Bulletin #4029, Saving Money With Homemade Convenience Mixes

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Bulletin #4029, Saving Money with Homemade Convenience Mixes

Originally prepared by Nellie Hedstrom, Extension Nutrition Specialist, University of Maine Cooperative Extension
Revised and updated by Kate Yerxa, Statewide Nutrition Educator, University of Maine Cooperative Extension

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Table of Contents:

Why Use Homemade Convenience Foods?

mother, daughter, and son mix ingredients in bowls; photo by Edwin Remsberg, USDA

Preparing homemade convenience foods allows you to control the final product, the nutritional value, and the quality and quantity of the ingredients. You can limit fat, sodium, sugar, and additives in your convenience foods, and also save valuable time.

When you compare the costs of home-prepared foods with those of commercial convenience foods, remember that cost per serving is only one consideration. There are other factors to consider when deciding whether to prepare a mix at home or to buy it at the local store.

Purchased “convenience foods” may be a bargain when

  • the product is less bulky than other forms, which will save storage space (for example, juice concentrate, instant coffee, etc.);
  • it is a lot of work to make the item at home (for example, squeezing oranges for juice or making pasta); or the product contains rarely-used ingredients that you probably would not use (for example, certain spices).

Purchased “convenience foods” may NOT be a bargain when

  • the main ingredient is meat (generally, with a few exceptions); has a great deal of packaging;
  • you have the ingredients for the home-prepared product on hand and want to use them.
  • one or more of the ingredients for the home-prepared product is available either free or at substantial savings. (For example, you might have free apples and decide to make applesauce.)

Suggestions for making “convenience mixes” more nutritious

  1. Substitute whole wheat flour for all or part of the bleached white flour.
  2. Use vegetable oil instead of solid shortening.
  3. Use fat-free milk instead of whole milk.
  4. Add more nonfat dry milk than the recipe calls for.

Reducing fat in your homemade convenience foods

In baking, fat adds moisture, flavor, and tender texture to cookies, cakes, quick breads, and muffins. Using fruit puree — such as banana, prune, or apple — and nonfat dairy products, like nonfat yogurt or sour cream, help to give some fat-like flavor and texture characteristics to homemade baked goods without adding fat. Adding fruit to your recipes will also increase the nutritive value of the food.

Some of the recipes in this publication have been revised to lower the fat content and change the type of fat, to make the recipes more heart-healthy. Fruit sauces, purees, or nonfat yogurt, when added to recipes or used to replace some of the fat, will make foods moister.

People often ask if oil can be substituted for margarine or shortening when making cookies. All three ingredients are fats, but they are not all interchangeable. Oil is 100 percent fat. Margarine is a mixture of fat and water (light margarine or spreads have a higher percentage of water). Substituting one cup of oil for one cup of margarine adds more fat than the original recipe. The cookie will have a greasy taste and feel.

Creaming shortening or margarine with sugar helps produce a cookie with a tender texture. Substituting oil in a cookie recipe may change the texture and volume.

Most recipes will not work if you eliminate all of the fat. But reducing fat is a good choice. The flavor does not have to be lost when reducing fat in recipes to make them healthier. When you modify a recipe using fruit purees, replace the amount of fat called for in the recipe with half as much puree.

Making a Mix From a Favorite Recipe

You can easily make your own mixes at home for many floured-based foods (cakes, quick breads, pie crusts, cookies), as well as foods containing a variety of spices, such as spaghetti sauce, chili sauce, and meatloaf.

Flour-Based Mixes

Using a favorite recipe, combine all of the dry ingredients with margarine. Blend well and refrigerate in an airtight container, labeled with directions for preparing. Date it, and use within 3 months. When you are ready to use the mix, empty it into a bowl and add liquid ingredients, such as eggs, milk, water, and vanilla, as given in the original recipe.

Let’s say that this is your best pancake recipe and you would like to make it into a mix similar to those available in the stores.

Basic Pancake Batter

2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg
½ cup dry milk plus 1¼ cups water or
1½ cups of fluid milk
3 tablespoons margarine

Thoroughly mix flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, dry milk (if used), and margarine. Refrigerate the mix in a jar or other airtight container labeled with directions. Make only as many batches as you will use within 3 months.

When you are ready to make a batch of pancakes, empty one batch of mix into a bowl. Add an egg and water or milk and combine well. Follow recipe directions for cooking.

It may be simpler to make and store several single batches individually. But it is also possible to multiply the dry ingredients to make a quantity of mix to be stored in a larger container. The only difference in using this approach is that you must figure out how much mix to measure out when you want a single batch of pancakes. To do this, add together all of the cups, tablespoons, and teaspoons of dry ingredients and fat in the original recipe for a single batch, and then convert the answer you get into cups of dry mix.


2 cups four flour + ½ cup dry milk = 2½ cups (or 2 cups and 8 tablespoons)

1 tablespoon baking powder + 2 tablespoons sugar + 3 tablespoons fat = 6 tablespoons

1 teaspoon salt = 1 teaspoon

Total = 2 cups + 14 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon (or 3 cups minus 2 tablespoons)

You are likely to get a sum that does not make an even 1/4, 1/3, or 1/2 cup. Estimate your figures to the nearest tablespoon. In this case, to make a single batch of pancakes, you would measure out 3 cups of the mix less 2 tablespoons.


1. All-Purpose Convenience Mix

2. Whole Wheat Convenience Mix

3. Corn Bread Convenience Mix

4. Rolled Oats Convenience Mix

5. Hot Cocoa Convenience Mix

6. Convenience Spaghetti Sauce Seasoning Mix

7. Convenience Taco Seasoning Mix

8. Convenience Chili Seasoning Mix

9. Convenience Meat Loaf or Meatball Seasoning Mix

10. Convenience Seasoning Mixes For Rice

11. Convenience Seasoned Coating Mix for Meat, Fish, and Poultry

12. Convenience Seasoned Cornmeal Coating Mix for Meat, Fish, and Poultry

13. Convenience Salt-Free Seasoning Mix

14. Basic Oil and Vinegar Dressing Mix

15. High-Fiber Convenience Snack Mix

Information in this publication is provided purely for educational purposes. No responsibility is assumed for any problems associated with the use of products or services mentioned. No endorsement of products or companies is intended, nor is criticism of unnamed products or companies implied.

© 2003, 2011, 2020

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