Written and Developed by Cathy Collins

I have always been a conscientious shopper when it came to budgeting and trying to stretch the paycheck just a little farther. I planned meals and snacks for my family according to the grocery store sales flyers.  I watched gas prices and filled the tank when gas was at its lowest for the week. I tried not to buy anything that wasn’t on sale, and I have always understood the difference between need and want.  I was lucky.  For most of my adult life I have been able to buy what I wanted to eat and fix nutritious well balanced meals and homemade goodies for my family.

Life has a funny way of taking unexpected turns and “shopping” at our local pantries becomes a way of life for many people, including me.  That doesn’t eliminate my desire to fix healthy meals or homemade goodies for my friends and family.  What it does mean is that many times, I cannot afford to buy what I want.  I have to make-do with what I have on hand and what is available through the pantries and the generous donations of the people in our community.  I wanted to make a treat for my family a couple of weeks ago.  I had no walnuts or pecans, no fruit filling of any type, no apples to cut up,  no dried apricots or dates, nothing that I had traditionally used to make a cake or cookies and no money to go buy what I wanted so… once again, it was time to see what I did have in the cupboards.  I knew I had a box of baking mix, but what else is in there?

Let’s see….

a couple of jars of generic peanut butter, some grape jelly, butter (I try to keep this on hand even though it is expensive simply because it is better for you and I like it better than margarine), Brown sugar (also something I try to keep in the cupboards)

No Eggs. No Milk.  But I do have all-purpose egg mix and powdered milk and those are great for baking.

I was lucky enough to get a bag of sugar at one of the pantries.  We don’t often see plain sugar at the pantries so when I do, I am thrilled.  I love to bake cakes and cookies and all kinds of other sweet treats but I don’t do it very often, because when I do have to go grocery shopping, many times the money that I would like to spend on ingredients for extras absolutely MUST go to things like cleaning supplies, dish soap, toothpaste, laundry detergent and other things that are not available at the food pantries.

Hmmm… I wonder?

Peanut Butter…Jelly…Baking Mix… Could I make a PB&J Coffee Cake?

PBJ Coffee Cake
All of this got me thinking.  How much do food pantries and Food Finders, Inc. really help?  I did a little investigating.  If I had had to purchase all the ingredients for this coffee cake how much would it have cost?  The total for purchasing all the ingredients would have been about $20.00. Yes, I would have had some ingredients left over to use for other things but I, like many others who rely on food pantries, do not have an extra $20.00 to spend.  Twenty dollars puts gas in my car so I can get to work next week.

Next I wondered how much this coffee cake actually cost me to make and how much the cost of the ingredients would be if I had actually purchased them, then a cost per serving for each scenario.  Wow!

What an interesting thought experiment.  Yes, the food pantries really do help.  I know a little more than $5.00 doesn’t seem like a lot of money to some people, but when you are faced with a choice between eating or being able to get to work so you can pay your rent and utilities, $5.00 goes a long way.  Aside from the savings, I got to make a coffee cake to share with my friends and family and that makes everyone smile.

How Much Do the Food Pantries Really Help?

What I Used Where I Got It Cost
Baking Mix Food Pantry $0.00
Powdered milk Food Pantry $0.00
All-Purpose Powdered Eggs Food Pantry $0.00
Granulated Sugar Food Pantry $0.00
Brown Sugar Grocery Store *$1.30
Peanut Butter Food Pantry $0.00
Jelly/Jam Food Pantry $0.00
Butter Grocery Store *$0.35
Total Cost ~$1.65
Cost per Serving ~$0.07 each

*These prices are approximate.  The cost of the amount used in the recipe and the cost per serving will vary a bit according to what ingredients you can get from the pantries and what ingredients you may have to purchase.

How Much Would This Cost Without the Food Pantries?

What I Used If I Had to Buy It Cost
Baking Mix Grocery Store $2.85
Milk Grocery Store  $0.50
Eggs Grocery Store $0.25
Granulated Sugar Grocery Store $0.10
Brown Sugar Grocery Store $1.30
Peanut Butter Grocery Store $1.00
Jelly/Jam Grocery Store $1.25
Butter Grocery Store $0.35
Total Cost ~$7.60
Cost per Serving ~$0.32 each

*These prices are based on generic brands and/or sale prices and are also approximate.  If you used name brand products or products not on sale, the cost would be even higher.

PB&J Coffee Cake Recipe