Monday, May 25, 2009

Jelly Wars

As someone who is concerned with both healthy-ish eating and frugal grocery shopping, I admit this whole jelly situation has me stumped. I would like to buy jelly or jam with no high fructose corn syrup. Not so much because I think that stuff is actual poison, but because, lord, HFCS is everywhere, and can't we just eat something sweet, like jelly, that's made with sugar? Okay. So recently I scored 20 jars of Skippy Natural peanut butter for about 45 cents a jar, instead of the $2.49 it usually costs, due to hitting it while it was buy-one-get-one at Publix, and having 20 coupons for it. Bren tipped me off and I landed on it with both feet. Great, but these people who live here, they love their PB&J's, and now jelly supply is not keeping up with jelly demand. And there don't seem to be very many good sales for jelly, and we're faced with a growing jelly gap. Yes, a jelly gap, and I'm throwing every trick I got at it, but I need your help. This handy diagram sums up the jelly sitch:

What the heck is the jelly/jam product, and where is it, that is bargain-ish, HFCS-free, and tasty? What are y'all buying? For a while, I was getting those Polaner jellies, because they seem to go on sale, and they have a low-sugar version that is HFCS-free, and a sugar-free version with Splenda. Hank and Laura will eat it. But when Matt got ready to make himself a sandwich, he acted like I'd handed him a jar of live bees. The texture just isn't agreeable to his inner child. You never know what that guy is going to be particular about. I am not choosing this battle with him, or with his inner child. The other day I was heading to Publix, and he said, "Please get a jar of strawberry jelly and don't get that weird stuff." So I got there and spent twenty minutes perusing the jelly options. Twelve Publix employees greeted me and offered their assistance during what was obviously a difficult time, but I just needed to read every single jar. It ended with me buying a SMALL jar of Organic Smuckers for $3.49. OMG. Once you start down the couponing path, $3.49 seems like a lot to pay for jelly. But I guess it's cheaper than marriage counseling. Still, for that price, I want to recline on a couch like the ancient Romans, and eat it smeared on a whole nightingale.

I usually shop at Publix and SuperTarget, but I'm willing to drive down to Trader Joes and stock up if y'all know of anything there. And I know buying a pressure cooker and making my own jelly would be a delicious option, but I would probably explode myself, so any thoughts you guys have would be appreciated. This is what's on my mind tonight. I hope y'all had a great weekend.

24 comments:

Keely said...

Bwahhahhahah! Only YOU could make a post about jelly hilarious. Smeared on a whole nightingale...snort!

I'm not much help since I shop primarily at Superstore, which is Canadian. Also I am really the only one who eats jam/jelly in our house. But maybe you could make it in a crockpot?

http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/2008/05/crockpot-strawberry-jam-recipe.html

Amy said...

She's right--ONLY you, Beck. That is so funny. When you get to Sydney you need to come to the grocery store with me and see what I pay for jam and PB. They don't do coupons here! How about $7 for a jar of Peanut butter? Ok then--a little perspective helps. ;)

Here's my idea. Buy the cheap non-HFCS stuff for the kids and a little jar of the $$ stuff for Matt. Surely he doesn't burn through it as fast as they do?

Or you could be like Meg in Little Women and tie on your apron and become pleasantly flushed and adorably bewildered by making your own. (Sorry--this post just reminded me of that scene in the book!)

Hootie said...

Brenda will find this post amusing. I too have my own jelly, because I cannot abide that Polaner cross between shoe leather and apricot chewing gum. AND, to make matters worse, I hate the smell of old jelly. So my specific request is for "a small jar of Smucker's or Welch's jam." Small jar, so that it will be used up before it turns into that oozing metallic-smelling goo. Of course, getting a small container of anything goes against Brenda's sensibilities, but she honors my request anyway. Besides, she'll do whatever it takes for me to eat up my share of the twenty jars of peanut butter taking up shelf space in the pantry. Hey, gotta make room for more pickles! Or taco shells! Or whatever's BOGO with a coupon this week... Did I tell you she's making her own pasta now? She's incredible.

Just don't ask about the crisper FULL of free range eggs. Where's a fella s'posed to put his beers?

But yeah... I'm with Matt on the jelly.

PS: coincidentally, my verification word was "polanersucks"

Michele said...

Jam is the easiest of all canning projects. You just need a saucepan, the ingredients and jars. The heat from the jam seals the jars. I could send you a recipe or you could make freezer jam. no canning required. I have low sugar recipes also.

blondmondays said...

