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Friday, August 14, 2009
Due to an erratic schedule this week (house hunting kinda throws one's routines off), I didn't find time to track down a lunch deal this week. So instead, I've decided to quantify the frugality of the choice Dan & I have made for keeping our breakfasts ultra-cheap.
Each week, we bake up a batch of 1 dozen large fruit muffins, which we eat throughout the week for breakfast. I've never added up the cost of a muffin, but thought it would be interesting to discover how much we're actually spending. I used prices I found on Amazon Fresh for the various ingredients, which will of course vary based on all sorts of factors, but probably not by a lot.
3 cups of flour ($0.57)
1/2 cup brown sugar ($0.60)
1 tspn salt ($0.01)
1 tbspn baking powder ($0.10)
1 tbspn flax powder ($0.02)
1/2 cup honey ($1.82)
2 eggs ($0.46)
1 cup milk ($0.13)
1 stick butter ($0.83)
2 cups fruit ($0-5, depending on season and fruit choice)
So if you do what I do and pick blackberries from overgrown lots, canes coming over your fence from the neighbor's yard, or from along the road, you can easily get a couple cups of berries for free - putting the cost per muffin at just $0.38.
If you go for organic berries during an off season, you might pay upwards of $5 for around 2 cups - making your cost per muffin skyrocket to a whopping $0.80 (is my sarcasm coming through okay?)
Berries tend to be pricier (except the free ones), whereas a couple apples, peaches, bananas, or other larger fruit will be cheaper and is all you need to get a good 2 cups. And of course, you can mix and match to create apple-huckleberry muffins, or black & blueberry muffins, or apple-plum muffins. And frozen fruits and berries are often even cheaper. Another trick is to always buy extra fruit when it's in season in your area, and toss it in the freezer. Then you can have delicious muffins throughout the winter, with flavors that remind you of summertime - without paying the costs (both economic and ecological) of buying imported fruits from the Southern Hemisphere.
Besides the flexibility to change out the fruits and berries used, you can also replace up to half the all purpose flour with whole wheat flour. You can also use 1/2 cup of granulated sugar, maple syrup, or molasses in place of the honey - each of which lends different flavors to the muffins. The flax powder can be replaced with an extra egg, if preferred. You can sprinkle some oats or even granola on top of the muffins, to add a little texture and fiber.
And you can press chunks of fruit or berries into the center of the muffins, after distributing the batter, to get a little fruit burst in the center of the muffin.
We've made everything from decidedly un-local coconut-poi muffins to rhubarb-raspberry muffins made from fruit bought at our local farmers market. We made poha berry muffins while in Hawaii, and recently made 4-berry muffins using blackberries & raspberries from our yard, and blueberries & huckleberries from my Mom's garden. We've used bananas, passion fruit juice, peaches, apricots, pluots, plums, apples, chocolate chips, strawberries, cranberries, and even tossed in macadamia nuts or walnuts once in awhile.
The recipe below makes 12 large muffins - perfect for breakfast. But you can stretch it to 2 dozen if you make smaller muffins (and cook them a little less time). And you can stretch it even farther if you make mini-muffins, which should bake for just 10 minutes instead of the full 20.
3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 Tbspn baking powder
1 tspn Flax Seed Powder/Meal
1 tspn salt
1 cup milk
1 stick of butter, melted
1/2 cup honey
2 cups chopped fruit or berries
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Mix flour, brown sugar, baking powder, flax powder, and salt in a large bowl and stir until well blended. Gently beat milk and eggs together in a medium bowl. Combine melted butter and honey, then pour into milk/egg mixture, whisking constantly. Fold wet mixture into dry mixture just until almost all dry mixture has become moistened, being careful not to over mix. Fold in fruit very lightly, just until the dry and wet mixtures blend and the fruit is distributed. Spoon or ladle into a well-greased muffin tin (each will be filled to the top. Bake for 20 minutes. Makes one dozen large muffins.
(If using a drier fruit, such as apples, you might also want to add up to 1/4 cup of water to the batter.)
(Frugal Fridays is a weekly series dedicated to (normallY) finding Seattle lunch spots where you can walk in with a $5 bill and walk out with a fulfilling, preferably healthy, lunch. If you have suggestions of places in the Seattle area with a great lunch for under $5 after tax, post a comment - I'd love the help.)