By JJ VirginHive Advisor

Hands up if you’re busy these days.

Yeah, I thought so. I’m seeing a lot of hands. Juggling work, school, meetings, volunteering, courting the kids from soccer to band practice, maintaining some semblance of a social life, and getting a healthy dinner on the table prove Herculean tasks for even the strongest of us.

You’re going to think I’m nuts for a second. I want to add more to your already-loaded plate.

Wait. Hear me out. You see, certain foods you’re better off making yourself. You’ll save money, of course, and maybe even time in the long run, but you’re also bypassing added sugar, dubious ingredients, potential food intolerances, and other things that give food shelf life while shortening your life.

I began experimenting with these 4 staples you can make simply and inexpensively in your kitchen. Trust me: if I can do it while running 2 businesses and handling 2 teenage boys, I’m confident you can, too.

Salad Dressing

Pay a brief visit to the salad-dressing aisle during your next grocery venture. Select 3 healthy-sounding dressings, turn the bottles around, and read those ingredients.

All bets are that sugar in some form will top the list, followed by unpronounceable additives and preservatives.
Okay, now put those dressings back. You’re going to create a basic, simple vinaigrette instead with just 4 ingredients:

  • 1 part vinegar
  • 2 – 3 parts extra virgin olive oil
  • a pinch of salt
  • pepper

Seriously, that’s it. If you want to go a touch fancier, add some chopped shallots, minced garlic, Dijon mustard, flavored vinegars, or fresh herbs. Place all your ingredients in a small glass jar, vigorously shake to blend, drizzle a couple tablespoons on your salad, and save the rest in the fridge for up to a week. How easy is that? (Makes a great marinade for your chicken and fish dishes, too.)

Nut Butter

The secret’s out: I have an unbridled love for almond butter. I use it for my shakes and occasionally–okay, probably far too often!–I dip my spoon directly into the jar.

The other day I ran out of almond butter (gee, how did that happen!?), so I ran to my grocery store and paid $10.99 for a jar. Pretty steep considering it’s only a few ingredients.

Here’s where my trusty Vitamix comes in handy. I buy raw nuts in bulk, toss them into my Vitamix and blend for a couple minutes, and then slowly add a little unflavored oil (cold-pressed, non-GMO canola oil works well) until I get the right consistency.

Keep your nut butters in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week. Let’s be honest, though: if you’re like me, they probably won’t last that long.

Almond Milk

I love my So Delicious unsweetened almond milk, but homemade is so easy and efficient. I soak a cup of almonds for an hour overnight, drain, put them in my Vitamix along with 3 cups of water, and blend for a few minutes on high speed until fully blended. Strain the milk through a cheesecloth (or buy a paint strainer bag from your hardware store for a reusable “nut milk bag”), and then squeeze to release all the lovely, naturally sweet milk.

Vegetable Broth

All bets are, on The Virgin Diet you’re eating more veggies. But wait: don’t throw away those carrot tops, mushroom stems, ends of onions, inner celery stalks/leaves, and parsley stems. Instead, keep them in a plastic freezer bag. When you have a full bag, put them in a saucepan, cover with water, throw in a couple peeled garlic cloves, a few peppercorns, and whatever herbs you like. (I’m a fan of bay leaves, parsley, and thyme.) Bring to a boil, then simmer for a half hour and you have your own homemade (sodium-free) veggie broth.

I like to make a big batch on Sundays (I can manage a half-hour for this!) and store it in the fridge in quart-sized Mason jars. During the week, I use it to cook quinoa, legumes, soups, and even sauté vegetables for a quick stir-fry without oil.

Your Turn

What do you pass up in the store because you know you make a better, healthier version yourself? Share your comments below or on my Facebook fan page.

And mark your calendars for February 2014 (wait, is it really only five months away!?) for my all-new Virgin Diet Cookbook. It’s my favorite book yet, and once you dive in to some of these recipes you’ll quickly see why!

© 2013 JJ Virgin & Associates, Inc. Celebrity Nutrition & Fitness Expert JJ Virgin helps clients lose weight fast by breaking free from food allergies. She is the bestselling author of Six Weeks to Sleeveless and Sexy, a Huffington Post blogger, creator of the 4X4 Burst Training Workout & co-star of TLC’s Freaky Eaters. Her latest book, New York Times Bestseller The Virgin Diet: Drop 7 Foods, Lose 7 Pounds, Just 7 Days, is out now. Learn more at

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