Here we are at the fourth and final event of the Frugal Olympics: Making Your Own Convenience Food
To be honest, I should never have qualified for this event. For one thing, I cannot be trusted with convenience foods in the house to begin with. For another, I tend to be somewhat challenged when it comes to making certain types of food from scratch--hence my reliance on convenience foods.
However, this frugal Olympian has never backed down from a frugal challenge, and so I decided to attempt a convenience food that I do occasionally purchase: granola bars.
After a quick jaunt on Pinterest, I found this recipe for peanut butter granola bars.
The recipe, as written, called for 4 cups rolled oats, 2 TB chia seeds, 1/2 cup unsalted peanuts, 3/4 cup natural peanut butter, melted, and 1/2 cup brown rice syrup.
Of those ingredients, I had 2 cups oats, no chia seeds, no peanuts, plenty of natural peanut butter, and no idea what the heck brown rice syrup even is. But since we're talking about convenience, I decided not to go out and get the missing ingredients, instead halving the recipe, omitting the chia seeds, and substituting slivered almonds and honey for the peanuts and brown rice syrup:
With my lovely assistant ready to help, I got started:
We mixed the almonds with the oats:
We added the honey:
And we then discovered that putting peanut butter in the microwave for 40 seconds does not, in fact, melt it, but instead cooks it:
At that point, I was ready for some mix-ins. The original recipe suggests putting chocolate chips in, which I would heartily endorse. But there was nary a chocolate chip to be found in the house. Luckily, I'm a resourceful sort who also just made an impulse buy at the grocery story because it was on sale and it reminded me of my grandmother:
So, I chopped up a couple of Hershey's Special Dark bars and threw in a handful of dried cranberries:
At this point, I found myself wondering if the mixture was too dry. When I asked BB what he thought, this was his response:
Since BB and I were in consensus, and since I was worried about the sugar content, I did not add more honey.
I then baked that bad boy in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes:
It was at this point that I realized three things:
- It's a bad idea to take cooking advice from a five-month-old.
- If you think your granola bar mix is too dry, then it probably is.
- I was not going to get photogenic granola bars and would instead end up eating half of the pan over the next four hours by grabbing loose handfuls of the goodness and eating it out of my hands like a horse with a feed bag.
Ultimately, this recipe was delicious and a great way to use up some of the odds and ends in my cabinet. It does not, however, make my life more convenient in any way, shape, or form. (And even if I were able to make some sort of actual granola bar next time around, I'll bet you dollars to brown rice syrup that I'd still eat half of them over the course of a few hours).
So no medal for me.
But readers, it's your turn to
compete! Tell me in the comments about convenience food recipes you have mastered. One lucky Olympian
who comments on any of the four frugal Olympics posts will be entered to
win a signed and personalized copy of my new book, The Five Years Before You Retire.
You may enter up to four times (once per event), and I
will pick a winner randomly on
February 28 March 7. (Changed to reflect the fact that I am totally behind!)