Experiments in Making Your Own Peanut Butter, Pet Food, and More

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By Richard Drury, Getty Images

Indulging your inner mad scientist may also wind up saving some money. But is the savings worth the time and hassle?

I know, I know. There are these things called “stores” that sell every product under the sun. So why would you bother making your own pet food, peanut butter, or laundry detergent? For one thing, you could save some cash by creating the concoction yourself. For another, your homemade version may taste better. (Meaning: peanut butter, or perhaps ice cream. It’s highly inadvisable to eat homemade or store-bought pet food, let alone laundry detergent.)

Here, the results of some investigations as to the cost-effectiveness of preparing a few homemade staples for the home:

A Mint.com post investigates whether it’s cheaper to prepare pet food rather than just buy it at the store. In many cases it is, though the math—and any potential savings—varies a lot based on what kind of pet treats you normally buy, and what you’d make as a home-cooked alternative. Many pet owners like to prepare pet food for health reasons rather than purely financial ones, and the prospect of DIY pet food that’s healthy and economical can be complicated. Suffice it to say that it’s not as simple as cooking an extra portion and dishing it out to your pooch:

Not all foods people eat are good for dogs and cats, Dr. Benson [vice president of veterinary services at PetPlan] warns. “Don’t feed them hot dogs, or anything we would consider junk food,” he says. “Just because dogs will eat it doesn’t mean it’s good for them.”

PB&J is a staple in frugal households. Squawkfox reveals how to make peanut butter even cheaper by, well, by making it. Her homemade organic peanut is 37% less expensive than the organic store-bought alternative. She also swears it tastes better—which sure helps the argument that this is a worthwhile use of time.

The ice cream maker is a classic gift for newlyweds and new homeowners. But, based on a WalletPop post, it makes financial sense only if you use it—a lot. Which most people don’t. Like the bread maker, the ice cream maker sounds wonderful, but typically spends most of its existence gathering dust and occupying space in a kitchen cabinet. The takeaway? Unless you’re truly passionate about DIY ice cream, buy it at the store. Every brand periodically goes on sale, and when your favorite kind is discounted, that’s the cue to load up.

For a long time, Trent at The Simple Dollar has sworn by his homemade laundry detergent—a.k.a., a “big bucket of slime”—as a big money saver, claiming you can save an easy $8 per batch of the DIY goop in just ten minutes’ time. He even made a how-to video of the production process: