New packaging, old lesson: Save bucks with some DIY in the kitchen

Quaker Overnight Oats and muesli

Quaker’s new Overnight Oats are the same thing as muesli. I’m sure Quaker’s tastes good, but I’d rather pocket the $1.99 and mix up the oatmeal myself. Photo by Laura Groch

My grocery store gives customers free samples of new products weekly. Two of them prompted me to write today.

They come from two companies whose other products I have used for years and know and love. One is Quaker Oats — which produces a most wholesome and economical breakfast food and baking ingredient. The other is Kraft, well known for its tasty cheeses and other foods.
Yet I can’t vote for either of their two new products.

Quaker Overnight Oats

Quaker Overnight Oats retail for about $1.99. Photo by Laura Groch

The new offerings are supposed to save time for people rushing around in the morning, or rushing to pack school lunches and snacks. Yet they’re items you can easily do for yourself with a small investment and very little effort. Not to mention saving a bundle on unnecessary packaging.

Quaker Oats has come out with Quaker Overnight Oats, a “chilled oat cereal with quinoa and flaxseed.” A plastic cup holds 2.57 ounces of whole grain rolled oats, dried sweetened peaches (sugar, rice flour, citric acid), sugar, pecans, quinoa, flaxseed, salt, malic acid, citric acid and natural flavor. That’s 17 grams of sugar total, by the way. Prepared with milk, the sugar count goes to 23 grams. Suggested retail price is $1.99 per container.
That’s not what bugs me, really. It’s the whole idea and packaging. This stuff used to be called “muesli.” You soak your dried oatmeal and maybe some raisins or dried cranberries or other fruit in milk overnight in a lidded container, and it all softens up. In the morning, add some cinnamon, chopped nuts, a spoonful of brown sugar, and off you go to work or school. (My husband does this several days a week, although he warms his oatmeal in the office microwave once he gets to work.)
Cost is minimal once you have invested in a box or bulk bag of oats (at 99 cents a pound) and some dried fruits or nuts. It doesn’t take much time to put together, either — maybe 6 minutes?
To their credit, Quaker also has recipes for do-it-yourself versions on its website, www.quakeroats.com, for making your own “overnight oatmeal.” That might encourage people to reuse their containers. I guess you could reuse the Quaker Overnight Oats container too, but they probably haven’t developed four different flavors of cereal for nothing. You’ll want to collect the whole set!
Kraft Snack Trios

Kraft is selling Snack Trios for $1.99 per 1.5 ounce snack package. That’s about 3-4 tablespoons of food. Photo by Laura Groch

As for the Kraft product, it’s a snack pack called “Snack Trios” — a three-chambered plastic container that holds three different tidbits. The one I have has “colby jack cheese, dark chocolate chunks, banana chips.”

Sounds OK so far, yes? Except that the amount of food is about 1 tablespoon per each kind of tidbit. Total weight, 1.5 ounces, suggested retail price of $1.99.
And this packaging is definitely NOT reusable.
Kraft offers four versions on the cheese/chocolate/dried fruit theme. But you could put this together yourself for much less per serving. Heck, you’d save money even if you splurged on pre-cubed cheese instead of slicing it yourself. Time spent to put it together? About six seconds, I think.
Kraft Snack Trios opened

Kraft Snack Trios contain about 1.5 ounces of food (banana chips, chocolate and colby cheese, in this example) for $1.99. Photo by Laura Groch

And using (and reusing) a small container or plastic baggie would prevent batches of these Trios packages from piling up in the landfill. (The plastic containers are not recyclable. I admit the tidbits were tasty, though.)

applesauce snack cup

Applesauce in a reusable cup is also an alternative to those, well, applesauce cups that retail for twice the price of a jar of applesauce. Come on, people! Photo by Laura Groch

Parents, as your children start a new school year, I think you’ve got a teaching moment here. (Grownups, too, can benefit from a little DIY reminder.)

Sit them down and have them pencil out the cost of buying two or three of these items each week for a school year; then compare that with the cost of buying snacks and/or cereal fittings in bulk to cover daily breakfasts or lunches. (Extra credit: Rough out the cost of adding more petroleum-based containers to your local landfills.)
You can illustrate to the youngsters the value of learning to comparison-shop, and how it pays to be penny-wise. (Maybe you can reward them with the difference in prices as a boost to their allowances that drives home the point.)
Math, economics, plain common sense. Now that’s a trio I can happily endorse.
(c) copyright 2017 Laura Groch
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