Make vs. Buy: The Healthy Food Showdown

31 March 2014


I have a number of passions in my life, and eating healthy is one of them (in addition, I love working out and I am passionate about my career).  Of course family is my number one priority, but I think it’s important to have interests and activities outside of your work and family life.  Living a healthy lifestyle is one of those interests for me.  Fortunately, I work for a company that embodies wellness: we have an active health and wellness committee, and I am surrounded by folks who share my passion for clean living.  I am constantly on the lookout for new trends and tricks to stay healthy.  There are a myriad of products available that promise health, wellness and nutrition on a dime.  When does it make sense to make vs. buy healthy foods?

Green juice

Green juice is the health trend of the decade (in my humble opinion!).  My life has changed now that I have started drinking green juice on a daily basis.  Clare recently wrote an excellent article about ways to save money on juicing.  As Clare mentions in her article, assuming you can buy a quality juicer for about $100, what are the total costs in purchasing green juice vs. making it?  I truly believe that the North American expert in green juicing is someone named Kris Carr.  She has an inspirational story as she was diagnosed with terminal cancer ten years ago, and immediately transitioned to a plant-based diet, with a strong focus on juicing. But how much does juicing cost? Let’s look at Kris’ recipe for glowing skin juice.  In calculating the ingredients for this recipe the total cost of the juice would be about $3.00 for the produce, and assuming you can get about 100 uses out of a juicer, add $1 onto that cost, for a grand total of $4 for this juice.

When I travel I always buy a jugo juice at the airport.  I never get the actual juice in my drink, I ask for a water base with kale, greens, some fresh fruits and usually a scoop of protein powder.  I usually spend about $7 for a jugo juice.  The Pulp and Press juice company sells juices for between $7- $8 per bottle.

Result?  Making your own juice will save you between $3-$4 per drink.  Given that I can make nearly twice the juice that I can buy, I will continue to make my own.

Granola bars

While I don’t believe that granola bars are “healthy” they are a quick and easy snack for kids’ lunches.  I love this recipe from Weelicious.  We make these bars almost every week, as they are SUPER easy to make.  I am not a cook, and I’m a sometimes baker, so when I say these are easy to make, I mean it.  When I calculate the cost of making a batch of these bars, it costs about $4.  Since this recipe makes 30 bars, that makes each bar cost about $0.13.  My husband just bought a large sized box of President’s Choice brand of granola bars for a cost of about $6.  There are 24 granola bars in the box.  The total cost for each bar is about $0.25.

Result?  Making your own granola bars will save you around $0.12 per bar.  The extra ingredients in boxed bars like corn syrup and extra sugars, however, make me confident that homemade is the best option for our family.


We eat a lot of hummus on a weekly basis.  It’s such an easy snack, and goes with so many accoutrements like fresh veggies, whole grain crackers and sliced meat.  My kids absolutely love hummus, and so do we.  We purchase our hummus at Costco, and we buy a two pack for about $6.   At grocery stores hummus generally costs between $3-4.

To make your own hummus you need a number of ingredients: chick peas (I use canned), tahini, lemon juice, garlic and olive oil.  This recipe from Inspired Taste is excellent, as it gives tips on how to make your hummus smooth, like it should be.  The total cost for homemade hummus is about $1.50

Result?  Even though it costs nearly double the price to purchase hummus, I am seriously addicted to the Costco brand.  It is one of my favourite foods.  I don’t like having to lug my food processor upstairs to make hummus either, and I find it difficult to get it extremely creamy like the store bought brand.  I would personally continue to buy hummus.


Although I don’t ever purchase pre-made smoothies, when I do look at the various options available now, I am impressed that there are more healthy options.  I drink a green smoothie every day.  I am a huge spinach fan, and sticking a few handfuls into a smoothie is an awesome way to hide the veggie taste for both myself and my kids.  My homemade smoothie generally consists of water, a scoop of protein powder (about $0.50), a small banana ($0.50), a tablespoon of natural peanut butter ($0.10), and 2 handfuls of spinach ($0.50).  Add these together for a total cost of about $1.60 per smoothie.  I use my handy dandy Magic Bullet that I got as a Christmas present to blend my daily smoothie.

If you head over to your neighbourhood Rawlicious store, you will be spending between $7-$9 per smoothie.

Result?  I would never, ever buy a smoothie from a store at $7 per drink when I can make it at home for under $2.  I can make almost four times the smoothies at home for the cost of one at the store! And making them at home is very, very easy.

It really frustrates me when people say that it takes a lot of time and effort (and money) to eat healthily.  It has been really interesting to investigate these costs and to think about the benefits of ingesting healthy, whole foods.  Making your own healthy foods generally makes sense most of the time, considering the time it takes to make them.

Bargainmoosers, what healthy foods do you make vs. buy?

Photo Credit: Weelicious


  • Emily
    Homemade whole wheat bread in a breadmaker -- watch for breadmaker on sale for $50 (lasts us over a year used daily), throw in ingredients nightly (water, honey, salt, ww flour, yeast, less than $1) and fresh bread every morning for my hungry family without preservatives, colors, dough conditioners, white flour (watch out for "whole grain" bread that doesn't say 100%), etc. Make sure to refrigerate/freeze or eat quickly in a warm climate because it WILL mold in a couple of days (yeah for REAL food!) Someday I want to figure out how to make sprouted grain bread, but for now this is healthier and cheaper than store bought bread!
    • Mei
      I'm just starting with our bread maker now...which recipe do you use?? We lucked out and got a bread maker used for $20. It's in perfect condition! Yay for homemade bread!
  • Tami
    Here's an Asian inspired hummus recipe. 1 can chickpeas, 1 tbsp of black bean & garlic sauce, 1 tsp sesame oil, small package of soft or medium firm tofu. Blend everything together. My friends who don't like traditional hummus love this. You can add more of the black bean & garlic sauce but it's very salty. This hummus tastes better if you leave it overnight in the fridge.

What do you think?

Your comment