Author Topic: It's not worth it to make your own trail mix, just buy Trader Joe's YES, REALLY  (Read 19842 times)

Habilis

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So I was wondering if I was wasting a ton of money on Trader Joe's trail mix, a couple of people suggested I should make my own to save money. This seems obvious, why wouldn't a retailer charge a markup and if I was willing to buy ingredients in bulk and make it myself I should save some money, right?

Wrong.

Trader Joe's sells their Omega 3 Trek Mix for $5.49 for ten 1.5oz. baggies, that's $0.55 per baggie or $5.86 per lb. They sell the same mix in one big bag for $5.49 for 16 oz. It contains almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and dried cranberries.

I collected the costs for bulk nuts and cranberries from Costco, estimated the portions and added it all up. Result?

$0.52 per baggie or $5.59/lb.

My conclusion is it's not worth it to make your own unless you have access to cheaper bulk nuts than I do.

[UPDATE] I actually measured the contents of an individual baggie of trail mix and it broke down like this



25% pecans
25% cranberries
20% almonds
10% pistachios
10% walnuts
10% pumpkin seeds

I updated the calculations and making the same mix from bulk ingredients came to $.55/bag or EXACTLY the SAME as Trader Joe's.

If you use more of less expensive ingredients such as oats you can obviously lower the cost.

I also added the Trail Mix Calculator spreadsheet I used, you can use it yourself to figure out how much your trail mix really costs and play with ingredients and ratios.

Enjoy!
« Last Edit: August 01, 2014, 01:52:56 PM by Habilis »

former player

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Unless you are into serious long distance exercise and need to carry small light-weight calorie dense snacks, the mustachian option is not to eat trail mix at all, or to include it as part of normal 3 times a day meal planning.  (No, kids are no excuse.  Kids grow up healthy and happy and with good teeth not eating between meals.)

grantmeaname

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10 cents per pound to get exactly the ingredients you want in your trail mix seems worth it to me.

Rural

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More rolled oats and raisins, fewer nuts and dried cranberries.

sheepstache

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I think the point is that the OP likes trail mix and likes this particular trail mix.
« Last Edit: July 20, 2014, 08:05:46 AM by sheepstache »

Habilis

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I think the point is that the OP likes trail mix and likes this particular trail mix.

Thanks, Sheepstache, I'm always up for discussion on WHAT to eat, including ingredients or to even eat trail mix at all, but that was not my point here.

My point was that I was suprised that buying bulk ingredients conferred negligible savings over a packaged product. That doesn't happen very often.

grantmeaname

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Yeah, agreed. I might still make it myself out of do-it-myself-ness, but it seems like for most things the cost of DIY blows away the premade.

It's a good reminder to always run the numbers (just like you can't assume that everything at costco is cheaper).

cdttmm

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Glad to know that there are other people out there calculating the cost per ounce of their trail mix eating habit! I'm in the make-your-own camp, personally, but I started doing the calculation on buying pre-made until I discovered that I couldn't find a suitable pre-made option because none of them contain dark chocolate chips! That was a total deal breaker for me. Gotta have dark chocolate chips in my trail mix.

former player

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I think the point is that the OP likes trail mix and likes this particular trail mix.

True dat, and this isn't Ask a Mustachian.  Previous comment recinded.

Habilis

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Glad to know that there are other people out there calculating the cost per ounce of their trail mix eating habit! I'm in the make-your-own camp, personally, but I started doing the calculation on buying pre-made until I discovered that I couldn't find a suitable pre-made option because none of them contain dark chocolate chips! That was a total deal breaker for me. Gotta have dark chocolate chips in my trail mix.

That would be dangerous for me, I might down the bag in one sitting! Even the dried fruit is a little risky given how sweet and delicious it is.

rmendpara

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I've gotten very lazy as work has been keeping me busier. I find myself more willing to pay for pre-made (or semi prepared/ready to cook) ingredients from TJ/Whole Foods.

Strangely, the more money I spend at the grocery store, the less I eat out... though it's only slightly cheaper since I buy for only myself and don't really try to minimize much when I shop.

Bad advice for most, but I suppose as long as you are still reaching your financial/saving/investing goals, then why bother with the small things.

I do love TJ! I was turned off by all the store brands at first, but once I started trying everything I realized that I actually like most of their stuff.

