How to Make Four Popular Mixes Yourself to Slash the Soaring Prices

They’re convenient and tasty, but have you ever considered the high cost of your favorite prepared mixes and spices?

In less time than it takes you to run to the market to pick up a box of Rice-a-Roni or Shake‘N Bake, you can make it yourself and save a bundle in the process.

With each of these “copycat” recipes, I’ve indicated the branded product (with all of its mystery and often unpronounceable ingredients) in my grocery store, at this writing. It’s difficult to say for sure what these recipes will cost by comparison because there are so many variables, but I can assure you it’s nickels and dimes, not dollars!

Lipton Onion Soup Mix

  • 3/4 cup dry minced onion
  • 1/3 cup beef bouillon powder
  • 4 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed celery seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar

Combine all ingredients. Store in tight fitting container. About 5 tablespoons of mix equal one 1.25-ounce package. To make Onion Dip: Mix 5 tablespoons with one pint (16 oz.) sour cream.

The real thing: $1.99 for a 2-oz. packet!


  • 2 cups uncooked rice (not instant or Minute Rice)
  • 1 cup broken vermicelli pasta pieces (find this in the pasta aisle)
  • 1/4 cup dried parsley flakes
  • 6 tablespoons instant chicken OR beef bouillon powder/granules
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

Shake or stir dry mixture well. Store in airtight container. Place 1 cup mix and 2 tablespoons butter or margarine in a heavy saucepan with 2 1/4 cups water. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat. Simmer for 15 minutes or until rice is tender.

The real thing: $2.00 for 5.9-ounce box, or $.34 per ounce)

Shake’N Bake

  • 2/3 cup non-fat dry milk powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons chicken-flavored bouillon granules
  • 1/2 teaspoons poultry seasoning

Shake 2-1/2 pounds bone-in chicken or 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast halves, moistened—1 to 2 pieces at a time—in a plastic bag with this coating mixture. Discard any remaining mixture and bag. Bake at 400 F in an ungreased or foil-lined baking pan until cooked through. Bone-In: 45 minutes. Boneless: 20 minutes. Do not cover or turn chicken during baking. Yield: This recipe will coat a good-sized chicken or several fish filets.

The real thing: $2.99 for 4.5 oz. box, or $.67 per oz.

Emeril’s Original Essence

  • 5 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme

Mix together and store in a tightly covered container. Be sure to yell “BAM!” when dispensing onto everything from meat and poultry to vegetables and side dishes.

The real thing: $10.71 for a 2.8 oz. bottle, or $3.82 per ounce.

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  1. oma june says:

    Mary, I am so thankful for your spicy recipes. When I visit Austria for the two month (Nov.-Jan.) holiday season every year I try to remember to pack pumpkin pie seasonings as well as packets for turkey gravy and all kinds of Mexican foods. Most everything in the traditional Thanksgiving dinner must be made from scratch. When I run out or forget, my son and I find the ingredients on-line to duplicate them at home. However, next year I’ll buy the spices I can in bulk and mix them to take with me. Spices are really expensive in Europe. This year I bought a big bottle of Taco seasoning to bring with me and discovered it was perfect in chili as it had all the different spices already!
    PS The US black Friday trend has hit Europa… All over the internet, but of course without the holiday day off, I guess stick and brick stores may not be involved.

  2. Beth Johnson says:

    I would like to find a recipe for Maxwell House “Swiss Mocha” instant coffee. I buy this in Canada for $5.69 CDN for a small can that lasts me a week. (This is my morning treat to myself, because it has just a hint of coffee–and I find coffee by iself is just too bitter for my liking–with that delicious chocolate flavour. I add 18% table cream and it starts my day off nicely.

  3. Lorrie Ney says:

    Me too! I’ve copied Emeril’s blend for several years because it tastes so good on so much! Can you come up with Oven Fry for Pork Chops which bakes up crispy?

    And Also Cavender’s Greek seasoning.

  4. Sue in MN says:

    I would like to add that in addition to enjoying significant savings, making your own allows you to customize to suit your family and friends. We have many people with serious food allergies in our family, and the allergy-safe, gluten-free or dairy-free mixes come with STEEP price tags. By mixing my own, for our use & gift-giving, we get serious savings.
    For example, a gluten-free cake mix, usually for a 9″ square pan, costs between $2.99 and $5.99 in our area. I make my own custom flour blend for baking, then make up mixes where all we need to add is egg, oil, vanilla & water. A mix for a 9×13 cake costs about $1.50. If I bought retail gluten-free flour, it would still cost around $2.25 or so. If I want to make it really convenient for my busy daughters, I add powdered whole egg to the mix (adds about $.50) and a zipper baggie containing the necessary oil & vanilla. Gluten-free brownie & cornbread mixes yield similar savings.
    Spice blends & sauce mixes are particularly problematic. Your onion soup mix recipe is super, and if needed the maker can omit or substitute ingredients.
    When my daughter was at school with limited storage & cooking facilities, she mixed spices for chili & spaghetti at home, then took them along. There she cooked for dorm-mates who supplied the groceries in exchange for home cooking. Win-win.
    Thank you
    Sue in MN

  5. Gail Butler says:

    How about a recipe/replacement for vegetable boullion cubes, which are not only difficult to find but also mysteriously more expensive than beef or chicken boullion cubes?

  6. Luisa says:

    These sound great, and I look forward to any others you come up with. I make a seasoning mix that I use on popcorn, eggs, vegetables, chicken, etc. I started out trying to copy Paula Deen’s and wound up throwing in a little bit of everything from paprika to turmeric. I stay out of the Black Friday chaos, too. 😉

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