Archive for the ‘Scratch vs. Store Bought’ Category

My husband makes really good stove-top popcorn. He started with the recipe from Joy of Cooking and adapted until he found the measurements and methods that work perfectly for him. Could a bag from the microwave rival it? We set out to test the two and here are our results.

The Recipe

Stove-Popped Kettle Corn*
Yields 6 servings

3/4 c. popcorn kernels ($.36)
1 T oil ($.03)
1 T butter ($.06)
2 T sugar ($.01)
1/4 t salt

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in an even layer on the bottom of a large stock pot with a lid. Add 3 kernels as testers; when they pop, pull them out and add the rest of the popcorn.

Put on the lid, shake the kernels around to get an even layer on the bottom of the pan, and leave them alone until the popping slows to about 2 seconds between pops. Any more than 3 seconds between pops and you could have burnt popcorn.

Pull the pot off the heat and add the butter. Stir to melt and coat the popped corn. Sprinkle sugar and salt over the top and stir well to combine. Serve.

*The sugar won’t crisp onto the popcorn like in a big kettle, but there is a nice sweetness.

The Cost Breakdown:

Microwave Kettle Corn was on sale for $2.00 for 3 bags, with about three  2 Tbsp servings per bag. That works out to $.26 per serving; however, we lost 1 Tbsp to unpopped kernels in one bag, bringing the servings down to 2.5 and cost up to $.32 per serving.

Our home made version is just $.08 per serving, using real butter. (Mmm, butter…) We lost 7 kernels out of a 6 serving batch.

The Taste Test:

Side A is home made. Side B is from a microwave bag. Which looks more appealing to you?

We are biased testers, I’ll tell you upfront! Home made won in a landslide. It has a real butter flavor (mmm, butter…) and a nice balance of sweet and salty. The kernels have a fresh flavor that is lacking in the microwave counterpart, and a fully popped kernel that has a toothsome quality we enjoy.

Taste tester 1 gave it an A-. Taste tester 2 gave it a B+. Taste tester 3 gave it a thumbs up, as he doesn’t quite understand grades yet. (He is 4.)

The microwave popcorn had a strange chemical after taste, like the artificial sweetener aftertaste of diet soda, and lacked the real butter flavor. It was crisp at the outset, but didn’t have quite as hearty a crunch and got a little mushy while chewing it. That may have to do with corn variety.

Taste tester 1 gave it a C+. Taste tester 2 gave it a D. Taste tester 3 gave it a thumbs in the middle, saying, “It needs butter.” (Taste tester 3 is clearly my child!)

The Time Factor:

The microwave popcorn took 3 1/2 minutes in our microwave. Our home made version took about 12 minutes, with most of that time waiting for the pot to come up to temperature.


I’ve heard rumors that microwave popcorn can lead to cancer, but my Googling leads me to ingredients not present in my popcorn. Apparently, though, the butter flavor will kill you. (So will real butter, according to different experts, so it’s a give and take. I’m taking real butter, thankyouverymuch.)

Microwave Kettle Corn: Popcorn, Palm Oil, Salt, Natural and Artificial Flavor (Milk), Sucralose, Vitamin E (D-Alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate) to Preserve Freshness.

Calories: 130
Fat: 5 g
Sodium: 180 mg
Carbohydrates: 18 g
Fiber: 4 g
Protein: 3 g

Home made: Popcorn, sugar, oil, butter, salt

Calories: 159
Fat: 5 g
Sodium: 112 mg
Carbohydrates: 25 g
Fiber: 5 g
Protein: 3 g

Other Considerations:

Lost corn – side A is home made, and side B is microwave.
Keep in mind that we did a double batch of side A.

Scratch vs. Storebought winner:

If it’s not obvious, we love the home made popcorn! I don’t usually buy microwave stuff and I’m not about to start.


Next time on Scratch vs. Store Bought: Refried beans. I’m open to suggestions of what to test after that!

I’m sharing this post with the folks over at Frugal Friday.

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This is round 2 for the Head to Head Brownie Challenge. The first batch of box mix and home made were taken to my sewing class, but both were bad. Really bad. I ended up throwing them away, and I’m a tightwad; I hate throwing stuff away! (I must tell you to avoid the Target brand brownie mix at all cost. They were terrible!)

