Friday, February 04, 2011


An anonymous someone asked for the soft pretzel recipe in the comments. Here is a good one, although I have used several others, too. The key is boiling the pretzels in the baking soda water solution before baking at a high temperature. This time I left some unadorned and after baking I brushed them with melted butter and then rolled them in cinnamon sugar. Those were really good, too. They are all gone now. Some recipes call for only a hot soda water bath before baking. Don't succumb to the temptation to take this easier route. I've done it twice and they are never nearly as good.

The weather is beautiful today--30 degrees and sunny--but it is so darn icy out that I don't know if I can take the kids outdoors. Luke has been home all week with a fever--sick enough to miss school but not too sick to harass me endlessly for television and video games and cool beverages--and I'm really feeling cooped up right now. That might or might not be why all the cinnamon sugar pretzels that I baked two days ago are now gone. Ahem.

I've been thinking about the fact that some items are cheaper to make and some are cheaper to buy. That won't always be how I determine whether or not to make something from scratch, but sometimes I want to figure out the cheapest alternative. For example, I've been avoiding buying vanilla lately because it is so expensive. My friend Tracy told me that I could make it from vanilla beans and vodka, but I'm wondering how cost effective that will be. I know I can order cheap vanilla beans online, but does it turn out good if I use cheap vodka? I've been trying to figure it out with almond butter, too. I can buy almond butter for $5 per jar at Trader Joe's, but I have been thinking about making it, as I've done from time to time. After looking at almonds, I think that it is probably more cost effective (and less work) to buy it. Making bread might not be much cheaper, but it tastes really good so it is worth it. It is definitely the way to go with bagels and soft pretzels in terms of cost. What do you think? What are the things you make at home that you used to buy? Do you make them for taste, quality, savings?


Anonymous said...

Thank you thank you thank you for the pretzel recipe! I was pleasantly surprised to see that a bread machine can do the work on this. Can't wait to try it. Things we make at home that we used to buy are meals on the weekend...we used to eat out every meal on the weekend, kind of like a reward for making it through the week. But it is hard on the wallet and the hips. So now, like you, we are cooking on the weekends too, and I have to say the benefits are all three - taste, quality and savings. Because there are only so many times one can eat take-out from the same five restaurants in town before it feels more like a chore than a treat to get take-out. It's sad when your kids are more excited to smell dinner cooking at night and groan if you instead ask "what should we get to eat?" Thanks for posting!!

A question I have for folks is - does it cost about the same to raise your own eggs as it does to buy from the store?

Ser said...

Oooh, that is a great question about eggs. My friend AK Mama might be able to answer that (I need to put her link on the sidebar), and also my friend Nancy sometimes reads the blog and she raises chickens/eggs. Her blog is linked on my sidebar if she doesn't see this comment.

Oh, and on cooking on the weekends: my husband has only just started wanting to cook once per week--he used to do it at least once or twice a week before we had kids--but we are discovering that we enjoy doing it together. We have a glass of wine and unwind and it really is a fun time making a "special" meal.

AKmamaOf6 said...

I go back and forth on bread. The kids prefer store bought for sandwitches, but I prefer fresh homeade for flavor and health. I have found wheat $1.69 FredMeyer brand my lowest price that I can find per loaf and I think with the cost of white flour it's worth it to make...however the wheat berries and spelt and kamut that I sometimes use make homeade more spendy...but again healthy. What wins me at this point is what I fell or don't feel like doing or what I have on hand or not. I'm not in the baking mood lately but Lent usually helps get me kick started for a bit.

Eggs that you raise are probably more expensive, but over time it might equal out. Especially when you consider the start up costs like a coop, feeder, waterer then in the winter a heat light for really cold weather and they eat a ton more in the winter 'cause they can't find much (ours don't go out) in the winter.

We raise them to have chores for the kids and just to learn how to do it, it's a skill lost on people. Same with goats, I'm learning but it's tough, but good tough. Really good to have the kids have so many chores to do. Less time to be bored and try to play video games. Mine get 10 minutes per day only when they get ALL chores and school done. For us chickens and goats is a life style choice and it's very rewarding (but a bit more expensive).

Sorry so long, sheesh.

Mara said...

The only thing I have really stopped buying at the store and making at home is kefir (drinkable yogurt). I eat a yogurt everyday and I like it to be in those little convenient single servings. But, the waste adds up and so does the price. 1.25$ per cup?!? No way! I now buy whole organic milk (2.79/ gal on sale!) and can make that much kefir! And much less waste. I am all about it.

I want to get a kombucha mushroom start to begin making that. It's so pricey, but I love it so much.

And I know everyone else has been doing this forever, but I finally started using dried beans. Life changing. SO MUCH BETTER.

And the ONLY meal I eat out on occasion is dinner. I always make my lunches. Those have all been some money saving choices for me. Oh, and I totally stopped drinking coffee. That's been a money saver.

The bread thing? It's hard for me to do, but I sometimes make it. I end up having to put a lot in the freezer, though. I pretty much don't buy it. Not worth it. I make a lot of pizza dough, though. I have an awesome recipe, FYI.


so yung wilson said...

Mara, you've stopped drinking coffee? Have the end times begun?

Vodka for vanilla extract base: filter, filter, filter otherwise the harsh taste may come through. Although, maybe the harshness dissipates during baking? Maybe boil some and filter some. Let the boiled stuff cool and then do a taste test?

Have you heard of the Tightwad Gazette? The author has tons of suggestions and does "research" so one doesn't have to go through the expense and time.

One of her suggestions was to purchase items in bulk when they go on sale. Of course, this means a deep freeze for meats. Then you can go shopping in your home and still enjoy the sale price.

I have another friend who does the coupon thing - some site that gives you all of the deals in all of the stores for a given week. He says it really works and saves them money. Also, CSA instead of the farmers market. He said they get so much produce he's canning, etc. Really keeps their menu in season as well.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info on raising your own eggs - I see how it would be rewarding in other than pecuniary ways; it's definitely a dream of mine to raise chickens for eggs. Homegrown goat's milk sounds incredible.

Just to echo Mara's point about dried beans being life-changing - using a modern pressure-cooker (like a Fagor) transforms cooking beans and whole grains to a relatively painless experience. Brown rice, and every kind of bean or whole grain imaginable usually cook in less than 20 minutes, saving energy; and you can cook the beans with onion to gives it extra flavor without all the sodium.

PS here's an awesome award winning vegetarian chili recipe (vegan too):

Anonymous said...

Mara - How do you make your own kefir?