The Cost of Convenience

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You know the situation in places like amusement parks, stadiums, and airports. When you're trapped in one place and thus charged outrageous prices for simple things.

While the most common offerings in such places are chips and sodas, I’ve been pleased to note that many places now seem to offer more healthful foods and snacks such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, and dried fruits. But do they come at a premium?

Recently I was at an airport and was surprised to see an oatmeal product in a refrigerated case. I was curious and checked it out. The package described it as all natural, cold-soaked, ready-to-eat, dairy-free oats. The ingredients label said it contained almond mylk (yes, that was how they spelled it), oats, date (maybe only one, it wasn’t plural), vanilla extract, and sea salt. Another variety had almond mylk, apple, oats, dried cranberries, cinnamon, and sea salt.

Not really a new food or recipe—I’ve always called it muesli and many call it overnight oatmeal. It’s similar to granola but less crunchy. I had never seen it pre-made and packaged before.

This four-ounce tub was priced at what I considered an outrageous $5.

You can do it yourself at home for much less.

To get started: use a one-to-one ratio of raw oats to your liquid. On Amazon Pantry, 18 ounces of old fashioned oatmeal costs $2.38 (that's 13 half-cup servings of dry oatmeal). So, to make about 4-ounces of overnight oatmeal you only need about 1/4 cup of dry oatmeal—that’s about 10 cents worth.

Your own muesli can be made with whatever added ingredients you like. Popular additions are fresh fruit like apples, bananas, or berries. Dried fruits like raisins, dried cranberries, or dates are great too. Add nuts for extra nutrients and crunch. Sweeteners or spices can be added, too. Traditionally, overnight oatmeal is made with milk but you can use any liquid you prefer— an almond or nut beverage or a fruit juice or yogurt are all great options. Variations are endless.

Here's another rule of thumb: allow at least eight hours for the oats to absorb all the liquid. You can adjust the time to get the texture you like. The only food safety caution to use when making muesli or overnight oatmeal is that it should be put in the refrigerator for the overnight soak and kept refrigerated until you’re ready to eat it.

The one problem I see is getting your homemade oatmeal through airport security— you’ll just have to eat it at home.

By Cheryl Jones Syracuse, MS

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