Congrats on the find! Nuts and berries are not cheap.

chouchouu

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Unless you are into serious long distance exercise and need to carry small light-weight calorie dense snacks, the mustachian option is not to eat trail mix at all, or to include it as part of normal 3 times a day meal planning.  (No, kids are no excuse.  Kids grow up healthy and happy and with good teeth not eating between meals.)

I actually think kids and most adults need a snack in the afternoon around 3. We're supposed to get hungry every 3/4 hours. For a child the gap between lunch and dinner is too long without breaking it up. Smaller kids can also do with a mid morning snack. I don't know of any culture (and I've lived throughout the world) where an afternoon snack or even light meal, wasn't custom.

former player

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Unless you are into serious long distance exercise and need to carry small light-weight calorie dense snacks, the mustachian option is not to eat trail mix at all, or to include it as part of normal 3 times a day meal planning.  (No, kids are no excuse.  Kids grow up healthy and happy and with good teeth not eating between meals.)

I actually think kids and most adults need a snack in the afternoon around 3. We're supposed to get hungry every 3/4 hours. For a child the gap between lunch and dinner is too long without breaking it up. Smaller kids can also do with a mid morning snack. I don't know of any culture (and I've lived throughout the world) where an afternoon snack or even light meal, wasn't custom.
I did say on another thread that children need a meal when they get home from school, which would be their third of the day.  Children of 3 and 5 would ideally be getting about 11 hours sleep a night and the 3 year old probably a day-time nap as well, so eating much later would interfere with the sleep they should be having (children do nearly all their growing while they are asleep).  Getting the right amount of sleep means a child who is awake for 13 hours can have just three meals, no snacks , while still eating every 3/4 hours.  This idea of children needing snacks between meals is a recent first-world invention.  (I wonder whether it has arisen along with them getting less sleep.)

Apologies for the thread disrail.

hybrid

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This is another perfect example of time vs. money. When the cost savings are small or negligible, your time is almost always more valuable. Agreed with the OP, this is one of those occasions where just buying the stuff is in fact the best answer.

AlanStache

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I've gotten very lazy as work has been keeping me busier. I find myself more willing to pay for pre-made (or semi prepared/ready to cook) ingredients from TJ/Whole Foods.

Strangely, the more money I spend at the grocery store, the less I eat out... though it's only slightly cheaper since I buy for only myself and don't really try to minimize much when I shop.

Bad advice for most, but I suppose as long as you are still reaching your financial/saving/investing goals, then why bother with the small things.

I do love TJ! I was turned off by all the store brands at first, but once I started trying everything I realized that I actually like most of their stuff.

Congrats on the find! Nuts and berries are not cheap.

Have tried to make the point on other threads that we are trying to maximize our bottom line and sometimes that requires spending more to get convince foods, the idea is not always well received.  If I spend an extra 2$ to get something that requires less prep but that allows me to put an extra hour on my time sheet I have come out ahead.  Obviously there are limits to this, and I would never advocate blind extrapolation.


greenmimama

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This is great to know, if you are short on time, or on a trip and you need to replenish your snacks, you can pop into TJs and know you are not getting ripped off.

My mom makes a delicious homemade granola, not really a trail mix, but I love it so much, I need to make some because all my boys love it on their yogurt.

TurtleMarkets

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I agree. I did similar calculations. I take it hiking.

Annamal

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We made falafel and humus yesterday but we've worked out that it's much cheaper (in terms of both money and time) to buy a small amount of really good quality tzatziki to go along with it

chouchouu

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Unless you are into serious long distance exercise and need to carry small light-weight calorie dense snacks, the mustachian option is not to eat trail mix at all, or to include it as part of normal 3 times a day meal planning.  (No, kids are no excuse.  Kids grow up healthy and happy and with good teeth not eating between meals.)

I actually think kids and most adults need a snack in the afternoon around 3. We're supposed to get hungry every 3/4 hours. For a child the gap between lunch and dinner is too long without breaking it up. Smaller kids can also do with a mid morning snack. I don't know of any culture (and I've lived throughout the world) where an afternoon snack or even light meal, wasn't custom.
I did say on another thread that children need a meal when they get home from school, which would be their third of the day.  Children of 3 and 5 would ideally be getting about 11 hours sleep a night and the 3 year old probably a day-time nap as well, so eating much later would interfere with the sleep they should be having (children do nearly all their growing while they are asleep).  Getting the right amount of sleep means a child who is awake for 13 hours can have just three meals, no snacks , while still eating every 3/4 hours.  This idea of children needing snacks between meals is a recent first-world invention.  (I wonder whether it has arisen along with them getting less sleep.)

