Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Raspberry Granola Bars

I love granola bars, but they’re expensive and make me feel bad for buying all that packaging.  I started looking up recipes, and found a few that sounded delicious.   This round I’m making Raspberry Granola Bars from a recipe I got from

I found a jar of raspberry jam my mom made that I knew would be tasty for this, so that went in and reduced my cost.  I substituted almonds for pecans both because I don’t care for pecans that much, and I had exactly a cup left over from making granola.

You will need

1 cup slivered almonds (the original called for chopped pecans, toasted) ($8.39 per lb, $8.39/16oz = $.52 x 3.5oz = $1.84)

1 ½ cups flour ($1.39 per 5 lb, $1.39/ 80oz = $.02 x 8.25oz = $.14)

1 ¼ cups organic rolled oats ($1.49 per lb, $1.49/ 16 oz = $.09 x 5 oz = $.47)

1/3 cup sugar ($3.29 per 5 lb, $3.29/ 80oz = $.04 x 2.5oz = $.10)

1/3 cup brown sugar ($.99 per 16 oz, $.99/ 2.35 cups = $.42 x .33 cup = $.14)

1 tsp salt ($.47 per 26 oz, $.47/ 30.69 tsp = $.02)

½ tsp baking soda ($1.99 per 32 oz, $1.99/ 201.52 tsp = $.01/ x .05tsp = less than $.01)

1 ½ sticks butter, melted ($2.97 per 4 sticks, $2.97/4 = $.74 x 1.5 sticks = $1.11)

1 cup local raspberry preserves (free to me)

Someone was tasting the dry ingredients.
Preheat oven to 350, and butter an 8x8 pan.  Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl.  Add melted butter, stir till thoroughly combined.  Put 2/3 of the mixture into the pan and pat it down so it’s flat and even.  Add the preserves, spread out evenly.  Add the remaining oat mixture, pat it out evenly over the preserves (the original recipe says to sprinkle it on).  Bake for 45 minutes, rotating once half way through.  Cool in the pan for 3 hours, then cut into squares.
With the butter added.  Doesn't that look delicious?

Thanks Mom!

Well, after making my house smell like burnt sugar, I now understand why they say to sprinkle the top granola.  Since the preserves had no room to bubble, it all went to the edges and bubbled onto the sides of the pan and burned on.  Once I cut them, I realized how thick they are.  Despite being named “Back to School  Raspberry Granola Bars”, they’re more like an oatmeal square.  An incredibly dense and delicious oatmeal square.  I don’t know that I would try to replace my granola bars with this, at least not without some tweaking- bake in a 9x13 so they’re much thinner and crunchier – but they are insanely good!

(I recently went back to the site and read a description that I don't think was there when I originally got the recipe.  It clearly shows it being a crumbly soft square, rather than an actually granola bar.) 
Note the burned jam around the edge.  Sprinkle, don't pat!

Awesome raspberry goodness.

Try It

$3.82 for 16 squares, or $.24 per square.

Buy It

$2.50 for 6 Nature Valley Fruit and Nut bars, or $.42 per bar.


First of all, if I had to buy the preserves it would have added 1.59 to my cost, or $.10 per square.  Even with that cost it’s cheaper than store bought.  They were really good- a small chunk of this in Spencer's lunch made his day.  I would Try It, but it won’t always take the place of the flavor of a store bought granola bar.  Be on the lookout for future granola bar tests coming your way...

NEXT WEEK: Chocolate syrup!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

How I learned to love my shower curtain, and other miscellany

I think this will be the first of a series of miscellaneous tips that don’t warrant a post of their own, but are worth sharing all the same.  Hope you find them helpful!

Shower curtain fix
 My husband bought our shower curtain liner.  It’s cloth, which is great, but for whatever reason, it always blew around while I was in the shower and stuck to my leg and made me consider tearing it down and stomping on it.  One day while I was in Joann Fabric, I happened upon weighted drapery tape.  It’s little weights, woven into a rope, sold by the foot.  It was the turning point in my relationship with our shower. 

Using my seam ripper, I ripped open the hem of the curtain and threaded the weight all the way down the bottom edge of the curtain (ever put the string back in a hoody?  You put a safety pin on the end of the string, then inch the cloth over the pin until it’s all the way through).  I ripped the hem at the other end to get my safety pin back, then hand sewed the seams back together.  Ahhh.    A year later it’s still holding up just fine, even after machine washings.

My Plastic Free Life has a whole page of tips for using less plastic.  My favorite is switching from deodorant to plain old baking soda.  I find it works best right out of the shower because of the moisture on my skin.  I keep a ramekin of baking soda on my bathroom sink.  Using an old blush brush, I just dab it in my armpits.  It works better than most natural deodorants that I’ve tried (Kiss My Face, Tom’s of Maine, Crystal), it’s dirt cheap, and aluminum free!