Here’s my second attempt at home made brownies, compared to a Chocolate Walnut Brownie mix by Pillsbury.

The Recipe
Chocolate Walnut Brownies
Serves 12

  • 1 cup white sugar ($.16)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil ($.12)
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder ($.55)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract ($.10)
  • 2 eggs ($.34)
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour ($.06)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup walnut halves (optional, $.33)

Combine all ingredients and stir until well combined. Bake at 350 degrees F in a greased 8″x8″ pan for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

The Cost Breakdown:

The Pillsbury mix cost $2.89, plus 1/3 c. oil ($.08) and 1 egg ($.17), for a total cost $3.14 for 12 brownies, or $.26 per brownie.

The home made version costs $1.66 if made with walnuts, or $.14 per brownie. Without the walnuts, they’re just $.11 per brownie. That’s 45% less than the mix!

The Taste Test:

I had to redeem myself with my sewing class, so I took in both batches and they got to taste test for me again. The general consensus: store bought wins. I think it may be my recipe, or my lack of baking prowess, but my home made ones just didn’t have the chewy texture that you want in a brownie. The box mix had a more intense chocolate flavor and was sweeter; walnuts were plentiful in the box mix, but I thought they tasted a little off.

The home made version has a mellower flavor altogether. It is less sweet, but I found the box mix to be too sweet for my taste. Its chocolate flavor isn’t quite as strong. There is a nice chewiness, but the box mix wins on the chewy factor. The home made recipe would likely make really good cookies.

Peanut the 4 year old liked both of them. (You’re not surprised, are you?)

The Time Factor:

The box mix took 5 minutes to prepare, from opening the box to putting the pan in the oven.

The home made version took 8 minutes to prepare, including gathering ingredients.

Both times include the help of  a four year old in measuring, mixing, and pouring; your times may be faster if only grown ups are doing to the prep work, or if you use an electric mixer.


Ingredients in brownie mix: sugar, enriched bleached flower (wheat flour, niacin, iron, thiamin, mononitrate, riboflavin, floic acid), walnuts with BHT added to protect flavor, cocoa processed with alkali and cocoa, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, corn starch, salt, natural and artificial flavor, baking soda, corn oil, soy lecithin

Nutrition facts (as prepared):
Calories: 198
Fat: 11 grams
Sodium: 90 mg
Carbohydrates: 24 grams
Fiber: 1 gram
Protein: 2.5 grams

Ingredients in home made brownies: sugar, white whole wheat flour, canola oil, eggs, cocoa powder, walnuts, vanilla extract, baking powder, salt

Nutrition facts:
Calories: 203
Fat: 12 grams
Sodium: 61 mg
Carbohydrates: 23.5 grams
Fiber: 2 grams
Protein: 2.5 grams

The nutrition is surprisingly similar. I don’t like the partially hydrogenated oil in the box mix, and the home made version is made with white whole wheat flour, so there is a slight nutritional advantage to home made, but I don’t think one has the edge over the other. Both are occasional treats, or as Cookie Monster says, “sometimes foods”.

Other Considerations:
The box mix is convenient, since you don’t have to have as many ingredients on hand. You’re likely to find sale and coupon combos that make it cheaper than home-made as well.

Scratch vs. Storebought winner:

Although it costs more, I’m calling it for the box mix, with comparison to this brownie recipe. I will still be searching for a tastier, chewier home made version, because of that 45% difference in cost and the added ingredients that I don’t want to feed my family, but for this comparison, Pillsbury beats the home made recipe.

Do you have an excellent, chewy, chocolate fudgy brownie recipe that is foolproof? Leave it in the comments and I’ll try them to compare with the leftover Pillsbury brownies!


After a bit of re-tooling my blogging schedule, Scratch vs. Store Bought will has found its regular home on Thursdays. I’m always open to suggestions of what to test!

Next week: Microwave popcorn vs. stove top kernels.

(I accidentally posted an incomplete version of the SvSB: Brownies post last week for about an hour, so if you’re subscribed, you saw a post in progress. I didn’t realize that I’d scheduled it to post and learned how not to draft posts!)

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If you haven’t entered my giveaway yet, go enter now! The winner will be chosen this evening at 8 pm PST!

Today we’re comparing Jiffy corn muffin mix to home made corn muffins. I must say I’ve only ever made home made corn muffins and that I don’t recall every buying corn muffin mix. This was a reader request and our taste buds weren’t unduly influenced by boxed corn muffin memories. 🙂

The Recipe:

Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix Clone
Makes 6 muffins (equal to 1-box of Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix)

2/3 c. flour ($.05 – I used King Arther White Whole Wheat, bought on sale before Thanksgiving. It would be cheaper with all-purpose flour.)
1/2 c. yellow cornmeal ($.16)
3 T sugar ($.03)
1 T baking powder (under $.01 from the bulk bin)
1/4 t salt
2 T vegetable oil ($.03 – I used Canola oil.)
1 egg ($.17)
1/3 c. milk ($.07)

Preheat oven to 400°F Combine flour, corn meal, sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix well with whisk. Whisk in vegetable oil and mix until dry mixture is smooth and lumps are gone.

Combine above mixture with egg and milk and mix well. Batter will be slightly lumpy. For best rise, let batter rest for 3 or 4 minutes. Stir once or twice after rest.

Fill muffin tins 1/2 full. Bake 15-20 minutes. Makes 6 muffins.

Note: If another recipe calls for a box of corn muffin mix, leave out the egg and milk from this recipe.

The Cost Breakdown:

Jiffy corn muffin costs $.69. It requires 1 egg and 1/3 c. milk to make muffins, adding $.24, for a total cost of $.93 for 6 muffins, or $.16 per muffin.

Home made mix is $.57 including the egg and milk, or $.09 per muffin. If you used dry powdered milk and all-purpose flour, it would be under $.08 per muffin, less than half the cost of Jiffy mix.

The Taste Test:
The two were awfully similar in taste, and neither had a strong advantage here.

The Time Factor:

It takes under 2 minutes to mix together the dry mix. From there, time is equal between the mix and home made.


Ingredients in Jiffy mix: Wheat Flour, Degerminated Yellow Corn Meal, Sugar, Animal Shortening (Contains One or More of the Following: Lard, Hydrogenated Lard, Partially Hydrogenated Lard), Contains Less than 2% of each of the Following: Baking Soda, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid. (Plus egg and milk to prepare)

Nutrition facts (as prepared):
Calories: 170
Fat: 4.5 grams
Sodium: 340 mg
Carbohydrates: 27 grams
Fiber: <1 gram
Protein: 2 grams

Ingredients in home made muffins: whole wheat flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt, vegetable oil, egg, milk.

Nutrition facts:
Calories: 163
Fat: 6 grams
Sodium: 114 mg
Carbohydrates: 24 grams
Fiber: 2 gram
Protein: 4 grams

While the Jiffy mix is lower in fat, it is the “bad” fat of lard or partially hydrogenated lard, as opposed to the heart healthy Canola oil in the home made version. Home made muffins are also higher in fiber and protein, and lower in sodium and calories. I’ll call this a win for home made.

Other Considerations:

I didn’t know that Jiffy is not a vegetarian product! It is not a place I’d think to look for animal products, and since I’m picky about animal products (a topic for another post, but I only buy locally grown, organic meat), I was surprised to find them in corn muffin mix.

Scratch vs. Storebought winner:

I’m calling this one for home made, because of its cost and nutritional advantage. In a pinch, I could see using the Jiffy box, but I wouldn’t buy it on a regular basis.

Are there any products you’re curious to see tested? Post Scratch vs. Store Bought requests in the comments!

(I contributed the link to Milehamama’s Carnival of Meatless Meals. Although it isn’t a meal on its own, I thought a vegetarian corn muffin alternative to the NOT vegetarian Jiffy mix might be a welcome contribution.)

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We compared Krusteaz banana nut muffin mix to its home made counterpart for this week’s Scratch vs. Store bought post.

The Recipe:

Banana Nut Muffins

1 1/2 c. flour ($.12 using King Arthur’s White Whole Wheat bought on sale at Thanksgiving)
1/2 c. crushed bran cereal (free with a coupon/sale combo)
1 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt (I’m calling the powder, soda, and salt $.05, but it’s probably less)
1 t. pumpkin pie spice ($.14)
3 mashed bananas ($.06 – I bought 100 overripe bananas for $2.00 last November and froze them for banana bread. We’re stocked for banana muffins for a long while!)
1 t. vanilla ($.21 – organic and fair trade, bought from Frontier Wholesale; also where I bought my pumpkin pie spice)
1 egg ($.17)
1/4 c. milk ($.05)
1/4 c. brown sugar ($.04 – bought on sale at Thanksgiving)
1/2 c. applesauce ($.12 – bought at Grocery Outlet)
1/2 c. walnuts ($.50 – bought on sale at Thanksgiving)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Mix dry ingredients in one bowl. Mix wet ingredients, including sugar, in a separate bowl. Combine wet and dry ingredients, mixing as little as needed to combine.

For mini-muffins, bake 12-14 minutes. For regular muffins, bake 20-24 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted at the center comes out clean.

The Cost Breakdown:

Krusteaz Banana Nut Muffin Mix regularly costs $3.99, and includes 2 eggs ($.34) and 1/4 c. oil ($.16) for a total cost of $4.49 for 12 servings, or $.37 per serving. I bought the muffin mix on sale for $2.49. With the eggs and oil, that makes each serving $.25.

The total cost of the home made version was $1.46, or $.12 per serving. If I used full price bananas, it would be $.16 per serving.

The Taste Test:

Krusteaz muffins had an unappealing dry, mealy texture that turned gummy while being chewed. We found it odd to have them so dry and so gummy. Pieces of walnut were present, but not abundant, and not especially flavorful. They are sweet but have an artificial flavor, like the sweetness in Diet Coke. They smell sweet, but not like banana. Mr. Penny thought it had a “white-flour cakiness.” Overall, they were not well received by any of the adult tasters.

The home made muffins, by contrast, were quite moist and had a strong banana flavor without being overly sweet. The larger pieces of walnuts gave a nice crunch and added a distinct walnut flavor. Chunks of real banana were “like a bonus prize” says my taste-testing friend.

The Krusteaz muffins were done before turning golden brown, and had I left them in until they browned, they would have been inedibly dry. The home made muffins were golden on top, and the addition of bran cereal and whole wheat flour made them darker throughout – the color of banana bread, rather than the Krusteaz pale yellow.

Peanut (our 4 year old) liked the Krusteaz better, because the yellow looks like banana and “because I love them!” He doesn’t have a discerning palette, though, and they were ready first.

The Time Factor:

Home made muffins took under ten minute to mix together, including defrosting frozen bananas, pulling out and putting away ingredients. For the huge flavor difference, it’s worth the few extra minutes to mix it yourself.

Other Considerations:

Ingredients for Krusteaz Banana Nut Muffins: Enriched Bleached Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Sugar, Walnut, Dried Banana, Food Starch-Modified, Arabic Gum, Leaving (Sodium Aluminum Phosphate, Sodium Bicarbonate, Monocalcium Phosphate), Canola or Soybean Oil, Salt, Emulsifier (Propylene Glycol Monoester, Mono-Diglycerides, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Soy Lecithin), Natural and Artificial Flavors, Xanthan Gum, Beta Carotene (Color). (Added egg and oil)

Nutrition facts:
Calories: 220
Fat: 3.5 grams
Carbohydrates: 32 grams
Fiber: 1 gram
Protein: 2 grams

Ingredients for homemade banana nut muffins: banana, whole wheat flour, All-Bran cereal, walnuts, applesauce, eggs, milk, baking powder, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice, salt.

Nutrition facts:
Calories: 140
Fat: 4 grams
Carbohydrates: 24.5
Fiber: 3.75
Protein: 4 grams

The home made version is healthier, and made with all real food ingredients. It’s a winner here, too.

Scratch vs. Storebought winner:

Without a doubt, home made wins! It’s more flavorful, healthier, and cheaper. What more could you ask for?

(Special thanks to taste-tester B., who managed to eat a few Krusteaz muffins for comparison without complaint. He left some of the good ones for us to eat later, even though he wanted to spirit them out under his jacket.)

Are there any products you’re curious to see tested? Post Scratch vs. Store Bought requests in the comments!

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Tonight’s Scratch vs. Store bought comparison is for Stove Top Stuffing, Chicken flavor vs. Home made Stuffing on the stove.

The Recipe:

Stuffing from the Stove, chicken flavor

6 cups cubed bread – I used 100% whole wheat ($1.25)
1/4 c diced onion ($.08)
1/2 c diced celery ($.10)
1 T dry parsley
1 t dry thyme
1 t ground pepper
1/2 t ground sage (I’m counting $.10 for all herbs, and I think that’s high. I buy them out of bulk bins by weight, very cheap!)
1/2 t salt
1 1/2 c. chicken stock (free from the freezer)
1/4  c. butter ($.37)

Chop bread and bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes or until toasted, tossing once. While the bread is in the oven, saute the onion and celery over medium heat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add seasoning, stock, and butter, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add bread when removed from the oven. Stir to combine, remove from heat, and leave covered for five minutes.

The Cost Breakdown:

Stove Top Stuffing mix costs $3.59, plus $.37 in butter, for 6 servings at $.66 per serving.

Home made stuffing costs $1.90 for 6 servings at $.37 per serving. It would be cheaper if I made my own bread.

Home made stuffing on the stove wins at more than 40% cheaper than Stove Top.

The Taste Test:

Stove Top Stuffing tastes like the chicken flavoring packet in Top Ramen. It’s very salty and has a “fake” chicken flavor, according to Mr. Penny. He loves Top Ramen, so this was not a disqualifier for him; I do not love Top Ramen, and it was way too salty for me. The texture is gummy, mushy, and there is no dimension.

The home made stuffing had a more subtle flavor and the added textural elements of onion and celery were welcome additions. The sage, thyme, and parsley gave it a nice herbed flavor, but next time I’ll add poultry seasoning to intensify it a bit more. The bread held its own, not dissolving into mush at the introduction of real chicken stock.

On flavor and texture, home made wins by a landslide.

The Time Factor:

The scratch version took 15 minutes from start to finish. I cut up the bread and popped it in the oven for about 10 minutes; while that was in the oven, I diced up onions and celery, sauteed them for a few minutes, and finished the preparation.

The Stove Top Stuffing took just under 10 minutes. I brought the water and butter up to a boil in a few minutes, then let it sit the 5 minutes suggested on the box.

The 5 minute time difference is small enough that it wouldn’t be a deciding factor for me.

Other Considerations:

Ingredients of Stove Top Stuffing: Enriched Wheat Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate [Vitamin B1], Riboflavin [Vitamin B2], Folic Acid), High Fructose Corn Syrup, Onions (Dried), Salt, Contains Less than 2% of Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and/or Cottonseed Oil, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Yeast, Cooked Chicken and Chicken Broth, Maltodextrin, Celery (Dried), Monosodium Glutamate, Parsley (Dried), Spice, Sugar, Caramel Color, Turmeric, Disodium Guanylate, Disodium Inosinate, with BHA, BHT, Citric Acid, and Propyl Gallate as Preservatives.

I try to avoid high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated oils; I buy bread without either. Again, home made wins for its real food ingredients.

Scratch vs. Storebought winner:

If it isn’t obvious by now, you haven’t been paying attention! Stove Top Stuffing has no place in our pantry; home made really is the way to go on cost, flavor, texture, and health.

Are there any products you’re curious to see tested? Post Scratch vs. Store Bought requests in the comments!

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Today’s Scratch vs. Store bought comparison is hot cocoa, perfect for the chilly, rainy weather we’ve had lately! I bought a box of Swiss Miss for comparison to our home made version.

The Recipe:

Hot Cocoa for One
2 Tablespoon cocoa ($.08)
2 Tablespoon sugar ($.01)
Pinch of salt
1 cup milk ($.20 liquid; $.14 dry reconstituted)
1/4 t. vanilla

Mix the cocoa, sugar, and salt in a heat-proof mug. Warm the milk and add it to the mixture in the mug; stir until combined. Add vanilla. Enjoy!

The Cost Breakdown:
Swiss Miss is $2.00 for 10 1-ounce packets, or $.20 per serving.

Home made hot chocolate is $.29 per serving when made with liquid milk, $.25 when made with reconstituted dry milk. I didn’t include the cost of salt and vanilla, as the amounts are trivial.

It is worth noting that the serving size is 25% larger for the home made version. For the same sized serving as the Swiss Miss, the home made is $.22 with liquid milk, $.19 with reconstituted dry milk.

*note: I edited for a math error! Swiss Miss is just $.02 cheaper than home made with real milk, and $.01 more expensive than reconstituted dry milk. I’m calling them equal.

The Taste Test:
Swiss Miss was creamier and had a mellow chocolate flavor. The home made version was definitely more chocolatey and had a stronger flavor.  Both were pleasantly sweet.

Mr. Penny and I both preferred the home made version for it’s stronger chocolate flavor.  Peanut liked both of them, squealing, “It’s chot-lit and hot! OH BOY!” Home made wins by a hair, but it could go the other way if you preferred a creamier and less bold cocoa flavor.

The Time Factor:
Negligible. Mixing up home made mix took under a minute, and was done while the milk was warming. Both mugs of hot chocolate were ready in the same minute it took to warm the milk (water for Swiss Miss.)

Other Considerations:

Ingredients for Swiss Miss: Sugar, Corn Syrup, Modified Whey, Cocoa (Processed with Alkali), Partially Hydrogenated Coconut Oil, Nonfat Dry Milk, Less than 2% of: Salt, Dipotassium Phosphate, Carrageenan, Artificial Flavor, Mono- and Diglycerides.

Ingredients for home made: Cocoa, sugar, salt, milk, vanilla.

Which list sounds more like real food you’d want to feed your family?

Scratch vs. Storebought winner:

Hot chocolate is a great treat for a cool day, well loved by young and old alike, and I have to say that in this case, the store bought version is a winner in cost, home made wins by a hair in the taste test, and home made wins for the ingredient list – I try to avoid partially hydrogenated fats and artificial colors and flavors.

I’ll definitely make the home made version in the future.

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Today’s Scratch vs. Store bought post compares home made taco seasoning and the little packets made by Lawry’s, McCormicks, and the like.

The Recipe:

Taco Seasoning Mix
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2  teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

Mix all ingredients. 3 T = 1 packet.

The Cost Breakdown:
The packet mix was on sale for $1.25 and made 6 servings, at $.21 per serving.

The homemade version cost pennies; I would guess under $.10 for the entire batch. With the tiny portions of each spice, and with spices purchased from the bulk bins for considerably less than the tiny jars on grocery store shelves, it was hardly worth calculating. For inexpensive spices, try bulk bins at health food stores, Winco (a bare-bones grocery store), or the little packets in Asian and Hispanic grocery stores.

The Taste Test:
I browned ground beef and divided it into two batches, then made one with a seasoning packet and one with the home made mix. Tasting the meat alone on a fork, the home made mix won with me, my husband, mother in law, and son. We all agreed that the seasoning packet was too salty and lacked personality. Mixed up in a taco salad with the other fixings, they were both fine, but the home made mix was still favored as it “stands up to the other flavors” according to my husband.

The Time Factor:
Not much of a factor. Measuring spices took under a minute and was easy to do while the meat was browning. You could mix up multiple batches and store it pre-made if you chose to. I would make it up as the meat browns next time rather than pre-make it.

Other Considerations:
The store bought mix was very salty and had a much higher sodium level than my version. Also, the store bought mix had dextrose, a sugar, which mine did not, increasing the calories unnecessarily.

Scratch vs. Store bought winner:
With both cost and flavor firmly on the side of home made, the Scratch side wins by a landslide.

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In the Scratch vs. Store Bought posts, I intend to make from scratch products that I would normally purchase ready-made, calculate the cost and time, taste test, review, and determine whether it is worthwhile to make it myself.

I’m starting out with the Master Mix developed by Purdue University, vs. Bisquick, made by General Mills.

The Recipe:

Master Mix (makes 13 cups)

9 cups sifted all-purpose flour ($.75)
1/3 cup double-acting baking powder ($.50)
1 tablespoon salt ($.02)
1 teaspoon cream of tartar ($.25)
1/4 cup sugar ($.15)
2 cups shortening which does not require refrigeration OR 1 2/3 cups lard ($1.32)

Stir baking powder, salt, cream of tartar and sugar into flour.  Sift together three times into a large mixing bowl or onto a large square of plain paper.  Cut into shortening until Mix is consistency of cornmeal.  Store in covered containers at room temperature.  To measure the Master Mix, pile it lightly into cup and level off with a spatula.

