Make or Buy? Granola Bars

Granola bars are quite possibly the perfect snack. Compact, portable, satisfying: exactly what we need when we're stuck in traffic or off to the gym. Given the fact that entire aisles of grocery stores are dedicated to this snack food, is it even worth making granola bars yourself?For purposes of comparison, we'll use Kashi TLC Honey Toasted 7-Grain Crunchy Granola Bars (henceforth referred to as Kashi Granola Bars. Because, goodness, that's a mouthful). And for the homemade recipe, let's use our own recipe for Crunchy Granola Bars. All costs were taken from Peapod Online Grocery unless otherwise noted.

Kashi TLC Honey Toasted 7-Grain Crunchy Granola Bars from Kashi
Recipe: Crunchy Granola Bars, makes about 12 bars
Peapod Online Grocery

COST BREAKDOWN:

Kashi Granola Bars:
TOTAL: $3.50
PER BAR: $0.58

Homemade Crunchy Granola Bars

3 1/2 tbsp. soy butter (or almond or peanut butter): $0.70
3 tbsp. honey: $0.45
3 1/2 tbsp. brown rice syrup (Sourced from Amazon.com): $0.55
big splash of vanilla: $0.55
1 tbsp. brown sugar: $0.05
1 1/2 cups puffed wheat/rice/kamut: $0.35
1/2 cup bran buds/Grape-Nuts cereal: $0.33
1 1/2 cups rolled oats: $0.94
1/3 cup dried cranberries: $0.83
1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds (Sourced from Amazon.com): $0.72
1/3 cup salted sunflower seeds (or a mixture with raw): $0.30

TOTAL: $5.77
PER BAR: $0.48

TIME BREAKDOWN

Kashi Granola Bars: 0 Minutes
Homemade Crunchy Granola Bars: Total Time - 40 Minutes; Active Time: about 15 Minutes

CONVENIENCE

The biggest thing here seems to be gathering all the ingredients together. Once you have all of them stocked in your pantry, a batch of granola bars is easy peasy. Plus most of these items can be bought in bulk or in large containers, which will cut the cost down even more and ensure a ready supply for several weeks.

True, you do have to plan ahead a little. You can't make a batch of granola bars for your afternoon snack if you're running out the door in five minutes. But once the bars are made, they become just as easy to grab-and-go as store-bought bars.

TASTINESS AND HEALTHFULNESS

The grocery store offerings for granola bars are diverse. If you want chocolate or peanut butter or dried fruit, there are plenty of choices. Organic, gluten-free, nut-free, it's possible to find just about whatever you want these days. Heck, if you just want a candy bar disguised as health food, you can go that route, too!

The point here is that there are good options for granola bars out there. Ones that are truly healthy and taste quite good. I have a fondness for these Kashi bars, and used to have Nutrigrain Fruit and Nut bars on my weekly shopping list.

But homemade granola bars definitely have their appeal. I think it can be tricky to get the textures and the flavors just right, but committing to a little trial and error would certainly help us get the kind of bar we want. And this is becoming a common refrain in this column, but it's a huge plus to be able to control the exact ingredients going into the bar. Not only can you pick the flavors and ingredients you want, but you don't have to worry about preservatives or other odd additions to your snack food.

MAKE OR BUY?

Homemade granola bars aren't hard to make once you have all the right ingredients and they'll certainly save you money in the long term. It's hard to fight against the convenience and habit of picking up a box of bars at the store, but it really seems like it's worth trying to make our own.

VERDICT: Make

Do any of you regularly make your own granola bars?

Related: Make or Buy? Macaroni and Cheese

(Images: Kashi and Faith Durand)

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