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Blog Bites: Four from-scratch recipes to help you save money, improve health

Related article: No coupons: Secrets to beat rising food costs

We all know that processed foods aren’t the best choice; the preservatives and ingredients that go into these foods can compromise our health and possibly our budgets. Many food blogs solve these issues by providing “from scratch” recipes that boast flavor all while sticking to a budget.

Slow cooker from scratch. Kalyn started her blog, Slow Cooker From Scratch, to help home cooks find slow cooker recipes that use whole food ingredients. The site doesn’t accept recipes that include canned soup, dry soup mixes, dessert mixes and other highly-processed and artificially-flavored ingredients. One recipe that looks delicious, healthy and inexpensive is Louisiana-Style Red Beans and Rice. This New Orleans favorite starts with either canned red beans or dried red beans that are cooked on the stove. Spices, onions and sausage are simmered with the beans in the slow cooker to maximize flavors and let you walk away until it’s time for dinner.

Chemical-free funeral potatoes. Liz, the author of From Scratch to Plate, likes to remake favorite dishes using foods that don’t contain additives and preservatives. For example, in her latest post she remakes “funeral potatoes” into “celebration potatoes.” The first step is making hash browns from scratch. She says, “The trick to keeping them from turning colors is getting the excess starch off. After shredding them, put them in a colander and rinse with cold water until the water runs clear. If you are grating them by hand, grate them straight into a colander under running cold water.” Then, instead of using cream of chicken soup she makes her own basic cream of chicken substitute that uses chicken stock, milk, onion powder, salt, garlic powder, pepper, butter and flour. Although this recipe probably isn’t the healthiest of foods, the author says, “it’s still a step up from a chemical-filled traditional funeral potato recipe.”

Forget the seasoning packets. Ashley from Little Yellow Barn posted a most appetizing dill vegetable dip. The dip isn’t made from a seasoning packet but from spices in your pantry and items in your refrigerator like mayo, sour cream, dill, parsley, green onion and lemon juice. By making your own instead of using a seasoning packet, you’ll save money and it will taste twice as good. Erin from $5 Dollar Dinners makes her own taco seasoning. She says she does this “mostly because it’s better for you. You have control of what goes into your meals and your body. You decide how it will ultimately taste by adding a little of this or that to the meal. But also because it’s cheaper. MUCH cheaper.” Another added bonus is that the recipe calls for things you already have like chili powder, cumin, garlic powder and onion powder. Easy peasy.

Karen is the author of 365 Days of Slow Cooking visit her blog at