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Cheap alternatives at the grocery store? - Page 3

post #31 of 42
Originally Posted by leah_s

I like Imperial for baking and I use Aldi powdered sugar ALL THE TIME. It's fine.

I also always use the ALDI powdered sugar, as a matter of fact I like it better than the other name brands,,,
post #32 of 42
Originally Posted by AnnieCahill

The smell of clear vanilla is absolutely nauseating to me. I will never use it.

I have used the Wal Mart brand powdered sugar with no issues. I also use their brand of granulated sugar as well.

Butter is hit or miss for me. I have tried a couple of store brands but always go back to the name brands. I haven't tried Costco's butter but it's a good price and a lot of people say it works and tastes great. In my experience Kirkland brand food items have actually been quite good. We have been buying the Kirkland brand Greek yogurt and it tastes great. At Easter I will be baking a huge amount of cupcakes for a charity event and we are planning on buying the butter from Costco. We'll see how that goes!

The costco butter is excellent and the price is just right also!!! I also buy my eggs from them from time to time, good value as well.
post #33 of 42
Originally Posted by matthewkyrankelly

Home made vanilla still beats suppliers. Using estimates that are conservative, a 1.75 liter bottle of vodka is $15. For $30, shipped I received at least enough vanilla beans to make 8-10 batches of 40 ounce bottles of vanilla(probably a lot more). Breaking it down, The 40 ounce bottle costs less than $14. That is $.35 per ounce. The quart at $20 is $.63 per ounce. And the home made stuff is great.

If you have the space and your State allows you to make stuff like that at home to use in food that you sell, then I could see the value, but nobody seems to take time and space into consideration when talking about stuff like this!

You still have to buy the containers and then you have to let it sit for months. Space is money in my world! My pantry cost me $155 a month. I get 4 shelves. 8-10 40oz bottles would take up 1/2 of a shelf (or more) of my space, putting it at $19.37 per month just in vanilla-making rent, and I wouldn't even be able to use the product for what, like 6 months? So assuming I can get decent vodka at $15 (which I doubt here, Grey Goose and Hanger One are low $20's). If I'm doing the math correct, it's more like $0.76/ounce for he pleasure and headache to make an exact same quality product that I can buy for less. Also, I mentioned vanilla bean paste - I get 32 oz of regular Nielson Massey vanilla for about $14.

All that aside, I normally go quality over price any day, but I don't think that homemade vanilla is any better then what I can buy.
post #34 of 42
Totally agree From Scratch SF. If space is a major consideration, it might not be for you. For everyone else, it makes a great vanilla at a phenomenal price. No need to use Grey Goose here. Get the inexpensive stuff. It can work for a business. You just need to include making it(5 minutes) in your routine.

As with all of this, it comes down to preference and what works for you. I think for the initial investment of about $45, the opportunity to make a great vanilla at a low price has a huge amount of appeal for most bakers. And, while you are waiting for it you can still buy off the shelf. But it's is not for everyone.
post #35 of 42
I'm with FromScratch all the way on this one.

Lesser quality impacts the final outcome just as much as higher quality. There is a reason that some ingredients cost more than others and that is because the ingredients are not as good. Butter has more water, so you are not getting anything by buying cheaper. The water just evaporates or gets incorporated, leaving you with actually less butter to begin with. Flours give their cast-offs to the off brands. Usually there is inconsistency and use of the harder parts of the wheat. Ditto sugar.

If you make homemade vanilla extract per FDA requirements as commercial brands must do, it will be more expensive than buying at a place like Sam's. So if you skimp, you are not getting an equivalent product, but a diluted one. I have rarely seen a recipe that has the standards that even McCormick must use. My vanilla extract is much more expensive than store-bought. It comes in more costly than my VBP I get for $40.00/32 oz.

Domino Sugar at Sam's has irregular crystals, a killer in a fine baked good. Off brands also are the discards of irregular batches.

Cream cheese is like butter. You are getting a lower quality or just water. Some off brands actually don't work in cheesecakes.

To save money, I buy name brands in bulk.

All of the decisions you make regarding ingredients do impact the final product, even the small ones, better or lower. You just have to decide where you want your product to come in in the market mix. There are many bakers, vendors, and decorators in any given area. Those baking decisions impact who is and who is not your client based on the fact that 1), they like the taste of your product better than 2), others on the market in their price range. So it comes down to who is the best in a particular price range. The choice of ingredients affects those two variables.
post #36 of 42
I get that some people don't want to try different things. You might not like home made vanilla. But, the average person, will get a great vanilla at a great price doing it this way. The beans are Madagascar bourbon vanilla beans. You can also buy Tahitian, and Mexican. I'm pretty sure McCormick's is not using Grey Goose vodka for their vanilla.

The point of all of this is that it is an ingredient that you can customize and make your own. If there's value in that for you, go for it. If not, don't do it. However, if you haven't done it, don't imply that it is in any way inferior. It has the same ingredients as McCormick's - just made at home. Don't knock it 'til you try it!
post #37 of 42
Scp1127: I was wondering where you got your information from on the store brands and their quality of ingredients. Is there a website somewhere that lists all of these things? Just curious where the information is coming from.
Hobby baker for now.....
Hobby baker for now.....
post #38 of 42
Thanks for all that info scp1127 - good to know the differences between brand name/store brand.
I sift all my dry ingredients when I buy them, sugar, flour, cake flour, cocoa - before I put them in my big containers.... I find lots of lumps in Hershey's cocoa powder which would be problematic if I didn't sift....and I've frequently found shreds of paper/cardboard in my store brand sugar! Not to mention really hard and large crystals that I sift out as well.

