through more coconut milk than I’d like to admit. Thrive market has their own brand that I really like and is BPA free. I also find that this brand freezes well. Some others get a funky taste after freezing.
- Braggs apple cider vinegar- This stuff is part of my morning and evening routine. First thing in the AM, it goes down the hatch and sets me up for success. I also add ACV to a lot of my sauces and dressings.
Some of the things that are not worth the cost and I can make at home are
- Mayo- After the first time I realized how easy it is to make mayo with an immersion blender I declared I’d never buy mayo again. A little hint if you’re short on time; have your husband (or someone with large hands) warm your egg to room temp by holding it tightly for 5 minutes or by submerging the egg in warm water for a few minutes. Works like charm.
- Salad dressings- I discovered The Sister’s Kitchen “Dump Ranch” during my first Whole30. I will literally never have a fridge without the delicious liquid gold ever again. For the reals. There are a million other make-at-home dressings. Start with an oil, a citrus, and some spices. Add coconut milk or soaked cashews to any dressing to make it creamy.
- Dips and sauces- I am experimenting with lots of dips and sauces to add to proteins and veggies to change up the flavor profile without having to buy 39,000 different bottles and jars. I recommend choosing a base (likely mayo, coconut milk, oils, or nut butter) and seasoning it differently with dried spices, fresh herbs, or vinegar. My current favorite is tahini mixed with vinegar, thai spices, and a little coconut butter.
- Broth and stock- It is easy to make your own stock by boiling chicken or beef bones with herbs and other aromatics. You can use a pressure cooker, a slow cooker, or a good old fashioned stove top pot. Strain your liquid and store in serving size containers in the freezer (making sure to cool them completely first) but whatever you do, don’t toss that nutrient-dense collagen that will form on top.
Of course the combinations are endless for at-home sauces, dips, and marinades. Don’t be afraid to start with a base and see what happens. Your immersion blender will be your best friend here. I’ve tried to make sauces in the food processor and if you want a thick and creamy texture it simply won’t do the trick. If you’re trying to cut down on sugar but like a sweeter profile, consider swapping out dates or coconut where sugar is called for.
On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with keeping it simple from time to time. I almost always dress my greens with a little olive oil, vinegar, and sea salt. No need for prep time and you’ll end up with a refreshing plate of goods.