I’ve always enjoyed finding new and creative ways to make homemade versions of things, especially if I can save money in the process. Since I’ve started this blog, I’ve spent even more time trying new ideas. All this activity has helped me realize that it’s important to keep yourself grounded in reality because the things you try don’t always turn out as you expect. It’s easy to get discouraged if too many ideas and recipes don’t turn out as you hoped.
I thought it would be helpful to share what I’ve discovered through the ups and downs of making my own stuff. Here are 10 lessons I’ve learned that I hope will be helpful to others who want to get the most out of their Make Your Own lifestyle.
1. DON’T GIVE UP ON THE FIRST TRY
Very seldom does something turn out perfectly for me on the first try. Usually it’s about the third or fourth try before I’m happy with the results. Look at every attempt as a learning process that brings you closer to where you want to be. There are no failures, only teachable moments.
2. FEEL FREE TO EXPERIMENT
I use most recipes as a starting point. From there I add or subtract ingredients to fit my own taste. Don’t think that recipes or instructions are set in stone. You’re in the drivers seat. Feel free to make the adjustments you think are necessary.
3. DO THE MATH
Don’t assume that just because you are making something from scratch that it will automatically be cheaper than a ready-made version. Make sure you are using your time and resources in the best possible way. Take the time to write down prices after a shopping trip and add up just how much your supplies are costing you.
4. KEEP IT SIMPLE
If making a homemade version of something is a long drawn out process, then once again you should decide if it’s really the best use of your time and resources. I try to stay with recipes that can be put together quickly to keep me from feeling too overwhelmed. The simpler the project, the easier it is to incorporate into everyday life.
5. USE AVAILABLE INGREDIENTS
There are a lot of intriguing recipes out there for homemade products, but some of them have really unusual ingredients. If you have the time to go in search of unusual items, then feel free. However, the recipes that you will use time and time again are the ones that have cheap and readily available ingredients you can pick up on an ordinary shopping trip.
6. GET FEEDBACK
I really value input from my family. They come to my projects with fresh eyes and often think of things that have escaped me. I recently tried out a new homemade taco sauce recipe. My son took one taste and pronounced, “Needs lemon juice”. And he was right! Look for someone to be your guinea pig or taste tester who will bring new insight to what you’re working on.
7. KEEP GOOD RECORDS
Many recipes go through a trial and error process. When you have a final version that you love, be sure to write it down so you remember any important changes that were made. I start out with recipes on a sheet of paper and write notes as I go along. Once I have a final version, I put it on a recipe card.
8. TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS
The internet is full of recipes for almost anything you want to make on your own. I kept coming across the same recipe on the internet for a single serving of hot chocolate which said to use a whole tablespoon of sugar (along with some other ingredients) in one mug of hot chocolate. I went ahead and tried it and then had a terrible sugar buzz for the next hour. I would never put a whole tablespoon of sugar in my coffee, so I should have known a whole tablespoon of sugar in the hot chocolate would send me flying. Trust your instincts and use your logic when reading new recipes.
9. ALWAYS LOOK FOR NEW IDEAS
I’m always looking through cookbooks, magazines, and even reading the ingredient labels on the backs of boxes and bottles to get new ideas. Even if you don’t use the recipe exactly as you find it, it can be a springboard to figuring out how to do it on your own.
10. KNOW WHEN TO QUIT.
It’s important to keep trying, but it’s also important to know when to quit. Sometimes you can tell right off the bat that the homemade version is just not going to satisfy you. In those cases it’s enough to know you tried. Don’t waste money if you can see it’s just not going to work.