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Cost Comparison Number Two – Salad Dressing

What a great response to this week’s blog post on the cost savings of cooking inconveniently (from scratch). I have two additional comparisons I’ve decided to post right away, along with my new favorite salad dressing recipe.

When I started this project I was not happy about the idea of making my own salad dressing. As easy as I assumed it was to make salad dressing from scratch, the idea of not having the type of dressing I immediately wanted on hand (as in four different varieties), felt somewhat frustrating to me. I also assumed the shelf life of a from-scratch dressing would be a lot shorter than their bottled counterpart. I was pretty much wrong on both accounts.

The first comparison I made is with a balsamic salad dressing. I used to buy Annie’s or the Neuman’s Own brand of dressing, so I set out to find a recipe that was similar. I didn’t have much luck finding anything similar, but I’m pretty happy that a tasty dressing can be made with pretty simple ingredients. However, to my surprise my from-scratch recipe cost twice as much as the bottled counterparts, 74¢ per ounce versus 36¢. Why you ask? I have three words for you – quality of ingredients. The preference in my house is that ingredients should taste good on their own, therefore I used top of the line organic ingredients in my dressing. I know that for many people price is the deciding factor when selecting something as simple as salad dressing. I can’t say I agree.

If you want a great savings that goes along with great taste, my advice is to make your own Ranch dressing. Ounce-for-ounce the homemade Ranch dressing was 24¢ compared to the 36¢ store value brand. I found this recipe on the Food Network website and adjusted the seasonings to my taste. So far I’ve found that it stays fresh refrigerated for at least two weeks. However it never lasts any longer than that to know the real shelf life.

Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

½ cup nonfat plain yogurt

1/3 cup lowfat buttermilk

3 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 ½ teaspoons lemon juice

1 heaping teaspoon Dijon mustard

½ teaspoon onion powder

½ teaspoon garlic powder

1 ½ tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives

1 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients and let them marinate together for at least 30 minutes before using the dressing. For a thicker dressing let the yogurt strain through cheesecloth or a paper towel for about 20 minutes before you use it.

I also use the buttermilk in baking bread, so you don’t have to worry about wasting a quart if that’s the only size available.

Recipe adapted from Elle Krieger of the Food Network


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9 responses »

  1. HI,
    What an interesting blog! thank you! The cost comparison was interesting….we go through A LOT of Ranch dressing…I don’t think that it fits into your requirements but Penzey’s spices have a whole line of spices to “make your own dressing.”

  2. I am loving all this research you are doing, because it was exactly what I was wondering about in this journey of yours (and mine, which is far less radical).
    Now, about the blind taste testing……

  3. Homemade dressing is SO much better than bottled. I usually make balsamic in small quantities, so that it does not go to waste. Given that when I buy bottled dressing half of it ends up in the garbage anyway, I probably come out ahead making my own a little at a time. Blue cheese dressing is also very simple and is super delicious.

  4. Thanks for doing this, Pam. I’ve long suspected that homemade items like granola aren’t always as affordable as store-bought products — but, much like salad dressings, I really feel strongly that home-made versions are superior in many ways.

    I’m with Amy in thinking that if one is making salad dressing as needed, there’s also less waste. I know I used to have bottles of dressing that would sit in the fridge for longer than they should have. While they didn’t always spoil, they most definitely degraded. I haven’t purchased dressing in a long time. Making small batches of fresh dressing takes mere moments – and it’s always delicious.

  5. Couldn’t agree more Lo!

  6. Yum, yum. This ranch dressing sounds delicious!

  7. Pingback: 52 Weeks of Recipes | A Year Of Inconvenience

  8. Pam, this is awesome, thank you. I just moved to the South and I seem always to have buttermilk around now, and am really trying to link my recipes together so that I can use the same ingredients for various things. So glad you wrote.



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