Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Granola and the edge of solvency

When job loss forced me to move from running a household on an outsized salary to running it on an unemployment check, I immediately panicked.  We were living in one of the most expensive states in the country.  No one lived in New Jersey's mid-town direct suburbs on $450 a week.

But there we were.  There was no choice but to try to make it work until an employment opportunity presented itself.

So we immediately rid ourselves of our biggest money hog, the house.  Then I turned my attention to small, every day costs that quickly aggregate.  I figured I'd try to reduce costs everywhere, hoping the end result would save us a sizable sum.

Teetering on the edge of solvency, I arranged clothing swaps.  I traded department stores for Target and Wal-Mart.  I became the landscaper, the car washer, the barista, the babysitter, and the (sometimes) maid.

And I became the resident chef.

In the past, I'd take a day off from cooking now and then.  I'd bring a meal home from Whole Foods or we'd go out to eat on the weekends.  This was a luxury I decided we could now ill afford, so I donned the chef's hat and found myself the sole cook: local restaurants, General Mills, and Kraft would no longer aid me in my efforts to feed the family.

This was a time consuming decision, but I took consolation in the belief that this move would not only save money, but it was healthier.

I love healthy, and I love low cost.  Who doesn't?  And, truthfully, becoming resident chef hasn't been as painful as I thought it might be.  To prove my point, I thought I'd share a recipe for one of my favorite money saving snacks: granola.  Granola costs pennies to make and dollars to buy, making it a deeply satisfying treat to create.  It's easy, fun to make with kids, and fills the whole house with a smell that says love is in the air, life is good, and the kids will stop fighting.

Here's my recipe, which I made up with my son.  The good news?  Just about anything goes when it comes to making granola.  Mix it up and add the ingredients you love.

Homemade granola:

Pre-heat oven to 250°F

In a large mixing bowl combine:  

  •  3 cups oats
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon Chia seeds
  • 1 tablespoon wheat germ

Spread on two baking sheets and placed in the oven. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and return to mixing bowl.  Stir in one cup of raisins.  Top on your favorite yogurt or eat it solo.  

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