Ha! PB&J is big business around our house. I have one who eats it pretty much every day, and has since he discovered solid food. I spoiled them when they were young with homemade, but haven't had the time in years.

Actually, you don't need a pressure canner for jams and jellies; a hot water bath will do the trick. And some (like strawberry) work great as freezer jams. There is sugar-free pectin with recipes, but I haven't played with those. And if the jelly doesn't set properly, you have homemade fruit syrup for pancakes. The crockpot also works great if you like fruit butters, such as apple or peach butter.

The Dental Maven said...

Huge peanut butter hound here! But I can't tell you anything about jelly. Hubs will only eat Bonne Maman. Sorry.

Coffee with Cathy said...

Becky, you need to make friends with somebody who makes their own grape jelly from their own grapes and their own sugar in their own kitchen. Or buy some locally made at a farmer's market. Or just squish grapes and add some sugar and tell your family it's the newest thing.

Jessica said...

it's jessica. cassie b's friend--found my way here via spilled milk---trader joe's has it for $1.99 around here (I think--might be $2.99--it's been a while, but you couldcall before making the trip--also their pb is cheap)--i buy a ton when i can. also cascadian farms goes on sale on occasion for $3/jar and there are often $1 off Qs out there. Smucker's makes "simply fruit" that's not necessarily organic but has no HFCS and there are often Qs out there. also the grocery store i shop at has their store brand of conventional (HFCS-laden) but also a fruit spread and an organic version that's not cheap, but acceptable if my back up supply runs out. hope that helps.

Bren said...

There's nothing funny about this, people. I'm in the same place. And it's dire.

Not that you aren't perfectly capable of home-made jelly, Beck, but I just don't see it sustaining your jelly needs in perpetuity. No, you don't need the fancy equipment for jelly like you do other things, and honestly it's not that hard, but I just put up about 4 double batches of strawberry jelly (xylitol and honey sweetened! the kids love it!) from the farm down the road. It was strawberry season, and super cheap. That was 6 weeks ago. Gone. All gone. Now season is over. You gotta find your stockpileable jelly. Me, too. I'd have to put up a batch about every 2-3 weeks to keep us in jelly. Which wouldn't be so bad, but strawberry season is only 6 weeks long. I don't think they'll go for persimmon jelly.

Houston not only has to have his purple HFCS crap, but in a SQUEEZE BOTTLE. This, with home-made local strawberry jelly right there. Dear me.

I wonder if Amazon subscribe and save would net us anything good? (where you get a discount for subscribing to getting that item shipped regularly, but you can cancel immediately?)

Jenni said...

Oh, venn diagrams, how I've missed you in my life.

This time of year, we go w/the fresh stuff from the farmers market, but I like trader joe's strawberry preserves.

Maureen said...

Hilarious post... Our PB&J issues are more complicated by the prohibition on tree nuts at preschool. No tree nuts, have you seen how expensive soy nut butter is? And even the preschooler, who doesn't have that much experience in PB&J says its horrible and doesn't taste like PB&J... but PB&J is "the only" acceptable lunch... we've had to resort to yogurt, cheese and crackers, sushi, cold pasta even chicken nuggets, but none meet her need for PB&J. (And don't even get me started on sunflower butter...

Bex said...

once again you have graced us with one of your famous graphs!

i feel you on the jelly front. when my husband lost his job, that was one of the things that hurt a little (one of the many) when i went shopping. i used to buy lots of variety of fancy jelly - then i had to start buying only two flavors of generic jelly. it was a sad time for me. but on the plus side, we never went hungry!

Michele Renee said...

Oops I completely missed the deals on the PB at Publix.....and we go through it bigtime. I am going to pay more attention to the hfcs content. I have just been thrilled that all the boys can make their own sandwiches. BTW hubs likes strawberry, 2 boys like grape jam and 1 boy and me like raspberry.

Becky said...

Okay, wait a minute Bren. Hoot has to have SQUEEZABLE jelly?? Now, I would do anything for love, but I won't do THAT. Oh no I won't do-oo that. . .

LOL, actually, I don't even think the squeeze kind works all that well. Once I got a thing of Smuckers squeezable, and I think I wound up sawing the thing open.

I am intrigued, ladies, by your assertion that making jelly isn't that hard. I thought it involved steam and dials and gauges. Honestly, I could see myself doing it once, but I don't think that will keep us in jelly. Now, the crockpot thing for apple butters, I AM going to look into, even if nobody here likes that but me. I also like raspberry, Michele R, but anything with seeds is deemed "weird" around here.

