Homemade Chicken Stock for the Lazy Folks

Homemade month is moving along and next on the list is chicken stock.  I think this may be one of the easiest things you can do in your kitchen because it requires nothing but a crockpot and a chicken.  The picture is from a frozen chicken in the crockpot with veggie scraps from trimming them at other meals.  I believe I have onion tops, shallot tops, carrot ends, celery ends, etc.  I start a bag that goes in the freezer and accumulate scraps for the moment when I want to make a stock.  This is exactly what I did:  I put a frozen chicken in the crockpot with a little salt and cracked peppercorns and obviously veggie trimmings.  Cover for 10 hours (if thawed, 8 hours), and set crockpot on low.  Around 6 hours or so all the juices will begin to accumulate at the bottom of the crockpot.  After your 10 hours are up, remove the meat off the bone and put the carcass back into the crockpot.  Fill the crockpot with filtered water and let simmer for another 4 hours.  Strain your stock into containers!  That’s it.  I didn’t measure exactly but I want to say that it produced 10-12 cups of stock for me.  Typically, the ones you buy in the store come in 4 cup cartons.  So, that means I made the equivalent of 3 cartons of chicken stock with leftover bones from cooking a chicken.  I was already cooking the chicken and using the meat for tacos.  Therefore, it’s hard to estimate a cost savings when you are simply using leftover parts!  The cartons I buy of organic chicken stock at the store at $3-$4 bucks.  The entire chicken cost me $12 through Honored Praire.  For $12 bucks, I got about 3 lbs of meat and 3 cartons of chicken stock.  Not too shabby.  I put the stock that I will use that week in the fridge and the rest in the freezer.  I use the stock for everything from soups to simmering veggies.  It is packed full of minerals and healthy collagen for the joints.

Here’s my opinion on the whole homemade chicken stock ordeal: (1-5 with 5 being the best)

Ease: 5 (you put a chicken in pot and leave it for heaven’s sake!)

Price: 5 (I would have spent the same amount of money for 3-4 cartons of chicken stock at the store without the meat!)

Worth the touble: 5 (I am set now for weeks)

Taste: 5 (Way better tasting and way more nutritious than its processed counterparts!)

Homemade Larabars and Protein Balls

Clean eating can often be difficult for people because of the convenience factor.  It is much easier when you have prepared yourself for lunches, snacks, etc.  Being on the run with kids, busy schedules, and work all leave some gaps in the schedule where it would be nice to have a packaged go-to in the car or in your purse.  Larabars are a perfect portable snack because there are only a few ingredients: dried fruit, nuts and spices!  However, Larabars run for $1.79 per bar at Martin’s.  So, there has to be an easy, affordable homemade version.  I often make my own version of larabars in the form of little bite-size balls because they are easier to form than bars.  However, you can mold them into whatever you want!  I am all about using resources; there is no reason to reinvent the wheel.  So, I came up with a couple recipes that I haven’t found elsewhere; however, there are tons of recipes you can find on the web.  I ran across this blog post that goes through flavor recipes for all the store bought versions.  She also does a good job of walking you through the ratios to use to create your own flavor profiles!


For my “Homemade Month,” I decided to make 2 varieties: Espresso Protein Balls and Gingersnap Bars

Espresso Protein Balls were my creation to balance some of the carbohydrate ratios that are normally present in dried fruit.  Therefore, I used protein powder in them, and this makes them a great snack for a Crossfitter or active athlete that has protein needs for their lifting.

Espresso Protein Balls

10 Medjool dates, pitted

1 scoop vanilla protein powder (I used Down to Earth brand that has 19g of protein per scoop)

2 handfuls of raw cashews

3 tsp coffee grounds

2 tsp water (if your mixture isn’t sticking together well enough)

Put all the ingredients in the food processor until well crumbled.  It is ready to form when you can grab and squeeze the mixture and have it stick together!  That’s it.  This recipe made 10 protein balls and cost me about $5.50.  If I formed bars, it would’ve made about 4 bars, meaning about $1.38 per bar.  Obviously this is less than the store price of $1.79, although not much.  The reason for this is because I used protein powder….the total cost would be almost $1.50 less if that portion was left out.  Not bad.

Gingersnap Bars

8 Medjool dates, pitted

1/2 a little bag of crystallized ginger, finely diced (I used Melissa’s brand…no sulfur dioxide in there!)

1/4tsp ground ginger

1/8 tsp cardamom

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp allspice

1/4 tsp cloves

2 handfuls of pecans

Put all the ingredients except the crystallized ginger in the food processor and process until it sticks together.  Form into bars by pressing into the bottom of a covered pan.  Press the mixture into the pan and press the finely diced ginger into the top of the larabars. This recipe was inspired by my favorite gluten-free cookie by Liz Lovely…ginger molasses.  However, they are made from rice flour and have some sugar added, as well.  Therefore these make the perfect substitution!

The gingersnap bars made 4 bars, and they cost me about $1.75 per bar.  This is still 4 cents less than the store bought version.  However, once again, I chose a flavor profile that had a unique, expensive ingredient: crystallized ginger.  Just like the protein balls, that increased the overall cost by about $1.50.  I also happened to have most of the spices on hand from fall pumpkin creations.  By all means, use whatever you have sitting around as opposed to spending a fortune on spices that you won’t use otherwise!

If I were to make simpler flavor profiles like “Cinnamon Buns” which have nothing more than dates, pecans, and cinnamon, the cost effectiveness goes way up!  On average, you are probably looking at about $1 a bar with the simpler flavors that you can find at the above link.  Depending on the nuts you use, you can manipulate the cost; buy the nuts that are on sale!

Now for the whole rating system: 5 stars being the best

Taste: 5 stars (you are driving this train, so make your favorites!)

Cost effectiveness: 5 stars (you can save quite a bit or make exotic flavors for about the same as store bought prices)

Worth the effort: 2 stars (I don’t eat many larabars…they may be something I grab when going on a road trip, so I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to make them at home since it’s not something I consume regularly.  If you have kids though, this could absolutely be a way to have them make their own creations that they can have as treats in their lunch box!)

Ease: 5 stars (doesn’t get easier than throwing everything in a food processor and forming it into balls)

Homemade Vanilla Extract


I pretty much feel like I’m a vanilla expert at this point.  Ok, so that was a joke.  However, let me save you some time with my experiences.  A couple years ago, I did a “homemade month” where I decided I was going to make everything that I felt like I spent too much money on to see if it was worth the hassle.  I kept lots of those things in my routine!  Vanilla was one of them.  The only annoying thing about making vanilla is having to wait a few months to use it.  That means forethought and patience.  However, you SAVE SO MUCH MONEY!  My first batch I did with vodka.  It tasted like vanilla but not the depth of flavor that I was used to.  So, my next batch I did with bourbon.  This is the way to go.  So rich, bold, and perfect! I was also doing this in a mason jar before.  That is sort of a disaster because it gets caught up around the rim and sometimes sticks.  I found these cute flip top bottles at Meijer for nothin’.  So I decided this go round I would make my vanilla in this.


  • 5 vanilla beans
  • 12 oz bourbon

Shake the bottle every few days for a couple months.

I used these ratios but really this is open to interpretation.  Use as many or as little as you want in order to get the intensity of vanilla flavor you want.  Penzey’s makes a double strength vanilla that you can use at half the dose for the same flavor or you can up your vanilla flavor by using the double strength in the same quantity the recipe calls for.  All this vanilla is, is double the amount of beans to make the same amount of extract.  Moral of the story, they more beans you add, the stronger the vanilla will be.