There are some things in cooking that once you learn to do them yourself, you never go back to store bought. For me, vinaigrette is definitely one of those things - I haven't bought dressing at all since I learned how easy it is to make an array of flavorful vinaigrettes. Other things that fall into that category include roast chicken, soups, and tomato sauce (I do still buy vodka sauce - not sure why). Others may have crossed off ice cream once they bought ice cream makers, or bread once they mastered the art of baking it. One thing that people always talk about falling into this category, but hasn't quite yet for me, is stock.
Homemade stock, apparently, is much, much better than store-bought stock. This is constantly pushed by almost all chefs, and I totally understand. It has less sodium, no preservatives, and you can control all of the flavors. So I started making homemade stock. It's really easy - forgo any super exact recipe, just put a chicken carcass (leftover from the homemade roast chicken!) into a large pot with whatever you have on hand to enhance the flavor - onion, lemon, thyme, rosemary, carrot, etc. and fill it up with water (investigate a few recipes to get a sense of good flavor enhancers if you're not sure). Bring the whole thing to a boil and let it simmer for as long as you can - I try for like four hours.
Spoon off the grease from the top of the pot, and pour it (once cooled) through a strainer (you may want to remove large items like the chicken carcass before doing this, of course). I then pour it into two cup measurements, and into carefully labeled freezer bags. Who knows what you'll think that mysterious bag is when you find it in 6 months!
So, as you can see, making it is really simple, and I've gotten into the routine of doing it every time I roast a chicken. The thing is, though, that one doesn't tend to roast many chickens when it is summer. So I hadn't made it - until last night - in about 4-5 months, and therefore had (eek!) gotten back into just buying store-bought stock. Could I tell the difference? Nah. I probably will the first time I make soup with my own stock, but I certainly survived the summer. Maybe it's because my stock isn't a perfect recipe, or even the same recipe each time. Who knows. At the end of the day, I went to bed last night with an apartment smelling of delicious flavors and a freezer full of stock, ready and waiting for winter soups to begin!