I eat a lot of cereal bars. A LOT. When I need a snack or a top up from breakfast nothing else quite hits the spot. It’s probably an addiction and I could probably train myself to just want a handful of nuts but for now, I just want a better but still low cost option to replace the Nice and Natural bars I keep buying from the supermarket on special.
The best muesli bar I have ever tasted was Carman’s Classic Fruit Muesli Bar. I tried most of the varieties when they were half price at Coles for a time and the classic bar was the best. But that Carman lady doesn’t price her stuff cheap, she knows how good it is and the ingredients are all real things you could use to make you own, not hydrogenated this and soy that, which would no doubt add to the price.
So – is it possible to make a bar at home that is as tasty as Carmen’s or even just more satisfying than the Nice and Natural range, and make it for the price of the Nice and Natural range ($1.04 / 100g on half price special) or less?
I have tried previously to make cereal bars but found that they fell apart when I tried to eat them so ended up with rather nice toasted breakfast cereal. The only time I managed to get them to stick together was when I added a shit load of honey and syrup, but then they were too sweet for my taste.
Then my friend offered up her recipe and swore it would work:
1 cup oats (rolled or quick oats)
1 cup pumpkin and/ or sunflower seeds/ chopped nuts/ chia seed
1 cup dates (or other dried fruit, but dates are nice and sticky which helps the bars to stay together)
1 heaped tablespoon honey
1 heaped tablespoon coconut oil
The method is too easy. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line a deep sided baking or cake pan (approx. 20x20cm or equivalent area) with baking paper but leave a bit sticking out the sides to enable you to lift the bars out later.
In a small pan or in the microwave, heat the honey and oil so that they become a thin liquid. Chop the dates as finely as you can or use a processor if you have one. Mix the dry ingredients and then add the honey & oil, mix again, and then press the mixture into the pan.
Use the base of a drinking glass and another bit of baking paper to really press the mixture together – you want to really squash it down. This is really important if you want to make bars not toasted breakfast cereal!
Pop the pan in the oven for about 20-25 minutes or until the oats have browned a little. Remove from the oven and set the pan aside on a wire rack to cool totally. If you put the pan in the fridge for an hour or two once it’s cooled it will set harder.
Lift the lining paper out and place the solid square of oaty goodness on a chopping board. Using a large sharp knife or cleaver, chop the mega-bar into the size bars you’d like. You should get about 10 bars that are 10cm long by 4cm wide.
To be honest, you’ll still get crumbly bits on some edges (see my latest batch below – I was rushed!) and a couple of the bars might break sometimes, but if it happens often, add more honey or try adding a spoon of brown sugar. You can fiddle with the amounts of oil and honey to your taste or try butter instead of coconut oil but be aware that it could alter the stick-together-ness. Cinnamon is a great addition for flavour.
I calculated the cost of ingredients using the Coles online store prices for the cheapest per unit brand available, but you can get all of these things on special if you prefer another more expensive brand. I recently got coconut oil for 40% off and I think my big bag of oats was also on special.
Total cost of ingredients: $4.59
Total weight of finished bars: 415g
Total cost per 100g of finished bars: $1.10
Well, that’s just as good as the cheapie supermarket brands! But I also like to put a value to my time as well, since I am self employed and in theory I could be earning money when I’m not cooking. Time to make them: 20 mins at $25/ hour = $8.33
Total cost per 100g including my time: $3.11
Ok that’s 150% the price of the Carman’s brand. But, buying muesli bars in the supermarket doesn’t fill your house with the smell of baking, which is priceless… And knowing exactly what you’re eating is pretty priceless too. And hey, you can always ignore the cost of your time.
Muesli bars – buy ‘em or make ‘em?
MAKE ‘EM! Homemade bars are so yummy you’d be mad not to.
So the only thing to figure out now is how to safely transport the home-made muesli bar so it is convenient to have on the go. I generally put one or two in a plastic takeaway box or in a ziploc bag, but the box is not great as I don’t want to pick the bar up with my hands (I work with animals and I’m always dirty), and the ziploc bag ends up getting thrown away after a couple of uses. I guess I could take the bar in a box along with a tiny pair of tongs or chopsticks! If you have any great ideas I’d love to hear them.
Happy grocery hacking!