Usually I do the grocery shopping by myself. I have a routine and go every Sunday. But recently Marge decided to come along. And as I often do, I bought a box of granola bars. I always like to have a box of these in my desk at work for a snack. I know it’s not the healthiest, but I’m not big into other, healthier shelf stable snacks like plain nuts, and boxes of granola bars are so easy.

But Marge said, “Those can’t be good. You should try making them yourself.” And suddenly I had a revelation. I should try to make them myself! Why hadn’t I thought of that? I’ve probably eaten hundreds of granola bars of spurious nutrition over the years. It was such a routine buying them that I had never thought of it.

So I googled for homemade granola bars and went with literally the first result: The 5 Ingredient Granola Bar from Minimalist Baker. I made it once, and they were good, but I came up with some changes to make them much cheaper, and (almost) just as healthy.

Recipe

  • 1 13 oz. package of baking dates
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup unsalted almonds, chopped
  • 3 1/2 cups of quick oats
  1. Toast your oats and almonds in a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes.
  2. Put oats, almonds, and dates in mixing bowl. Break up the dates.
  3. Put peanut butter and maple syrup in a small pot over low heat, and mix until combined in a mapley peanutty sauce.
  4. Pour maple and peanut butter sauce over the oats, almonds, and dates and mix together. You’re allowed to use your hands from here on out because the mixture gets dense.
  5. Line a small baking dish with parchment paper and transfer the mix into it.
  6. Press until the mix fills out the whole dish. Using the bottom of a glass, wet with water, helps to flatten it.
  7. Put in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  8. Cut into your favorite granola bar size. Store in the fridge for safe keeping, but I’ve found they will keep outside the fridge for 4 or 5 days if you don’t like eating cold granola bars.

I have to say, this recipe won me over. These bars were dense, tasted good, seemed healthy, and definitely filled me up in a way that store-bought bars don’t. But the real question is, “Is it worth the work?” Is it really cheaper than buying a box?

I used to think granola bars were one of those things were super cheap because of economies of scale. Like, they make so many of them and they seem so cheap, surely these businesses must not be making much money on them. Now I’m not so sure.

Cost

Ingredient Cost Size of Package Amount Used Cost Per Recipe
 Baking dates  $1.39  13 oz.  All $1.39
 Maple syrup  $16.99 32 oz  2.6 oz $1.38
 Peanut butter  $5.65 4 lb 1/2 cup  $0.35
 Unsalted almonds  $4.39 10 oz. 5 oz.  $2.20
 Quick oats  $2.99 42 oz 3.5 cups  $0.80
Total $5.32
Servings  12
Cost Per Serving $0.44

The main difference between my recipe and the original is that Minimalist Baker used snacking dates and processed them into a pulp. Little do they know, apparently, that snacking dates cost four times more than baking dates! ($2.79 for 8 oz.) Plus you have to do the extra work of processing them!  Baking dates are already in a paste ready to use. They are available in our grocer’s international aisle and are one of those items I’ve always walked by without thinking twice about.

In reality, actually our maple syrup was free since Marge’s grandparents give us maple syrup when we visit. They have a connect in the maple syrup world. But if we had to purchase maple syrup, we would buy only the best, the real stuff. In large quantities to bring down the price per ounce.

The other changes I made to the original recipe was to double it, half the amount of almonds, increase the oats a little bit, and cut the maple syrup a little. These are sweet bars. We also experimented with using sriracha-spiced almonds and those added a nice different flavor dimension.

But anyway… forty-four cents per bar! (It comes out to 33 cents per bar with free maple syrup!) And not only that, but these bars are calorie dense in a way that store-bought bars can only dream of. Truly, these bars are more like a meal replacement than a snack. Check this out…

 

Calorie Count

Dates 1,170
Oats 1,190
Maple Syrup 420
Peanut Butter 759
Almonds 822
Total Calories 4,361
Calories Per Bar – 12 Bars 393

That’s almost 400 calories per bar. More store-bought bars are around 150 calories. Other nutritional fun facts:

  • 6.4 grams of fiber per bar (32% of Daily Value)
  • 9 grams of protein per bar (9% of Daily Value)
  • 28 grams of sugar per bar

I guess you can see the one drawback nutritionally. That is a lot of sugar! At least it’s coming from natural sources (the maple syrup, but mostly the dates) and not a nutritionally bankrupt source like corn syrup.

By making these in bulk and using them as a meal replacement, I almost feel like I’m making my own Soylent. I can see the same people who drink Soylent keeping big stashes of bars like these and trying to life off of them.

Have any DIY revelations lately? Have a favorite granola recipe you’d like to share?

Link to Cost Per Serving Series

* The stated deliciousness of each recipe is solely the opinion of the author. Cost is objective, but your tastes may vary.