If lard which requires refrigeration is used in the Master Mix recipe, the Mix should be refrigerated.

Click here for recipes that use the Master Mix, broken down into family size or “just for two” servings, including biscuits, muffins, waffles, pancakes, coffee cake, cornbread, dumplings, cakes and cookies.

The Cost Breakdown:
Bisquick costs $3.39 for 40 oz. One serving is 1/3 cup, so this package makes 28 servings at $.12 each.

Master Mix costs $2.99 for 13 cups, or 39 servings, also at just about $.08 each. Master Mix wins the cost comparison at 25% less per serving.

The Taste Test:
I performed two taste tests this week: pancakes and apple crisp. The Bisquick pancakes were the winners; they were lighter and fluffier, and the Master Mix has a very slight, mildly bitter flavor from the inclusion of whole wheat flour. Once butter and syrup were added, it wasn’t noticeable. I liked them, but Peanut and Mr. Penny preferred the Bisquick ones.

The apple crisp had no noticeable difference. Both were delicious and browned nicely.

On taste, Bisquick wins on the pancakes, but only narrowly.

The Time Factor:
The initial mixing took under fifteen minutes. After that, it takes no more time to use Master Mix than to use Bisquik.  

Other Considerations:
I used King Arthur’s White Whole Wheat flour, so my mix is more nutritious than the white flour Bisquick. That also makes it more expensive than if I’d used white flour bought on sale. It doesn’t have a whole wheat flavor like regular whole wheat and has a slightly higher protein content than white wheat. I bought it on sale for $3.99 for a 5 lb. bag before Thanksgiving.

I also used lard instead of shortening as the lesser of two evils. Bisquick uses partially hydrogenated fats, which I try to avoid, and the quantity is higher in the recipe, creating a higher fat mix overall. Neither is an ideal ingredient, but the recipe doesn’t work without it.

Scratch vs. Storebought winner:
If you were able to get Bisquick on sale with a coupon, that may be a better value. It’s also worth noting that shortening would increase the cost of the master mix, making the cost difference negligible. Still, I preferred the flavor of the Master Mix, and with the lower price, minimal time invested, and inclusion of whole wheat flour, it’s a winner for me.

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Putting away $6,000 is a lofty goal for me. I’ve never been able to save that much, and it will take diligence and creativity to stretch each quarter as far as it will stretch and bring in extras to supplement the savings. I’ll be testing as many ideas for finding and earning extra money as I can, and documenting it along the way.  Here are a few of the ways I’m planning on saving, and what you can expect to find on the blog:

Scratch vs. Store Bought

In this weekly article, I’ll be determining whether it is more cost effective to make from scratch such items as condiments and convenience foods, household cleaners, and bath and beauty products, testing recipes and reporting the results.

Dialing for Dollars

Our service providers will be receiving a phone call to reduce rates for regular expenses, like auto insurance, phone service, and even the water company. I’ll post the outcomes of my negotiations, hopefully finding significant savings!

Menu Planning

Wasted food wastes money, and having a plan is the most effective way I have found to reduce food waste. I’ll be posting my low-cost menu plans each week.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Use it up, wear it out, make do, do without

Finding creative uses to keep things out of the landfill, keeping spending on new products mindful and to a minimum, and keeping our things in good working order will certainly keep money in our pockets. As I try new ways to use items up and do without, I’ll be sharing them with you.

No-Spend Days

Clearly eliminating all spending for a set period of time will save me money, but it may also help me to redefine and focus in on needs vs. wants, hopefully helping me to spend more mindfully when I do shop. My goal to start is 7 No-Spend Days each month.

Money Making from home

I’ll be exploring a number of options for making money at home, with a more detailed list of ideas tomorrow. Your suggestions for legitimate, legal ways to make money from home without upfront costs are welcome!

You’ll also find a monthly wrap-up to see what’s working and how well I’m doing at reaching my goal, tips for frugal home making, crafty goodness, and inexpensive activities, projects and products for the family.

Sound interesting? Subscribe now and don’t miss a thing, and post your comments with ideas, questions, or encouragement!

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