Healthy food is expensive. There’s just no two ways about it. Fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and low-calorie treats are all generally a lot more expensive than a box of Patio Burritos. Many of the lower income members of society who struggle with their weight simply cannot afford to eat well (and it goes without saying that gym memberships, diet supplements, and pre-packaged meal programs are simply out of the question). Even those of us who aren’t necessarily struggling to pay the bills have to deal with the fact that our money just isn’t buying as much as it used to, and with all the economic uncertainty that is out there today it just makes sense to save wherever you can.
With that in mind were here at ShrinkGeek thought we’d occasionally share some of the ways we have found to eat better and save a few pennies in the process. Our subject for today is the 100 Calorie M&M Snack Packs.
I’m a huge fan of 100 calorie packs, but I have no illusions about what they really are. In many cases the food you are getting from a 100 calorie pack is the exact same food you would be getting if you purchased the regular product, but it’s portioned differently. Up until recently, I’ve been OK with that. I was willing to pay the extra pennies in order to have the convenience of someone else controlling my snack portions for me. That was until I realized that in some cases this was adding up to a LOT of pennies.
Such is the case with the M&M 100 Calorie packs. A “standard” serving of M&M’s is 42 grams, 210 calories, 10 grams of fat, and 2 grams of fiber (5 Weight Watchers POINTS). A 100 calorie pack of M&M’s is 20 grams, 100 calories, 4 grams of fat, and 1 gram of fiber (2 Weight Watchers POINTS). As it turns out a single M&M weighs about 1 gram, so the serving sizes in the two individual products roughly the same as the number of candies that you’re getting per serving.
Here’s where the big ugly revelation is. The suggested retail price for a box of the 100 calorie M&M packs is $4.95 and you get 7 servings. That means you’re paying approximately $0.71 per serving or $0.04 per gram. At those prices a pack of regular M&M’s would cost you $1.68!
Once I realized this I also realized that with the ability to buy in bulk I could save some serious money if I made my own 100 calorie M&M packs. During my bi-weekly grocery excursion I purchased a 56 oz. (1587.6 grams) bag of M&M’s from Sam’s Club for $9.13 and a few 50 count boxes of Glad Snack Bags for $1.59 (you’ll need two boxes of them if you’re doing this yourself). All things being good and well in the world I would have gotten approximately 79 100 calorie servings out of the bag I purchased, but I was making snack packs out of several other products as well and ran out of bags. Factoring in the cost of the snack bags that means I spent about $0.15 per home made 100 calorie pack.
To put it in a slightly different way – Using the numbers above it would have cost me $56.09 if I had purchased the actual 100 calorie packs. It cost me $11.85 to make them myself, and doing so saved me $44.24.
Now there are a few caveats here. Obviously in order to purchase a bag that large and at that price from Sam’s Club (or a similar discount warehouse) you have to have a membership to one of those warehouses, and an individual membership costs about $40 per year. If you consider the fact that the amount you’d save by replicating my experiment above is more than the cost of the actual membership itself I’d say it was worth it (unless, of course, all you do in the course of one year is purchase a single bag of M&M’s). You also have to take the time to actually put the candy into the individual bags. This is VERY time consuming, and you have to be able to resist the urge to eat them as you do so. I highly suggest actually packing them by serving instead of relying on yourself to only take 20 candies at a time from the bag (it is far too easy to grab a handful and tell yourself that it’s “about 20″).
If you’re particularly thrifty you can actually re-use the snack bags. I wouldn’t recommend doing this for every type of home made snack pack, but in this case as long as the candy doesn’t melt there should be little to no residue remaining in an empty bag.
Keep in mind that the number of candies in a 56 ounce bag isn’t going to fill 79 bags with 20 candies each perfectly. You’re going to have a few left over. Consider that your reward for all your hard work.
Eating sensibly isn’t easy, but in a case like this you can have your portion controlled snack without spending an arm and a leg to get it.