Apologies for the thread disrail.

Funny, I would have thought developing countries were bigger on the snacks, all those street carts throughout SE Asia and India. Our paediatrician who was from Ghana told me that I can't expect to feed them less than every three hours until their stomach is adult sized. If be interested if you could point me out to the literature saying snacking is a first world invention.

greaper007

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Unless you are into serious long distance exercise and need to carry small light-weight calorie dense snacks, the mustachian option is not to eat trail mix at all, or to include it as part of normal 3 times a day meal planning.  (No, kids are no excuse.  Kids grow up healthy and happy and with good teeth not eating between meals.)

I actually think kids and most adults need a snack in the afternoon around 3. We're supposed to get hungry every 3/4 hours. For a child the gap between lunch and dinner is too long without breaking it up. Smaller kids can also do with a mid morning snack. I don't know of any culture (and I've lived throughout the world) where an afternoon snack or even light meal, wasn't custom.
I did say on another thread that children need a meal when they get home from school, which would be their third of the day.  Children of 3 and 5 would ideally be getting about 11 hours sleep a night and the 3 year old probably a day-time nap as well, so eating much later would interfere with the sleep they should be having (children do nearly all their growing while they are asleep).  Getting the right amount of sleep means a child who is awake for 13 hours can have just three meals, no snacks , while still eating every 3/4 hours.  This idea of children needing snacks between meals is a recent first-world invention.  (I wonder whether it has arisen along with them getting less sleep.)

Apologies for the thread disrail.

Funny, I would have thought developing countries were bigger on the snacks, all those street carts throughout SE Asia and India. Our paediatrician who was from Ghana told me that I can't expect to feed them less than every three hours until their stomach is adult sized. If be interested if you could point me out to the literature saying snacking is a first world invention.

This, plus just about every serious bodybuilding publication I've read recommends lots of small meals throughout the day.   Hunter "Gatherers" really didn't evolve to eat three meals a day.   We ate as we grazed.

Feed kids halfway decent food when they're hungry, are we seriously arguing about this?    Sure, if your kids look like punch bowls maybe you could skip a snack here and there, but I think this whole $30 a week budget for a family is getting a little ridiculous on here.     

penguins4everyone!

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I've been wondering this for a while with my homemade granola habit.  I feel like whenever i get my ingredients at TJ's and Costco, it's like congrats you just spent $40 on your affordable homemade granola.  HOWEVER, I am amazing at making granola!  And it's so bomb I actually eat it, can't say the same thing about sad bagged granola which might get forgotten in the pantry.

greaper007

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I've been wondering this for a while with my homemade granola habit.  I feel like whenever i get my ingredients at TJ's and Costco, it's like congrats you just spent $40 on your affordable homemade granola.  HOWEVER, I am amazing at making granola!  And it's so bomb I actually eat it, can't say the same thing about sad bagged granola which might get forgotten in the pantry.

I buy rolled oats for .80 cents a pound at Costco.     Then I just mix them with olive oil, honey and granola.     I haven't done the math, but I think it comes out to less than .90 a pound.    The bin stuff is like 3.50 at Sprouts and I know exactly what's in mine.

Seems worth it to me.

Habilis

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See updates to the original post. I measured the exact proportions in the Trader Joe's trail mix to the gram (instead of assuming an even split of ingredients) and attached the spreadsheet so you can design your own trail mix!

cdttmm

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See updates to the original post. I measured the exact proportions in the Trader Joe's trail mix to the gram (instead of assuming an even split of ingredients) and attached the spreadsheet so you can design your own trail mix!

