A Frugal Experiment | Does Making Salsa from Scratch Save Money?

Anyone remember my first Frugal Experiment waaaaay back in October? I talked about making my own red sauce – which has proved to be so tasty that it is now a constant in our make-ahead-and-freeze rotation.

After a too-long hiatus, I am getting back to the Frugal Experiment, this time by making my own salsa.

Now as you guys know, I am all about keeping it simple. I used to love to patchke in the kitchen, but these days, I’ve got about 20 minutes, tops, to make dinner. So, a 15-step salsa recipe with lots of chopping and mincing just isn’t going to cut it (no pun intended) for me.

Fortunately, I have found a so-good-and-SO-EASY recipe (don’t worry, I share it below) that the only question remaining is: Does making salsa from scratch save money?

Let’s see….

Our favorite store-bought salsa is the refrigerated one from Costco. It has a lovely fresh, “restaurant” taste and runs $4.99 for 48 ounces of salsa.

The recipe that I use makes at least 6 cups, so let’s call that even. As for cost, to make my salsa, I use:

1 large can of whole tomatoes – $.75 with coupon and sale, Red Gold (regularly $1.25/each)

2 medium cans of crushed tomatoes with chilis (medium) – FREE with coupon and sale, Red Gold (regularly $.75/each)

1/8 of an onion, diced ~ $.05 (probably less, actually)

1/2 bunch of cilantro – $.40

2 cloves of garlic – $.10

1/2 lemon or lime – $.10 or less (when they are on sale, I use fresh; if they are more $$$, I used bottled lemon juice)

cumin, salt ~ $.05

1/4 t sugar ~ $.01

Wow! I totaled that all up and surprised myself with how frugal homemade salsa is. 6+ cups of salsa cost only $1.46! Even if I bought full-priced canned tomatoes, my cost would have been $3.46 – still less than the salsa at Costco.

Of course, not only is the price point right, but so is the taste! Seriously, you guys, this salsa is soooooo good. Everyone who tries it loves it!

I have  tweaked the Pioneer Woman’s Restaurant Style Salsa recipe to make it even easier, and a lot less picante.

Do you make your own salsa? Is it the savings, the taste or both that have you making it from scratch?

Check out more of my Frugal Recipes at the Kosher on a Budget Recipe Index.


  1. I don’t make my own salsa (usually) but I do make my own Israeli salads like zhug, chummus, babaganoush, and techina. There is a price savings, but it is marginal (at least for the chummus) but the taste is better and all of these can be done with about 30 minutes of potchking in the kitchen. And they would stay good for a week or two, although they don’t usually last that long.

  2. Cooking ‘soul-food’, for me, is as much about feeding my neshama as it is about feeding our collective family stomach. The money savings is just a bonus. The taste is always superior in my book. Cooking our food keeps us grounded in our culture and keeps it alive! My husband makes an outstanding baklava, and I have found I cannot even enjoy a commercially prepared one anymore. The same is true with my tiramisu recipe. If you see marscapone cheese on sale anywhere – Let Me Know!!!!

  3. OK, Mara, but what about the tortilla chips to go with the salsa? That’s the part that REALLY hits me in the wallet.

    • I’ve been making my own baked tortilla chips for awhile now. I don’t know what the hechsher is, but I buy the giant bag of corn tortillas (the little ones) from Costco (they freeze really well) and just take out what we need for the meal. You brush each side with olive or vegetable oil, cut into 8ths, sprinkle with kosher salt, spread out on cookie sheets and bake at 350 for about 12 minutes or until crispy. My family loves them. I haven’t priced out the difference between a bag of chips and this way, but we like them better and I liked that they’re baked instead of fried. I’ve also been making the pico de gallo from Pioneer Women, love that stuff!

      • i am guessing that you can get cheap hekshered corn chips at the store much cheaper than even costco’s corn tortillas. i think this might be one thing where the storebought is cheaper than the homemade. i could be wrong. but if you’re buying tostitos or some other expensive corn chip brand, or a premium brand, then making it at home should be cheaper. just my guess.

  4. My grandfather’s family was from Mexico and he made the best salsa and hot sauce ever. The stuff in a jar isn’t even close.
    I prefer to make homemade even if it costs a bit more because I control what the ingredients are.

  5. I buy salsa. It is $1.00 on sale for a jar. When I use a coupon, it is less. It is shelf stable until I open the jar so I can keep it in my pantry.

  6. Awesome! I never buy fresh salsa because it’s so expensive, but we buy the huge Kirkland (Costco) brand bottle of Organic Salsa and we love it because it is redolent of cumin unlike most storebought brands and is not overly vinegary. Otherwise I buy ShopRite brand which is very affordable. We go through lots of salsa in this house. A favorite meal (not for our kiddos, sadly) is a can of black beans mixed with a bunch of salsa and heated up, served on the side of either rice or a quesadilla.

  7. I also make my own salsa because I like mine better than any store bought. But I make it in small batches because I’m worried it will not be edible in 2 weeks and we don’t eat that much in 2 weeks. I assume the large store bought jars have preservative in them so they last.

    What has been your experience regarding how long your home made salsa lasts?

    BTW here are my uses for salsa (my mouth is watering just to think of this):

    1) between the tortillas with the cheese on a quesadilla
    2) a dollop in a bowl of chicken soup
    3) good with rice, jasmine rice in particular and roasted chicken
    4) of course on eggs
    5) great on gefilte fish
    6) mixed with either mayo or olive oil for salad dressing, dip, or pasta sauce

    Here is my recipe:
    1 10 oz can of tomatoes
    1/2 bunch cilantro
    1 or 2 roasted jalapenos (I roast a bunch at a time and freeze them)
    ground chipotle if I have any
    dash of lime juice
    salt to taste

    I agree with the comment above re: price of tortilla chips. $3.50 is the price here for a bag of dried corn! I’m going to start making my own even if I can’t get them in the shape of “scoops.”

    • I think 10 days to two weeks is about the max I am comfortable with eating our salsa for. After that it’s not worth the risk.

      I have no doubt that there are preservatives in the store-bought brands that leave them edible for longer periods.

  8. I’ve never seen Red Gold tomatoes with chilis. I will have to look more carefully.

  9. maybe your salsa cost more because your using canned tomatoes instead of using a bag of tomatoes (bulk tomatoes). can you substitute an onion for onion powder and garlic for garlic powder? if you make lots of salsa buying in bulk would reduce the cost of making salsa. and maybe using dried peppers. maybe you could grow your own tomatoes etc to save money on salsa.

  10. Made this today . It, was better then the restaurant .My family loved it .
    I added more cumin and salt

  11. Can this be frozen? Does it hold up well after defrosting?

    • I have never tried it, TEL, but I am thinking it probably wouldn’t be so good defrosted. Rest assured, you’ll go thru this much quicker than you think — it’s so good!

  12. I make this all the time, but I use the original recipe, which also calls for an entire jalapeño including seeds and membranes. We love heat in our family, so this is an essential ingredient for us. It also doesn’t add much cost, since I can usually pick up a package of 6 jalapeños at ALDI for around 50 or 60 cents and throw the whole jalapeños in the freezer for later use. I also use fire-roasted tomatoes instead; it’s so good! I can never go back to store-bought salsa, as I haven’t found anything that even comes close to topping this.

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