I've never tried another brand of butter other then my store bought- when I get my BJ's membership, I'll stock up in brand name - I'm interested in the difference.

And I have def noticed a difference in my cheesecakes when I don't use Philadelphia!

On the homemade vanilla topic:
I have several batches going right now...I bought the madascar beans, and divided them into 3 batches, two went into vodka, and one went into a light bourbon (I read some people use bourbon or rum) I can't wait to taste the difference when they are ready. I am not a professional baker, just a hobby baker, so I am not competing with other bakers or trying to stay in FDA reg's. I have not checked out the bulk prices of vanilla either...I'd be interested to see what I can get in my area...but I really enjoy the thought of making my own vanilla for my recipes... I got the idea off of here, and I love it!
I've learned so much from my mistakes..... I'm thinking of making a few more!
I've learned so much from my mistakes..... I'm thinking of making a few more!
post #39 of 42
From the Mccormick's website for pure vanilla ingredients:


Although they probably use their own proprietary blend of alcohol because vodka is 80 proof not 82(41%). Home made vanilla would have the same label.
post #40 of 42
I use several store brand items from costco's I use their butter, flour, sugar, powdered sugar, and eggs. When I'm making cream cheese frosting I've noticed that the brand of cream cheese doesn't matter. But for cheesecakes I only use philadelphia. As for brown sugar I've noticed a huge difference when I don't use Domino's as well as shredded coconut (the store brands are drier), and Cake flour I have to use SoftasSilk. As for vanilla I just buy the bottle at costco to save time. I've noticed that the items that I can order online are a lot cheaper than buying it in the store. Hope that helps
post #41 of 42
FDA defines what is considered extract and most recipes on the internet do not produce extract, rather vanilla flavored vodka. McCormick produces extract. If produced properly, it is quite expensive. That is why the store brands, produced in such large volume, are still relatively expensive. Vanilla is the second most expensive "spice", or rather flavoring, to produce and process, second to saffron. I will share this recipe on a pm to those I know, as I have been asked by a wholesaler to market my extract nationally in gourmet stores and possibly Whole Foods. I do have significant knowledge on the subject. Every bean... the quality, origin, and quality of processing... affects the flavor.

As far as the off brands for other products, the internet is full of information. For example, off brand window cleaner is just water added. In the majority of cases, the off brand is there to seduce the price buyer, where in reality, they are paying a premium for the watered down version, ultimately paying much more than for the name brand product.

Your meat at the supermarket is brined in salt water to up the weight. Notice how your meat shrinks when cooked. Mine does not. I go to a butcher that specializes in quality meat. Many times his prices are equal to grocery store (good ones, not Walmart, etc) but I get no shrinkage. So my family gets premium meat for actually less than the tough, water-logged grocery meat.

Because of my persuit of a better baked good, I have found this information over the years by actually researching higher quality ingredients. Also, top bakers and pastry chefs go into great detail concerning the sub of inferior products and their adverse effect on baked goods.

These subtle changes are why one product, even close in retail price, will be so much better than another with possibly the same recipe. Why do you think that store brand French bread has no taste at all? Just like the artisan loaf, it has flour, yeast, salt, an egg, and some water. Of course, method plays a starring role, but the grocery store uses the cheapest products available that will still produce bread, where the artisan baker has researched and searched for the exact ingredients that will produce that perfect, flavorful loaf.

All of those name brand products get cast-offs, the ingredient parts that just don't make it through their quality control. That cast off is either sold to another company, or the company has another division, in no way associated with the parent company, that produces and distributes the inferior product, many times at a higher profit margin.

Just start google searching and you will get every answer I have found. Read books by renowned pastry chefs. They spend pages on the effects of inferior/gourmet products. Ina Garten, the first one I listened to, and all top chefs will expound on the need to use quality ingredients to achieve their recipes. Look at Cupcake Wars. It's about taste and those chefs are bringing the top of the line with them, using advanced methods, to compete.

Lower cost items are not bad. Those items are needed to fill the needs of the price-conscious shopper and those on a limited budget. But just be aware that even though you feel that these ingredients are not affecting your product, they are, moving you farther down the line in quality in relationship to your competitors. This can be a good thing when you want to put yourself in a specific spot in the market, but just be aware of the results.

This also brings up a point about scratch baking. How many posts have we read about how the customers prefer the box to the scratch? I'll take a box any day over a scratch with inferior products or poor execution. And now there is a poster that runs down the people, I'm assuming me, who always post about quality ingredients. This is a forum and we all can express our opinions and share our knowledge. It is fact, not opinion, that if the ingredients are of a higher quality, the outcome will also have a higher quality.
post #42 of 42
OK - You can make vanilla as expensive or as inexpensive as you like. Not trying to step on anyone's toes.

The fact is it will be much less expensive for many of us out there to make our own vanilla. The FDA does have a standard for this and it is neither a secret or elusive. They require 13.5 ounces of vanilla beans per gallon. That's it.

With what I use, it comes down to between $.35 and $.45 per ounce. I see it as a great price for a great product.

Didn't mean to hijack this thread. As scratch bakers, I would think we would encourage people to work on the craft and not always reach for the pre-packaged product.

I'll even throw in a tip for anyone who wants to make their own:

There is not a huge difference between "good" and "cheap" vodka. Better vodka is filtered more. If you have the means, you can greatly improve the taste of a less expensive vodka by running it through your Brita charcoal water filter.

Now let's all hug and go make some vanilla from scratch!
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