25+ Necessities We No Longer Buy at the Store (what we do instead)

A woman's hand holding a peach at a farmers market.

Make the move towards sustainable living and self-sufficiency with this list of 25 items you no longer need to buy at the grocery store. You'll learn how to live a healthier lifestyle and save money when you make your own cleaning supplies, hygiene items and healthy, clean food.

25+ Necessities we no longer buy at the store 

I've always been a do-it-yourself-kind of girl. How about you?

My parents and grandparents were frugal folk. The Great Depression had touched them all, either directly or almost directly. People just didn't have extra money in those days, and store-bought goods weren't readily available anyway in those days.

I remember my grandmother showing me how to make paste from flour and water, for instance. I learned early that I could [probably] make just about anything I put my mind to.

Now that I'm at the other end of my lifetime, I'm a bit shocked at how few people try to make things themselves instead of spending money at the store. It's as though we've been brainwashed into believing that we have to buy something - even if we don't really need it.

Not that I have to make paste from flour and water. But I could if I had to.

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When we had our first baby I wanted to give her the best, healthiest life possible. That meant researching the best food choices and sewing cute baby clothes. 

One thing at a time, I learned how to make it from scratch or choose the best option available if it wasn't DIY-friendly.

Because we can't make our own cell phones or laptops and so on, right? But I can choose the best option and buy good quality over a cheap product that I'll have to replace sooner than later.

Every day items we make at home

But what about those easy-to-make everyday items we use? 

Many of them are simple to make, which would save us a lot of money, in many cases would be healthier for us, and are often of higher quality than something we might purchase.

Four years ago I wrote about the ten things I'd stopped buying from the store. The list is so much longer now, so I thought I'd share with you some of the things I don't buy at the store and what I use, make or do instead.

There are also a few things that I buy from alternate sources rather than make myself. I'll share those with you too, and why I've made that choice.


One of the first things I began making from scratch so many years ago was bread. Bread-making really isn't hard, even though you might feel a bit intimidated the first time you give it a try.

Sliced homemade bread on a white plate on top of a red-and-white tablecloth.

I even taught myself how to make sourdough bread because my Dad was diabetic and sourdough bread was sugar-free. I made sourdough pretzels and pancakes too. Dad loved it!

In fact, these days I hate walking down the bread aisle at the grocery store. I don't know how to describe it, but commercial bread has a smell, and it isn't pleasant to me. 

Once you master a plain white bread recipe, you can experiment with adding herbs, onions, even cheese, or using whole wheat flour instead of white flour. You can grind your own flour. You can make cinnamon rolls and hamburger buns and even pizza crust.

Making bread by hand isn't difficult, but if you want to start with just one loaf at first, or use your bread machine to do the kneading for you, try this delicious white bread recipe. It's just the right size to fit the dry ingredients in a quart Mason jar so you'll always have a "bread mix" on your pantry shelf.

A bread-mix-in-a-jar is a great gift too.


Yogurt was my second accomplishment, more than 45 years ago. 

Our children loved yogurt, so it was a natural step to make their favorite snack without sugar and artificial colors and flavors.

A canning jar of homemade yogurt topped with fresh raspberries.

There are several ways to incubate yogurt, and I tried a few before hitting on my current method. Yogurt makers weren't even a "thing" at the time so we used what we had - the oven, an electric blanket, and so on.

You'll find my easy use-what-you-have method for making yogurt here, then add nuts, granola, fruit, honey or whatever you like to your good-for-you, homemade yogurt.

Cleaning products

My Mom was always experimenting with natural recipes for cleaning products, so it's no surprise that I have almost always used make-it-yourself cleaners.

I never go down the cleaning products aisle at the store - and it's a good thing I don't have to, because the strong fragrances of those cleaners and laundry detergents makes it hard for me to breathe. It's so strong!

Instead, we wash windows with rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle. Mom used newspaper instead of the usual paper towels; I use dry washcloths.

Vinegar is an excellent cleaner for kitchen counters, the stove-top and many other surfaces.

When necessary I use baking soda as an alternative to scrubbing powders. For a powerful fizzing boost I combine baking soda and vinegar to clean the kitchen sink drain.