This is awesome -- thank you!

hoping2retire35

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I make my own trail mix for lunch everyday, i have a huge canvas grocery bag that i keep all the bulk items in and mix it in a plastic cup with 1/4 cup scoop for each thing which is pretty close to 1 oz.

two large nuts:
pecans, walnuts, cashews or almonds all about 0.40 cents per oz/scoop

one small seed:
pumpkin or sunflower <0.20 cents per oz/scoop

then a small amount of chocolate or peanut butter morsels
~0.10 per serving

1/4 cup of dried no sugar added cranberries
~0.40 per scoop

sometimes some shaved coconut
~0.10 cents

that is $1.60 for a complete meal with lots of good protein, fats, 60% or more of my fiber for the day, some carbs and is 600-800Cal.
I try to eat a little cheaper at breakfast and esp. dinner to keep my cost below $3 per day but I think i get a lot of nutrition out of this so it is worth it.

I guess comparing this to Trader joe's mine is ~5oz so that means I am paying $0.32 cents per ounce($5.12 per lb) with is only a tiny bit less than the trader joes. I guess that would work if you are on the go or something, but i like having more control over my what I take in and I probably get more fiber and less sugar than the TJ mix.

I'm a red panda

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Man, this sounds like a math problem.

The OP wants to make 5 pounds of trailmix that costs $3 per pound.  If cashews cost $4 per pound and almonds cost $1 per pound, how many pounds of cashews and almonds should he buy?

life is short

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Man, this sounds like a math problem.

The OP wants to make 5 pounds of trailmix that costs $3 per pound.  If cashews cost $4 per pound and almonds cost $1 per pound, how many pounds of cashews and almonds should he buy?

x == pounds of cashews
y == pounds of almonds

(4x + y)/(x + y) = 3
x + y = 5

x = 10/3
y = 5/3

This is probably wrong

Jschange

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I don't have trader Joe's, but I find that if I eye the trailing to ensure it has plenty of expensive cashews, and few or no gross bits, then it's a good use of money.

I'm a red panda

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Man, this sounds like a math problem.

The OP wants to make 5 pounds of trailmix that costs $3 per pound.  If cashews cost $4 per pound and almonds cost $1 per pound, how many pounds of cashews and almonds should he buy?

x == pounds of cashews
y == pounds of almonds

(4x + y)/(x + y) = 3
x + y = 5

x = 10/3
y = 5/3

This is probably wrong

Nope, that's right.  Thought I wrote 4x + y = 15 to simplify it :)

DangleStash

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On a somewhat similar note here, something else was funny with pricing at Costco for a while:

The individually wrapped / single serve sizes of Hummus and Guacamole were cheaper than the large tubs of it for almost a year (cost per pound).  Recently they seem to have gone back to sensical pricing with the tubs being about the same or less than the small packs.

Gone Fishing

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See updates to the original post. I measured the exact proportions in the Trader Joe's trail mix to the gram (instead of assuming an even split of ingredients) and attached the spreadsheet so you can design your own trail mix!

Damn, I love this forum!  Before I found it I thought I was the only one that ran calculations like this.  Maybe I will do the calculations and start a thread on how much less ripe bananas cost vs. green thanks to a bit of evaporation...

With This Herring

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This is a beautiful thing.  Thank you, OP and everyone, for the calculations!

OP, may I suggest a submission to Budget Bytes?  This is what that blog does all the time!

Bracken_Joy

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I'm glad you ran this! We get the cashew/almond/craisin mix, rather than the Omega 3 mix, but I've been so torn about it. I love the little TJ's packs for work- since they're fully sealed, I can keep them in my pocket safely, even while working with patients (nurse), and not worry about my food being contaminated. While always having an emergency food source.

I always assumed it was a budget drain, but couldn't find a good way around it. Good to know I'm not shooting myself in the foot as badly as I thought.

hoping2retire35

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See updates to the original post. I measured the exact proportions in the Trader Joe's trail mix to the gram (instead of assuming an even split of ingredients) and attached the spreadsheet so you can design your own trail mix!

Damn, I love this forum!  Before I found it I thought I was the only one that ran calculations like this.  Maybe I will do the calculations and start a thread on how much less ripe bananas cost vs. green thanks to a bit of evaporation...

Lol +1
Sunflower seeds are the best way to lower the price per lb. other seeds are cheap too but do not have the nutritional value. On another note, Ive convinced myself to incorporate peanuts to my regimen. I know that is not really paleo and can have inflammation effects but I'm going to limit it to just twice a week and at ~$0.15 that should bring my weekly total lunch bill down a whooping $0.50! My health could suffer but it is worth the $26 per year.