Thursday, January 1, 2009

Baking on a Budget

The challenging economy means many of us are shopping a little less, saving a little more, and stretching every dollar. But that doesn't mean we're giving up on dessert! On the contrary, home baking is an excellent way to save money while satisfying your family's love of sweet, wholesome treats. And using real raw ingredients like C&H Sugar—in all seven varieties—is far more cost-effective than relying on packaged and processed foods.

Here are some of our favorite strategies for savvy baking that won't break your household budget.

Buy in Bulk

When you can, shop the bulk-foods aisle of your grocery store for ingredients like cocoa powder, rolled oats, flaked coconut, nuts, and spices. Bulk prices are usually lower per pound than their packaged counterparts, and because you can buy exactly as much as you need you'll waste less. That's especially useful with nuts, whose oil content can turn rancid, and with spices such as cinnamon, which lose their potency in storage. The best bulk-foods departments have high turnover, which means the staples are always fresh.

Chocolate Oatmeal Pie

Chocolate Oatmeal Pie is an unusual, delectable confection that's made from several bulk-foods staples: quick-cooking oats, flaked coconut, and chocolate chips. (Yes, you can buy chocolate or carob chips from bins!) A little cocoa powder—just two tablespoons—goes a long way toward giving Cocoa Apple Cake its deep chocolate flavor; you can pick up walnuts, cinnamon, and baking soda in the bulk-foods aisle, too. And On-the-Go Granola (with oats, bran, wheat germ, cinnamon, and nuts or sunflower seeds from bulk bins) isn't just a nutritious breakfast: you can also use it to make Granola Carrot Bread, a delicious and thrifty dessert or snack.

Reinventing Leftovers

Banana Nut Bread

They're not just what's for dinner: leftovers can also be a baker's best friends! Use bananas too ripe for slicing in our classic Banana Nut Bread or tasty Banana-Raisin Bran Muffins. (See Quick Tip about bananas, below.) Leftover cooked rice enjoys a second life as Scotch Rice Pudding or Carmelo Rice. (Just skip the rice-cooking step in the recipes.) And even mashed potatoes can be transformed into dessert: in this Potato Fudge recipe, they contribute moisture and shelf life.

Shop Your Pantry

Brown Sugar Peanut Butter Cake

No need to spend time, gasoline, and money chasing down specialty ingredients—you probably already have all the fixings for delicious baked goods in your cupboards or refrigerator. Got a jar of peanut butter and some C&H Pure Cane Golden Brown Sugar? Then you can bake this delicious Brown Sugar Peanut Butter Cake (which also uses oats and chocolate chips from your bulk-ingredients shopping trip). Unbelievable Peanut Butter Cookies don't even require flour (and they're unbelievably good!). And a can of crushed pineapple and a few raw carrots are quickly transformed into a dinner-party-worthy Carrot Pineapple Cake.

Save Your Energy

Nutty Chocolate Brownies

While you're watching your baking budget, don't forget your energy bill. If you need only a small batch of Brown Sugar Refrigerator Cookies, slice off as many as you'd like and bake in your toaster-oven—a more energy-efficient method than heating your regular oven.

On the other hand, sometimes it's more efficient to bake several batches at once. (You can freeze the excess for later.) With a few additions, our C&H All-Cookie Mix yields as many as 12 dozen cookies, from Nutty Chocolate Brownies to Orange Bread.

Shop Seasonally

Save money by using seasonal fruits and vegetables in your baking. During the fall and winter months, when apples are plentiful, make quick, easy, and economical Apple Crumble or the sweet and spicy Homey Apple Cake. And don't forget the non-dessert courses: Wonderful Red Cabbage, Orange Candied Sweet Potatoes, and Lemon Glazed Carrots add sweet interest to thrifty and healthful vegetables.

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