As a child I learned how to sew netting or tulle from the fabric store into scrubbers to use instead of a sponge.

If you have stuck-on food in your pots and pans, fill them with water immediately after cooking. If they still need a bit of extra help when you try to wash them, sprinkle baking soda on the wet, stuck-on food and set aside for awhile. The stuck-on food usually comes off easily after this treatment.


Speaking of vinegar, did you know you can make your own vinegar? Seriously!

Vinegar is easy to make from fruit - almost any fruit. I love a challenge, so I gave it a try. Although it took a few attempts before it "worked" for me, I now make all of our vinegar from fruit: apples, pears, plums and pineapple so far. And we grow most of that fruit ourselves (the exception is the pineapple that, of course, doesn't grow in Oklahoma).

Want to learn how? Download my free ebook "Make Your Own Vinegar at Home for Pennies".

Plastic and paper products

I don't buy plastic wrap, and I buy very few paper products. 

If I need to cover a bowl of leftovers in the refrigerator, I top it with a plate. It doesn't cost me a single cent.

A grocery store aisle featuring paper cups and other paper items.

No need to purchase plastic food storage containers either. 

Instead I store leftovers in glass Mason (canning) jars. Wide mouth jars work really well for this. 

I have two sets of plastic lids for canning jars. (Yes, the lids are plastic, but they are reusable and not disposable, so they work for my purposes. If you are squeamish about using plastic at all, notice that the lids rarely actually touch the food inside the jar.)

I do use zippered freezer bags because I dislike using glass in the freezer, but I rarely use sandwich-size bags.

There is a package of paper plates in my power outage kit so I won't have to wash dishes if the electric power goes out and we don't have hot water, but we rarely use them other than that. (Click that link if you want to learn how to make a power's out kit of your own!)

Inexpensive packages of bulk washcloths that can be laundered and re-used are a better investment than rolls of paper towels and napkins.

PLEASE NOTE: I am not a medical doctor nor a veterinarian. You are responsible for your own health and that of your animals. Please do your own research before using any plants, herbs, and/or essential oils.

Dryer sheets

Dryer sheets and fabric softeners aren't a necessity. In fact, they can be harmful to our bodies, our clothes, and even your clothes dryer.

Both fabric softeners and dryer sheets contain chemicals that build up on our clothes and rub off on our bodies; they can potentially harm our reproductive systems and even cause cancer. The fragrances in laundry products can cause allergies and skin irritations, asthma, and difficulty breathing.

Plus those chemicals leave residue on fabrics that actually causes towels to repel water, not absorb it as towels are supposed to do. With repeated use the residue also coats the inside of the clothes dryer, which affects its efficiency.

Instead of using fabric softener in any of its many forms (liquid, dryer sheets, beads, etc.), I use 100% wool dryer balls. They remove the static from clothes and leave clothes and towels soft and virtually wrinkle-free. 

Did you know that a big part of having wrinkle-free clothes is hanging them up as soon as the dryer stops?

Adding half a cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle of your washing machine will also help soften clothes. The vinegar smell disappears after the clothes are dry. (Another use for your homemade vinegar!)

Another way to save money on laundry is to hang your clothes to dry instead of using a dryer at all. A clothesline combines wind power and solar power to dry your clothes!

Hanging clothes on a windy day will help to keep them soft. A still day can produce clothes that are as stiff as a board. That might be ok for bedsheets but maybe not for comfortable clothing.

And let's not forget how wonderful those clothes smell after they've spent the day drying in the sunshine! I've even opened the linen closet door and smelled the lovely sunny fragrance on my folded sheets as much as a week later.

Cola and Tea

I tried for years to cut down on soda, but I finally had to quit cold-turkey. I know first-hand how hard it can be. 

Once or twice a year I might have a small glass of Sprite when we're eating at a restaurant, but I haven't had a cola since 2017. (This post was updated in 2024, so it's been 7 years!)

A pint canning jar filled with homemade bubbly ginger ale, against a white background.

Instead I make naturally-carbonated ginger ale that's actually good for me.

Black tea is a leading cause of kidney stones, so I rarely drink it anymore. Instead, I sometimes make a pitcher of sweet green tea. I'm not sure why, but green tea is supposed to help prevent kidney stones!

