I debated whether to call this a splurge or not, since granola bars are technically a snack and not a meal. However, we’ve certainly used them as both before in the past, depending on how the week’s budget is shaping up, and I can say they do make a decent grab-and-go lunch when paired with some fruit, so I’m leaving them as is. When B. and I first moved in together he was quite fond of buying Nature Valley granola bars for lunch, but despite some serious comparison shopping, the cheapest we could find them—on sale, at Costco, anywhere—was 50 cents each. Obviously that could not do, so I set out to start making crunchy granola bars from scratch. Even though the Nature Valley ones come two to a package, they’re thinner and smaller than these bars, and markedly less filling. I’ve never felt sated for hours by the Nature Valley bars, but I have by these, which are loaded with fruit, nuts, wheat germ for protein, and mostly honey as a sweetener. Make up a batch and keep them in your fridge for emergencies (that way they stay crisp).
I’ve been making these for so long I can’t for the life of me remember where the original recipe came from, so apologies for the lack of credit. As below they make anywhere from 12 to 16 bars, depending on how you cut them. I like to individually wrap them in plastic wrap immediately after cutting so they stay fresh; they soften if you leave them out at room temperature, but we both prefer them out of the fridge, where they stay fresh and crunchy for weeks.
Another note: Unless you have access to a really great store with bulk bins (e.g., Winco, or a cheap co-op) or already have a pantry full of these ingredients, they’re probably going to be more than 50 cents each. They’re still way healthier and heartier than processed granola bars, but it’s up to you whether it would be worth it in terms of price.
• 2 cups old-fashioned oats: 8 cents
• 1 cup sliced almonds: 60 cents
• 1/2 cup wheat germ (optional, but it adds more protein, which makes the bars more filling; look for it in the bulk bin): 30 cents
• 3 T unsalted butter: 18 cents
• 1/4 tsp kosher salt: 1 cent
• 2/3 cup honey: $1
• 1/4 cup brown sugar: 6 cents
• 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract: 10 cents
• 1 1/2 cups chopped dried fruit of your choice (this time I used cranberries, golden raisins, and dates, because it’s what I had, but I usually use whatever’s on special at the Winco bulk bins): $1.20
TOTAL: $3.53/12 = 30 cents each
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 9×13 Pyrex with parchment paper.
Spread the oats and nuts on a cookie sheet.
Bake for 6 minutes. Stir well, add the wheat germ, and bake for another 6 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove to a large bowl. Add the chopped fruit.
Meanwhile, combine the butter, sugar, honey, vanilla, and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
Once very foamy, pour over the oat-fruit mixture and stir well.
Pour the mixture into the parchment-lined Pyrex and press down with wet hands to evenly compress into as even a rectangle as you can. Make sure the sides are just as thick as the middle.
Reduce oven to 300 F.
Bake granola for 25-30 minutes, until light brown. Cool for at least 2-3 hours before cutting.
To cut, remove from the Pyrex and transfer to a large cutting board.
Cut as evenly as possible into bars of desired size. (They will be crunchy, so pieces may break off. Eat the evidence, and no one will notice but you.)
Wrap in plastic wrap and store in the fridge. (Or outside the fridge, if you don’t like them too crunchy.)