Is scratch really cheaper?

So, it occurred to me today, as I made rolls for Thanksgiving from scratch that I wasn’t totally sure that all things from scratch where really cheaper. I had commented in my post about puddings that my way was better and cheaper, and realized I should back that up.

Before I commence on the pricing of puddings, let me define ‘scratch’. (Hubby will be thrilled to have terms defined before arguments are made.)

To make something from scratch is using ingredients that are ingredients that can be used for making a variety of things. Of course, this is not a distinct line between ‘scratch’ and ‘not scratch’, but a continuum. Let me demonstrate.

For pudding… if you open a bag of powder, add milk, stir and done, that’s not scratch. The powder is a one item ingredient. The milk can be used for making a variety of things, but when that is 1 of only 2 ingredients, it doesn’t count for much.

On the other hand, if you use Bisquick to make pancakes, that is further up the scale for ‘scratch’, but is not fully ‘made from scratch’ (will I ever make something that is fully ‘made from scratch’? Perhaps not).

Back to pudding, when you combine milk, cornstarch, sugar and other items, that is as much from scratch as a modern cook will good. All the ingredients can be used to make a variety of things, the defining characteristic of ‘scratch’.

Now, is scratch cheaper? Let us consider…. these numbers are as close as I can get for the whole recipe, based on my ‘best price in Waco’ price and the ‘price per muffin’ calculations. I’m considering the chocolate pots and food renegade pudding are both ‘from scratch’, while the Jello and Hershey’s pudding mixes are not scratch.

Pudding recipe #1 (real simple’s chocolate pots) 4 x 1 cup servings (32 oz)

2/3 cup sugar = $0.20

2 tbsp corn starch = $0.04

1/8 tsp salt = $0.002

3 cups whole milk = $.58

4 large egg yolks = $1.16 (with whites left for other uses…)

1/2 tsp vanilla extract = $0.04

6 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped (but I used 8 oz chocolate chips) = $1.12

Total = $3.14, $0.10/oz

Pudding recipe #2 (food renegade recipe) the way I make it 4 x 1 cup servings (32 oz)

1/3 cup sugar =  $0.10

4 tbsp corn starch – $0.09

2 tbsp cocoa powder = $0.15

2 cups milk (or coconut milk, she says) = $0.38

1 tsp vanilla extract = $0.08

1 tsp butter = $0.02

Total = $0.82, $0.03/oz

Jello pudding packet 4 x 1/2 cup servings (16 oz)

powder packet = $1.79 (off a buy by the case site)

milk, 2 cups = $0.38

Total = $2.17, $0.14/oz

Hershey pudding packet 4 x 1/2 cup servings (16 oz)

powder packet = $2.27 (off in a package of 2 boxes)

milk, 2 cups = $0.38

Total = $2.65, $0.17/oz

Well, that surprised me. When I saw the cost of the eggs and chocolate chips, I thought for sure the chocolate pots would cost more than a powder packet. But, woot, I am vindicated! Even the fancy-wancy version is cheaper than both boxes. Now, I would normally buy the off-brand, and those kinds of prices are hard to find online. I will wager a guess that an off-brand pudding powder package would cost about what the chocolate pots recipe costs (per serving).

My general instinct is that making something from scratch is cheaper than buying the coordinating convenience product. And I think the scratch versions usually taste better and are better for you than the convenience product. And you know what is in what you are eating. And the best part, if you suddenly feel like vanilla pudding, its easy-peasy to just make vanilla pudding (leave out the chocolate and add more vanilla!)

Oh, yes, scratch is worth it.



  1. Would that pudding still not be considered to be “scratch” if the powder mix could be used in other recipes? Just wondering…

  2. I thought of that, and, quite honestly, I wonder if ‘scratch’ is one of those things that you know it when you see it, but its hard to describe.

    I feel like I must stand my ground, that pudding mix cannot be considered ‘scratch’ even if you could use it in a pie recipe or a dip recipe. (c.f. corn starch which is used in pudding, stir fry, and stew).

  3. I made my pumpkin pies from scratch…I even grew my own pumpkins this year…but I would say they were not cheaper at all because of all the water used growing them through a hot Oklahoma summer! (It was more fun than just buying canned pumpkin though!)

  4. Pingback: Grocery Budget Update — Long over due « Younger News

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