Household Cleaner 
I used to buy Green Works or Seventh Generation cleaners, but these days I just use a mixture of equal parts vinegar and water.  It lasts a while in the spray bottle, is also dirt cheap, has no fake smell, cleans well, and leaves glass sparkling. I use it in the bathroom, on tile, on the kitchen sink and counters, windows, and to clean up after any "accidents" my kid in potty training makes.  I keep it in my old Green Works bottle.
Not my craftiest moment with the sharpie, but it does the trick.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Dijon Mustard

Oops!  I got so wrapped up doing taxes I forgot to post this yesterday! 
I ran out of Grey Poupon two weeks ago.  It was very sad, but it did add the needed zip to my coleslaw.  Once the jar was empty, I thought I might as well look up how it’s made, instead of buying a new jar.  To my disappointment, it’s a two week process.  On the up side, I had to go shopping that day, anyway, so while I was out I picked up bulk ground mustard, and I was ready to go.  The recipe came from
What, you don't eat mustard toast?
You will need

1 cup ground mustard seed ($7.49/lb, $7.49 x .3lb = $2.25)

1 large onion, chopped ($1.09)

3 cloves garlic, minced ($.50 per head, $.50/5 = $.10 (estimate))

2 cups dry white wine- I used Barefoot Sauvignon Blanc ($5 per 25.37 oz, $5/25.37 = $.19 x 16oz = $3.15)

3 Tbsp honey ($2.99 per 12oz, $2.99/12oz = $.25 x 1.5oz = $.38)

1 Tbsp vegetable oil ($3.37 per 48 oz, $3.37/48 oz = $.07 x .5oz = $.04)

2 tsp salt ($.47 per 26 oz, $.47/ 30.69 tsp = $.02 x 2tsp = $.04)
Cooked onions and garlic cooling off.
Bring the wine, onion, and garlic to a boil in a small saucepan, then lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Allow the mixture to cool, then discard solids.  Return wine liquid to the saucepan and stir in the mustard until smooth.  Add remaining ingredients and return to heat just until thickened.  Put your mustard in a jar, and allow it to cool overnight on the counter.  In the morning, put you mustard in the fridge and wait two weeks.
Looks like mustard...
Finished mustard, ready to go.

So after the long wait, was it worth it?  I don’t know.  It had quite a kick, that’s for sure!  It was thicker than Grey Poupon, and looked unimpressive, but the flavor was good.  I would love it on a turkey sandwich. 

Try It

$7.05 for 16oz, or $.44/oz

Buy It

$3.35 for the 8oz glass jar, or $.42/oz


I used a $5 bottle of wine because we already had it, but I’m sure there is cheaper wine out there.  In my case, it didn’t come out cheaper, and the flavor wasn’t so over the top amazing that it would be worth it anyway.  It’s not how I saw this going, but I have to say Buy It.  It’s not hard, just not worth it.

NEXT WEEK: HowI learned to love my shower curtain and other miscellany

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Children's Valentine's Day cards

What with a baby coming in May, and the upcoming loss of my income due to said baby at the end of this month, I’m trying to train myself to be more frugal.  One of the things I read time and time again on some of the frugal blogs I follow is that it’s great how being thrifty can lead to being more creative.  I wholeheartedly agree!  

As I’ve mentioned, Spencer started preschool last month, and with that comes things like Valentine’s Day parties complete with card exchange for 12 kids.  I decided to make them this year out of things I could find around the house.  What I found was some ridiculous felt left over from Christmas, and that’s about it.  Sooo…

You Will Need

Some scrap paper (free)

1 12x8 sheet of red felt ($.29)

2 12x8 sheets white felt ($.29 per sheet, $.29 x 2 sheets = $.58)

1 marker (free)

1 ruler (free)

1 pair scissors (free)

1 large cereal box (free)

Glue (free)
Confession- I use most of my kid's "artwork" as scrap

On your scrap paper draw a heart that is smaller than 4”wide and 3 ¾” tall.  Cut it out.  Using your heart as a stencil, trace 12 hearts onto the red felt (on the back side if there is one so the lines don’t show).  Cut out your hearts and set aside.  On your white felt, cut out 12 rectangles measuring 4” wide and 3 ¾” tall.  Set aside.  Cut rectangles of the same size out of the cereal box.  Glue the hearts (marker side down) to the white felt.  Glue the white felt (marker side down) to the outside of the cereal box.  Allow the glue to dry pressed under a heavy book.  When the glue has dried, write a message on the brown paper side.  Done.
I bought the snake skin felt because shockingly, they were out of red felt at Christmas.

They’re not perfect, but they’re cute.  I did mention that they’re for the 4 and under set, right?  Now that the cards are ready, I’ll let Spencer draw on the brown side to leave his mark.  Were I to do it again, I’d see if I could find a less busy box, or maybe use a colored felt for the background because the Honey Bunches of Oats definitely shows through!
Happy Valentine's Day, kiddos!

Try It

$.87 for 12 Valentine’s Day cards.  Per card, if I actually bought the felt instead of having it left over without a valid receipt in sight, they would have been $.07/card.  As it stands, they were free (everything else is listed as free because it’s been around so long I don’t know where they came from- except the cereal box.)

Buy It

The price range seems to be $1 to $4 for 36.  The ones we would have bought were $2.50 for 36 Toy Story cards with temporary tattoos (side rant: what is with temporary tattoos?  Why is that cute?).  Per card, they would have been $.07/card.  But since I only needed 12, it would have actually cost me $.21/card.


So depending on how you look at it, I either saved nothing, $.14/card, or $2.50.  I see it as an easy craft project that took care of Valentine’s Day, and got me a little in the spirit.  I’m a little bit of a V Day Scrooge at heart, not going to lie.  Until Spencer is old enough to make or pay for his own, I’ll continue to Try It.

NEXT WEEK: Dijon Mustard!