Friday, January 27, 2006

Saving Money On Vanilla

I nearly died when I knocked over my new bottle of real vanilla extract--$2 quite literally down the drain.

Next time I'll take the Frugal Underground's advice and shop at Ebay instead. How's that for procuring your gourmet food from afar?

15 comments:

lady laura said...

I feel your vanilla pain. It is so expensive I have been tempted to buy imitation. But just last week, I had a coup: a friend just took a trip to Mexico and brought back several bottles of real vanilla. She so sweetly gave me one and it's a liter! That should last me a good long while=)

Mrs.Garcia said...

Meredith, I know what you mean about the Cost of Vanilla being so expensive. I only buy it from Aldi's and even there the price is still high but yet cheaper than Most other Stores.

Jordana said...

Although I haven't brought myself to buy it, according to a study I read in Cook's Illustrated, imitation vanilla not only is the exact same thing chemically (just the vanillin is extracted from things like cloves instead of vanilla beans) but because they can put more vanillin into the formula, imitation stuff actually has a stronger vanilla flavor and was almost universally preferred by their taste testers over real vanilla. Nobody at all could tell what was made with imitation stuff over real though, so if you want to save the money -- just buy imitation vanilla extract.

LynnMarie said...

Maybe the real stuff that you can buy from ebay may be cheaper, but what about the shipping cost to you. That may bring the price up to what you are paying now and you have to wait for it. I use the imitation and no one has ever mentioned the difference. I feel your pain, but it's ok. In a few weeks or months, you will have forgotten it. Please don't beat yourself up over this.

janet said...

I recently spilled a bottle of Almond Extract!!! I was really unhappy about that. My kitchen smelled great for a few days. :) I guess that's a benefit!

I usually buy vanilla at Aldi. Or Wal-Mart sells a bottle of imitation made by Watkins that's pretty good and the price isn't too bad either.

Kathryn said...

I just use the imitation, but I really like the real stuff. My mom says that the real vanilla is stronger and you don't need to use as much of it in a recipe. Does anyone know how long vanilla (real or imitation) should last? The last container I got had scum on the top after a while, and I threw it out, just to be on the safe side. I hated to waste it, but didn't want to get anyone sick off my baked items. It was a huge container from Sam's and I had already used more than half of it, so I still saved money over the grocery store.

Anonymous said...

Hi,

I have a question for you. I was wondering how much time a week you spend on finding bargains in stores, on ebay, garage sales, etc ? You really seem to find wonderful deals. I stay home, as well, and have a 9 1/2, 7 and 4 year old.
It is hard to get out with my four year old and find deals and when my husband is home, I want us to have family time. Do you have a certain day you go out or do you go out daily to find deals? Do you only shop certain stores? Thanks, Nancy

Meredith said...

No, I'm not beating myself up over $2 of vanilla, although I did regret my clumsiness! I used imitation for most of last year, Jordana, after seeing the same article. I'm not sure if you can *taste* the difference, but you can certainly *smell* a difference when you have two bottles side-by-side. Kathryn, I didn't think vanilla ever went bad--after all, it's basically pickled in alcohol! I would think the scum was probably oils or contaminants that had risen to the surface and could be wicked off with a bit of paper towel. But I probably would have chucked the bottle, too, especially if it was imitation.

Does anyone remember seeing Martha Stewart make real vanilla for Christmas gifts one year? I think that would be several neat, inexpensive gifts from one bundle of beans.

Brandy said...

A number of years ago my mother gave me the book Cheapskate in the Kitchen by Mary Hunt. Here is her recipe for vanilla extract:

"One pint-sized jar with lid full of vodka and vanilla beans cut into 1-inch length pieces. Use one or two bottles of beans per jar of vodka. Shake occasionally. In about six weeks the liquid turns amber in color. As vanilla extract is used and the pint jar gets down to half full, add more vodka; add more beans about once every two years depending on how often it is used."

I've never actually tried this because a friend gifted me with a liter from Mexico, but it might be worth a try!

My Boaz's Ruth said...

We only had imitation vanilla growing up. A friend brought home real vanilla from South America (her parents are missionaries) and I can't tell the difference in baking uses. (all I use it in)

Mrs. Happy Housewife said...

I use the imitation vanilla from Walmart. In baking, I can't tell the difference. Of course, if I had a supply of the good Mexican stuff it would be a different story. I bought a large bottle once in TX and it was fabulous.

Rachel Ramey said...

Personally, I think imitation vanilla tastes awful. (But maybe it depends on the brand/source?) Another option, if you can find it, is vanilla powder. It costs more than imitation vanilla but less than liquid vanilla extract. You just use about 2/3 tsp. for each tsp. the recipe calls for. (And can't spill it down the drain! lol)

Rachel Ramey said...

Oh, I buy the vanilla powder at the health food store, with the bulk herbs.

Dana said...

Making your own vanilla is very easy -- and I will never go back to buying McCormicks. (I finally read the label and it has added sugar!) I continue to reuse the vanilla beans -- and add a new one each time I make it.

laurel said...

I know this post is from a long time ago, but Meredith, if you read this, I make my own vanilla and it is really easy. I essentially use the same recipe as was listed in the comments above. I do buy my vanilla beans off of Ebay in bulk and you can get them straight from the grower (madagascar, I believe) for really cheap. I gave homemade bottles of vanilla for Christmas gifts to girlfriends last year. I haven't figured out the price per bottle, but because you can add more vodka to the beans several times over, I know it must be a lot cheaper than vanilla extract from the store.