Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Granola Cost/Benefit Analysis

I made this granola recipe today, with a few changes: left out the sunflower seeds (because trail mix is trail mix, and granola is granola!), replaced the wheat germ with ground flax seed, used half coconut oil, half butter for the specified "vegetable oil", left out the brown sugar. I was hoping that making it from scratch would prove cheaper than buying the boxed stuff. It isn't and it is, depending how you look at it.

Notes for next time: add cinnamon to the dry stuff, not the syrup. Use food processor to chop the nuts. Buy already-ground flax. Lining the sheet pans was overkill. Use something besides raisins-- dates, maybe. Think about getting everything set up and prepped, but not baking the granola until the evening when Don comes home; it was really difficult to keep an eye on it in the oven while taking care of the baby.

Overall, it turned out delicious, and it made a lot. I'm probably set for breakfast for a month. I added up the cost of everything as best I could, and compared it to the cost of boxed granola, it actually came out more expensive, bowl-for-bowl. This is disappointing, BUT. The problem with the comparison is that there isn't actually a comparable product on the market. Or, if there is, it's probably in the bulk-bins area of Whole Foods, and not in a box with a picture on it. For one thing, this recipe is really, extra nutty. Three cups of nuts total, a mix of pecans, walnuts, and almonds. Nuts are expensive, pricier than anything else in the cereal, but are really healthful. No prepackaged cereal that I looked at has as much nuttiness. Butter and coconut oil are more expensive (and again, a lot healthier and yummier) than, say, sunflower oil. Same thing with the maple syrup and honey: pricier than sugar, healthier than sugar. If there were a cereal for sale made with the ingredients I used, in the same proportions, it would probably cost the moon.

There's a real comfort in knowing exactly what's in what I eat, which is why I generally make oatmeal or eggs in the morning instead of cold cereal. Why, in the example cereal, is sugar the second ingredient? Second? Really? The proportions in the recipe I used are like this:

Oats-- 8 cups
Other grains/seeds (oat bran, flax)-- 3 cups
Nuts (pecans, almonds, walnuts)-- 3 cups
Fruit (raisins)-- 2 cups
Sugars (maple syrup, honey)-- 1 cup
Fats (butter, coconut oil)-- 1 cup
Flavorings (cinnamon, vanilla, salt)-- 2 1/2 tablespoons

Even so, it was plenty sweet, almost too sweet. I guess having so much fruit and nuts adds its own sweetness, too. As the MasterCard commercials would say, making your own cereal: $18.29 per batch. Knowing that there's no vegetable oil, no white sugar, and--God forbid-- no soy protein isolate: priceless. (I'm looking at you, Kashi.)


Bex said...

I would advise against getting preground flax unless you cant grind it yourself. Flax is one of those oils that goes rancid quickly and loses lots of nutrition. Maybe grind a batch and refrigerate it to extend the life.

Making granola is the only way to not only know exactly whatś in your food (well except the growing it yourself part) and to tailor it to your needs/cravings :)

And now I want granola.

Mara said...

Bex, that's why I always bought the whole seed-- and store it in my freezer! But I was only using 1-2 TBS at a time before and this recipe called for 1.5 cups. Since I'm using the coffee grinder, that was a real PITA!

If you ever come to visit, I'll make a batch with ALL coconut oil, (no butter), and even buy some soy milk or almond milk or whatever the heck you v*gans pour over granola, just for you...