Maureen, you terrify me with your talk of exotic nut butters. Good grief! I don't think I've ever even seen sunflower butter, but it don't sound cheap.

Thanks for the suggestions, Jessica. I do think I might meander to Trader Joe's and see what's there. And I'll be keeping an eye out for more jelly coups. At least my Publix doubles coupons up to 50 cents. Maybe the Amazon thing might work Bren, if jelly is something they do the "subscribe" thing to.

But Cathy, the best solution would be better neighbors. Forget Pretty Neighbor and Normal Neighbor, I need Jelly Neighbor!

delaine said...

I have tried that Polander "jelly" and it is pretty much inedible. I'm with Matt on that one. For the little bit of sugar that is in a tablespoon of preserves or jam, I think you cannot beat Smuckers'Strawberry or Peach preserves. Second would be Wlech's grape jam. Yum yum ! Get the good stuff and enjoy.

Carrie said...

This is one of the areas where I am ok with spending a little more to get quality stuff. I happen to have my latest Trader Joe's receipt here, so I see I spent $2.69 for a tiny 10-oz. jar of organic raspberry fruit spread. Juice-sweetened. But one of my local stores often discounts Simply Fruit to around $2.25 and there are sometimes coupons for that.
Here's what I read recently about organic vs. non that may help you out with your jam choices -- you want your strawberries, cherries and imported grapes to be organic. Blackberries, raspberries and blueberries are supposed to be safer.
Peanuts, on the other hand, are supposed to be quite contaminated if not organic, so I spring for the TJs organic PB at $2.99 for a small jar.

A Lawyer Mom's Musings said...

I love your Venn diagram. But I would have to add a circle called "acceptable to child." Can you do a Venn with four circles?

And Becky, about that jelly-exploding maker, I bet if you baked your own bread, no one would notice if they didn't get jelly. Come on Becky Crocker, give it a whirl.

Hootie said...

Witness, people, the beginning of the end. When a spouse begins to disparage the jelly tastes of the one who has devoted his love and life to her, there is no other direction to go but down. I suppose it's too late for me to point out that I did not ASK for squeeze jelly. She just brought it home one day. And now we're on our second container of it, so obviously this is a lifelong obsession of mine.

But I will point out that squeeze bottles make it very difficult for the jelly to get contaminated with butter and breadcrumbs. So perhaps this just marks the beginning of my NEW love.

Oh, don't make me choose! Can't we all just get along?

Beth said...

I'll join the jam-making chorus and reiterate that it isn't hard. But it IS messy, and it does get eaten up quickly.

Our Costco sells some sort of low-sugar strawberry spread sweetened with "cane juice". My husband will eat it, but the kids think it's a little too intense. It's very strawberry-ish, but not very sweet.

Bonne Mamam brand of jelly and jam is made with real sugar; when I find it on sale I stock up, but it's not cheap even then. But it's what Jacques Pepin uses, so that's got to count for something, right?

Sara said...

If I can make jelly, you can make jelly. And Matt can help. Then he'll be so much more inclined to love it since he helped make it. Right? Seriously, it's reasonably easy and very gratifying.
We also eat (sell) "Grandmas Jams' but Grandma is a bit pricey. You know how those stinking farmers markets are!

You're right though-what is with these husbands and their condiment requirements?

Casey said...

Aren't Publix employees the nicest ones out there? Except that there's a manager at ours who does this Donald Duck voice and follows us around the store talking to Graham. We think he's creepy so we say "bye bye" to him and leave but then he always follows us at least one or two aisles. Maybe I'll have him start reading the jelly/jam labels for me next time.

I never knew the difference between the two but I like one kind better (that didn't make sense, I know). The Smuckers natural peanut butter kicks ass but for $49 a jar, I'd be willing to switch. That's awesome that you got it so cheap!

bigbinder said...

Everyone is right - making jelly is easy. I don't know if it's much healthier though - I have made the freezer and canned and either way, you're using approximately 4 lbs sugar to 20 berries. It's delicious.

Summer said...

we ran out of jelly so we have been eating pnutbutter w/ honey and bananas. also if you have a breadmaker you can make jelly in that.

Julie Michelle Morris said...

Great blog post! I'm so glad I'm not the only one to have verbalized this battle of strawberry jam/jelly/preserves/sugar free/low sugar/splenda/oh wait this one has corn syrup/is corn syrup okay if it's not high fructose...... ETC. And there's only TWO people to please in my house.