A pumpkin muffin and a zucchini muffin, ready for breakfast.
T ran into the house, barely making the turn into the kitchen.
What do you need?, I asked. Larabars, he answered.
Oh yeah, they wanted to take a snack with them to the trail clean up day. I should have taken care of that for them before they left.
Let me grab muffins for you; they'll have to be zucchini as that's the first bag I see.
And he was out the door, six muffins in hand, barely pausing to say Thank You! (but he did).
The lowest price I can get a Larabar for is $1; homemade Larabars have not been well-received. Now, there is a time and place for Larabars, but needing a quick snack isn't it.
I bake muffins two dozen at a time. I used to not use baking cup liners, but then I watched a baking class online and the instructor mentioned that baking cups help keep baked goods fresh longer. I tried using them and had good results, so now I use liners every time I bake muffins, unless I am dumping them out and serving them immediately. (I buy the If You Care large baking cups because they are FSC certified and also unbleached/chlorine free.)
I also wrap muffins in BPA free plastic wrap (Stretch Tite is my favorite brand) after I have frozen them. A baking cup costs me 2¢ and the plastic wrap costs 1¢, so these measures add 3¢ to the cost of a muffin, but I think it is well worth it as the muffins stay fresh in the freezer and are as handy to grab as a Larabar.
(I don't love that I use plastic, but I figure that the small amount I use is less than the packaging on prepared snacks from the store. I use BPA free plastic and never wrap or store hot foods.)
A baked at home and wrapped by me muffin costs between 15¢ and 35¢ depending on the produce I use. Dirt cheap or free zucchini yields lower priced muffins that using canned sweet potatoes or pumpkin, but I do use those at times. A Larabar, as I mentioned, is $1 if purchased in bulk using Amazon Mom and Subscribe and Save. I use the Larabar as an example as that is the healthy snack that Papa defaults to when they need something quick.
My guys took six muffins. They cost me 20¢ each to make and wrap, so that's $1.20 versus $6 in Larabars, saving $4.80.
I bake a lot of banana muffins; they are a great way to use spotty bananas (although smoothies are great for that too) and they taste delicious. I can't help but see muffins as a way to add a little extra nutrition to my family's diet, and I like to vary the produce (eating a wide variety of produce is one of the best ways to ensure getting all your vitamins and minerals without resorting to synthetic vitamins). I use whole grain flours, unrefined sugar (half of what is called for in the original recipe), and ground flax in my muffins, so they start with a healthy base that includes protein, fiber, manganese, selenium, B vitamins, iron (from the unrefined sugar), and omega 3 oils.
But there is a world of muffins out there besides banana. The boys are particularly fond of sweet potato or pumpkin muffins (lots of beta carotene), and I've managed to substitute in pureed (cooked) carrot without any fuss. J doesn't love zucchini muffins with pieces in them, but likes them fine if I puree the zucchini with the wet ingredients.
I make applesauce muffins (from homemade or jarred applesauce) and pear muffins (so good with ginger in them). For pear muffins I usually use canned pears, preferably organic. (I dream of having a pear tree so I can make and can my own pear sauce.) I make mango muffins by pureeing defrosted mango chunks.
I found that blueberry muffins didn't go over well with anyone but Papa until I tried pureeing the blueberries. One little secret when making a muffin with pureed blueberries is that you can get away with adding a little steamed spinach and no one notices :)
Combinations work as well: mango-blueberry, zucchini-pumpkin, sweet potato-pear, pear-banana, etc.
Because of my family's tastes (well, except for Papa) I keep my muffins simple and don't add nuts or dried fruits, which also saves money. I don't add chocolate chips, either, as they are expensive and don't add much other than sugar (despite how healthy the media touts chocolate as being).
I like my freezer to have lots of muffins in it! We grab them for on-the-go snacks, impromptu picnics, quick breakfasts, and more. They are my own little homemade convenience food!