Photo by janineomg

No one said it would be easy.

WHAT THE FOODS ON THIS LIST often have in common when store-bought is 1) convenience and 2) an ungodly amount of preservatives and non-food elements that we really weren’t meant to be eating.

In Food Rules, Michael Pollan tells us to “eat as much [junk food] as you want as long as you make it yourself.” Would you eat Doritos with lunch everyday if you had to make the tortilla chips and powder them yourself?

If you give any of these homemade foods a shot, do it in bulk. Most of them have a decent shelf or freezer life, and the health benefits you’ll reap from controlling exactly what goes into your body will be worth the extra effort.

Bacon

All great food lists start with bacon. And no offense to Jimmy Dean, but if all you’ve been eating is maple-flavored strips that come in plastic wrappage and can be microwaved, you haven’t really had bacon.

Homemade bacon takes time, but the texture and flavor are completely worth it. You’ll start with pork belly, preferably the meat closer to the loin. After trimming the meat, make a brine and soak it for up to four days.

If you really want this to be a DIY job, make your own smoker. Smoke the meat between 80F and 100F for at least eight hours; the type of wood chips you use will have a big impact on the flavor you get out of your bacon. Take it out, wrap it up, and refrigerate overnight before slicing. For full instructions, check out Planet Green’s step-by-step guide.

Beer

If you drink Bud Light, this won’t be cost effective (but seriously, it’s got to taste better). If you’re into microbrews, brewing your own might actually save you some money. Plus you’ll be that cool person offering actual homemade beer at parties.

This is something to think of as a hobby, as it requires the proper tools and a lot of time and dedication to get right – but think about all that delicious experimentation you’ll get to do. If you’re interested, Instructables has a great step-by-step brewing guide.

Yogurt

This is one of the “health foods” that bothers me most, because the fat-free, taste-free ones with about a gazillion additives and not-really-natural flavorings are touted as healthy, whereas the real yogurts are seen as bad because they actually have a bit of fat.

Photo by cherrylet

Make your own yogurt and you’re in control of the flavor, the type of milk, the fat content – it’s whatever you want it to be. All you need is a thermometer, a quart of milk and 1/2 cup of dried starter or “live culture” yogurt, available at most health food stores.

Heat the milk in a double-boiler, stirring slowly, until it hits 180F, then remove from heat and let it cool to 115F. If you like thicker yogurt add 1/2 powdered milk while it’s heating up. When the milk is at 115F, add the dried starter, as well as any sweetener you like. Stir well, then pour into a mason jar.

Keep the jar at 110F for four to six hours. You can do this by putting a pot of warm water in your oven on the lowest setting, checking with the thermometer to ensure the water is at 110F, and submerging the mason jar in the pot. It should be pretty firm, although it will thicken up more as it cools. Store your yogurt in the refrigerator.

Cereal

Even the simplest-sounding cereals can still be loaded with chemical junk. To make your own corn flakes, place a flat-bottom, stainless steel frying pan on medium heat. Sift a cup of finely ground corn meal and powder the frying pan until the layer is as thick as you want your flakes.

Fill a spray bottle with water and spray the corn meal until it’s moist. Don’t touch or stir. Allow the mixture to cook until the water is about halfway evaporated, then add granulated sugar, powdered sugar, cinnamon, or any mixture of sweetener you like to the sifter and sift on top of the corn meal to taste. Continue letting it cook until the water vanishes and the corn meal begins to lift from the pan. Use a spatula to remove the corn meal in flakes and store in an airtight container.

In addition to experimenting with sweeteners, you can try this one with other flours, like buckwheat, amaranth, or spelt.

Hot dogs

This one can get complicated, time-consuming, and frustrating, but seriously – you know what goes into packaged hot dogs. If anything, trying to make your own will be an educational experience.

Photo by timo_w2s

The Paupered Chef has a great, honest tutorial on making hot dogs from scratch. As far as tools go, you’ll need a sausage stuffer, and it’s worth spending money on a decent one if you’re serious about this. You can use any type of ground beef or pork you want, and spice your dogs up with dry mustard, coriander, pepper, or anything else in your pantry that sounds appealing.

You’re going to have to deal with sheep intestines. That’s what sausage casings are – if you’ve ever eaten sausage, you’ve had them, so you might as well get comfortable cooking with them.

The toughest part of this process seems to be the stuffing, and again, a good stuffer will make all the difference. You can smoke them or bake them, then crisp them up in a hot oiled skillet. Knowing your mustard-and-relished dog is free of pig anus and rat hairs will hopefully make all the work worthwhile.

Nutella

Why Nutella isn’t bigger than bread in the US, I’ll never know. No more seeking jars out in specialty shops – this spread is easy to make yourself.

Preheat your oven to 400F and spread about 1/3 cup of hazelnuts, skins on, on a cookie sheet. Let them toast until the skins are dark (around 15 minutes). Wrap them in a clean towel and rub until the skins are off.

Place the hazelnuts in a food processor for around 5 minutes or until they’re liquefied, then set them aside. Heat 3/4 cup of sweetened condensed milk, 1/2 cup of chocolate chips, and 3 tablespoons of honey in a double-boiler, stirring until the chips have melted. Pour the chocolatey goodness into the processor with the hazelnuts and mix until smooth. Store in an airtight container, or just eat it all with a spoon straight out of the processor.

Soda

I haven’t had soda in five or six years; anything with high-fructose corn syrup tastes sickly sweet to me. But a homemade fruit soda, or maybe a coke-like drink with seltzer and molasses? That sounds pretty good – and talk about mixer potential.

Photo by dcjohn

According to SheKnows, the recipe for basic soda syrup is 1/2 to 3/4 cup of water, a cup of granulated sugar, and a 1/2 cup of fresh or concentrated fruit juice combined in a saucepan, brought to a boil, then simmered until reduced by half.

The type of sodas you can create are just about limitless. Experiment with juices like pomegranate, currant, cantaloupe, or mango. Make an ice cream float. Delish.

Baby food

Some brands are great, some are loaded with stuff you might not want your little one eating. The biggest concern with homemade baby food is storage – take care to prevent the growth of bacteria by storing the food in the refrigerator in tightly sealed containers.

Choose any organic fruits and vegetables you like and get rid of the skins (if applicable). Use a steamer to get them nice and soft, then add to a food processor with some of the water from the steamer (which has a lot of the vitamins from the produce) and/or formula. Process until smooth and serve at room temperature or chilled.

Condiments

Namely mayo, mustard, and ketchup, although you can certainly branch out into making your own barbecue sauce or relish. Food & Wine offers great recipes for the three basic condiments. Once you’ve mastered the basics, experiment a little – curried mayo, lager mustard, mesquite ketchup.

Twinkies

Organic Twinkies, no less. All it takes is eggs (separated), sugar, flour, baking powder, and vanilla extract.

Make little Twinkie-shaped “boats” out of foil, and wipe the insides with butter so they’re non-stick. Fill with the batter, bake for 20 minutes at 325F, and get to work on the cream – mascarpone cheese, egg whites, sugar, and vanilla extract. Use a flavor injector to insert the cream, and enjoy.