Sometimes I think I don't realize that many of the products I buy ready-made could also be created very easily and cheaply at home. And that can be a very expensive oversight.
As an example, about three years ago, our dog had a terrible case of fleas, and her skin reacted so badly to all the itching that she lost a lot of her fur, especially around her back end. We felt so bad for her, walking around all bald around her tail. We didn’t think much could be done, but when we left her at my parent’s house while we went on vacation, they started her on a regimen of brewer’s yeast and garlic powder. Just a sprinkle twice a day in her food with water, and within the month her skin had cleared up and her fur grew back thick and glossy. The bonus was that she loved the taste.
The only problem? This stuff was expensive! An 8 ounce container cost $16 at the local herb bar, and lasted about 2 months. So we were spending over $100 year to keep the dog flea free. This was definitely cheaper than Advantage or any of the other medicines, but it still seemed a lot to spend.
Then one month when we ran really low on the stuff and I didn’t have time to make the trip to the herb bar, I realized I could mix up a home-blend of nutritional yeast and garlic powder, both of which I buy in bulk at our local co-op. So now, instead of $16 for a premixed blend, I spend about a buck for a bag of yeast and another buck for powdered garlic, and mix it together at home in the same container the original stuff came in. The dog still loves it, her fur is still healthy, thick and shiny, we don’t have to make special trips to the herb bar, and we’re saving about $90 a year.
I'm sure there are lots more examples of times when I pay more for something premixed simply because it has never occurred to me to make it myself. I know sometimes the effort is not worth the results - I've never had much success cooking my own beans, for instance, so buy them canned is worth it to me. But I'm definitely going to look more carefully at my pantry over the next month to see if there are other easy ways to save money by putting things together myself.