But more than anything, we drink water, run through a high-quality water filter.

Hair Dye

I stopped dying my hair several years ago. 

One morning it hit me that while I was trying to live a simple, natural life, I was also pouring chemicals on my head to cover my graying hair. That was the last time I used hair dye.

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Deodorant is another product that exposes our bodies to heavy-duty toxins - toxins that may be absorbed by our lymph nodes and potentially cause cancer and affect reproduction.

Using homemade deodorants can be challenging though. 

Most make-it-yourself deodorant recipes contain baking soda which is problematic for some people, including me. After a few days of using my first attempt at homemade deodorant I broke out in a painful, burning rash that took several days to disappear. 

I've refined my recipe now and use arrowroot powder instead of baking soda. I'll have to write a post about this sometime soon!

If you look carefully, you can find commercial deodorants that don't contain parabens, aluminum, phthalates, triclosan and other questionable or harmful ingredients. [Source]


Toothpaste is stuffed with chemicals, and the inside of your mouth absorbs toxins faster than any other part of your body.

I've used a combination of baking soda and fine Himalayan pink salt as a tooth powder, but when I discovered Christopher's Tooth Powder with powdered cloves and other soothing herbs and clays, I was sold.

You can read my post about toothpaste, deodorant and other commonplace hygiene products that might not be good for you here.

Health and Beauty

Many people suffer from dry feet, especially in the wintertime. 

Rather than purchase lotions or creams to restore moisture, I make this relaxing foot balm. It's incredible and you'll definitely want to try it!

A white container and a jar of foot balm on a sisal trivet, with a hand mixer.

And instead of buying pain-relieving rubs and creams, I make this healing dandelion salve for achy muscles and joints.

Lip balm is another product that is easily made at home. 

My granddaughter and I made a simple lip balm recipe one summer while she was visiting. It was luscious and so easy to make. We bought the lip balm tubes from Amazon.

Bar Soap

I've been making goat milk soap for years and love it. You must be very careful when working with sodium hydroxide (lye) but making soap really isn't difficult.

Two bars of homemade goat milk soap on a piece of cream-colored antique lace.

I use the cold-process soapmaking method which requires several weeks of curing before using it, but the hot-process method is ready much sooner if you're impatient. 

Goat milk makes the soap even more luxurious, but you can make wonderful soap with water too.

My husband makes a wonderful soap with pine tar that he's shared with friends, who say it has helped sooth poison ivy, fire ant bites, and even a skin boil.

This is the first post in my series on how to make goat milk soap.

Shampoo and Conditioner

I love my homemade soap but I love my shampoo bars!

Three bars of homemade shampoo bars in a lace-draped bowl.

It took a few weeks for my hair to adjust when I first made the switch from commercial shampoo to shampoo bars, but after that I was (and still am) thrilled at the results. 

My hair feels cleaner and doesn't need to be washed as often. Even my hair color changed for the better.

I've written about how to use a shampoo bar here - because no one seems to be talking about that - and you can find my shampoo bar recipe here.

I ditched the conditioner too, and instead I use a diluted vinegar rinse, made with my homemade vinegar.

Boxed Baking Mixes

I no longer buy boxed cake mix, brownie mix, or that yellow box of baking mix. Instead I use from-scratch recipes from the internet and from my grandma's old, old cookbooks.

A box of pancake mix just won't give you light and fluffy pancakes like this recipe does!

Chili Seasoning, Taco Seasoning and Other Seasoning Mixes

Why pay a dollar or more for a small packet of herbs and spices, loaded with preservatives and salt, when you can buy (or grow!) the herbs and make it yourself for pennies? 

You'll find my recipe for chili seasoning here.

A quick internet search will give you recipes for any seasoning mix you're likely to want.

Chicken Stock

Those cans and cartons of commercially-made chicken stock are pale and bland. It's so easy to make rich, flavorful stock myself instead, from the bones left over from Sunday's roast chicken dinner.

Pint jars of rich, deep-colored homemade chicken broth.

It costs pennies to make chicken stock from scratch, then you can freeze it in one- and two-cup quantities OR learn how to pressure-can chicken stock in this post.


I'm currently chicken-less, but when we had chickens we didn't have to buy eggs. Now I buy eggs from a young man we know; I help support his family's homestead and we still eat healthy free-range eggs.

If you look around your community, you can probably find someone who raises chickens and would be glad to sell you a dozen or two. You'll be amazed at the difference in taste too!

Close-up of a woman's hand holding a brown egg.

Did you know that the hens that lay commercial "cage free eggs" don't free range? They are housed in buildings with hundreds of other chickens, in crowded conditions with no more space than caged hens

Their eggs are pale and tasteless in comparison to eggs laid by healthy, happy hens.

Tomatoes and Other Vegetables 

I'm the first to admit that I don't grow all of the vegetables and fruits we eat, but I grow those that cost the most to buy or that are on the Dirty Dozen List of produce with the highest levels of toxins from pesticides.

Three homegrown red tomatoes on a white plate, one tomato is sliced in half.

I'd be thrilled if we could grow avocados and bananas too, but that just isn't possible in Zone 7b.

I always grow tomatoes though. Tomatoes are the reason I started gardening in the first place. Grocery store tomatoes can't even come close to the flavor of homegrown, vine-ripened tomatoes.


Oh no. Never. Butter or nothing!

Fly Spray

Yes, there are things I won't use on or feed to my animals too. I refuse to use commercial fly spray on my dairy goats - I didn't want that chemical residue in the milk we drank.

I'd tried several natural fly spray recipes over the years but they just didn't work for us; and those chemical-laden commercial fly sprays really aren't any more effective.

Have you read the warning labels on commercial fly spray bottles? They're scary. I had to be sure I was upwind from my horse when I sprayed her so it wouldn't blow back into my face.

But this recipe I found last summer really does the trick. It doesn't last all day - I apply it twice a day, when I feed the goats and horses - but it really does work, even on horseflies.

Since we aren't pickle eaters I didn't have a jar of pickle juice in the refrigerator, but if you live in the South you can buy jugs of pickle juice at the store. Before I discovered this, I just added more vinegar instead. (You guessed it, homemade vinegar.)

And yes, I'm aware that dishwashing liquid isn't natural, but it's still a whole lot safer than those commercial fly sprays.

Here's how to make it: 

  • Mix equal parts apple cider vinegar, pickle juice and water, then add:
  • A spoonful of that blue dishwashing liquid
  • A teaspoon of peppermint essential oil
  • A teaspoon of lemon juice (or a few torn up, crushed leaves from a lemon balm plant)
Shake well before spraying on your animals. They'll thank you for it!

Garden Fertilizer

Rather than buy chemical fertilizers for my garden, I've been growing comfrey plants for several years. The leaves can be brewed into comfrey tea that truly boosts your garden plants.

Comfrey leaves in a white bucket of water, being brewed for comfrey tea, a natural garden fertilizer.

All plants need nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium to thrive, and comfrey is a great source of all three. It also has medicinal uses, can be used for animal feed, and is a terrific compost activator.

Here's why you should grow comfrey in your garden.


Although we've raised several meat animals (beef, pork and lamb), in recent years we've concentrated on meat chickens. 

It's a fast 8-10 week commitment to raise Cornish Cross chickens, much shorter than the time it takes to raise pork or beef, and it requires less feed and much less space to raise them too.

You can even raise meat birds on an urban homestead - we did it before moving to Oak Hill!

Home raised Cornish Cross meat chickens, packaged for the freezer.

We've raised both kinds of chickens; I've compared Cornish Cross to heritage breed chickens here.

How long is your list of make-at-home items?

So where are you on this journey to being more self-sufficient AND saving money? Are you just beginning, or do you have a list that's even longer than mine?

Hopefully I've inspired you to try making, growing, and cooking your own instead of purchasing something ready-made. 

Let's get back to making our own choices, deciding what will be in our food and hygiene products, and how we'll spend our money.

For more self-sufficient posts like this, subscribe to my weekly-ish newsletter The Acorn, and join me on FacebookInstagram and Pinterest. I'd love to see you there!

PLEASE NOTE: I am not a medical doctor nor a veterinarian
You are responsible for your own health and for that of your animals. Please do your own research before using any products, plants, herbs, and/or essential oils. 

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