When enthusiastic home cook, Jennifer Reese lost her job she wondered if making homemade staples would be more cost effective.  Is homemade mayonnaise cheaper than the tub you buy in the store?  And just as important, does it taste better?  Her book, Make the Bread, Buy the Butter has over 120 recipes for the from-scratch cook - looking for both cost savings and taste improvements. 

Reese's journey to make and taste homemade versions of cupboard regulars like peanut butter and bread and the more exotic like camembert and prosciutto includes helpful input from her family. She makes it sound like making your own ginger ale isn't crazy -- but actually fairly easy, cheaper than store bought, and delicious.  Her voice throughout the book is casual and often really funny.  The best part of the book is her interest in the highly practical and includes a 'hassle factor' for each item.  Every recipe has a realistic cost comparison with store bought and an indication of how difficult each item is to make.  Right there is bold print is a verdict on each item: Make it or Buy it.  A few items get a warning.  Make or buy cream cheese?  Reese says to make it once and then decide.  Make or buy English muffins?  Depends on whether you are eating them plain or as a base for eggs benedict.

Some items fall solidly in the buy it category -- things like potato chips and maraschino cherries.  But there are lots of others that fall in the make it category and I'm intrigued and inspired.  Coming soon to my pantry?  Vanilla extract, hot sauce, marinara, mustard, granola and the aforementioned ginger ale.

Similar to Reese's title, The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making by  Alana Chernila also includes recipes for from-scratch staples such as ketchup, yogurt and mozzarella.  While Chernila doesn't include a hassle factor, she does have a few recipes for cereal bars that look delicious!