Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Is It Worth It?

There's a fine line between saving money and making the savings worth the effort. Today I made date newtons - a week-long process. Right there you may be on the verge of thinking, "She's crazy." Let me tell you just how crazy I am. This experiment is the result of three personal weaknesses - 1) I have a hard time passing up a good deal, 2) I like dates, and 3) I really like fig newtons.

Two weeks ago I found dates on clearance at the store for 50 cents a pound. I like dates. They are generally expensive and out of my budget. These were on sale for obvious reasons - age and dryness being two of them. I bought them anyway, convinced that I could turn them into something delicious, because I really like dates.

At home they sat in my fridge for a week. I was busy with Christmas. Jared observed them and asked if he should throw away the ancient dates. I informed him I was going to make something delicious out of them. Last Thursday I pulled them out to use. Stuffed dates were not going to be an option. These wonderful dates were going to have to be cooked to oblivion before they would be soft enough to eat. I put them in a pan on the stove just covered with water and a little sugar, and cooked them for several hours while I thought about what to make with them.

Fig newtons! I love fig newtons and they are also usually out of my budget. Dates are like figs, right?  After cooking down several hours, they were soft and gooey - perfect for a filling. I looked up a fig newton recipe on the internet that seemed like it would work.

New Year's Eve found me sitting at the table for a couple of hours peeling and seeding gooey dates. Did I mention I like dates? Kids are wonderful. They thought it was a great activity - plus it kept them occupied until midnight when we could say, "Happy New Year. We let you stay up until 12. Good night." Peeling boiled, sugared dates is now on my top ten list of "Messy Projects." Mashing them with the potato masher turned out to be another fun kid project.

Today I made the dough - not too complicated. It was the consistency of stiff pie dough, and needed to be rolled out very thin. It took me a good hour, but I didn't mind because strength training is one of my New Year's resolutions. Then I cut the dough in strips, put filling in the middle, rolled the long side edges over top, and baked them edges-side down on a cookie sheet. After baking and cooling, I cut them into newtons, and let the kids try them. Pretty good. I won't enter them in the county fair, but at least they're edible.

So now I'm lookinig back over the process, and realizing that I paid $1 for the dates, spent several hours on the cookies, and that Smith's has a decent-sized package of Fig Newtons for under $2 that taste a whole lot better than what is sitting on my kitchen counter. I'm asking myself, did I learn anything? Yes. Was it fun? Yes. Was it too much work? Yes. Will I ever do it again? No. I very much believe in "Waste not, want not," but sometimes it's hard to define the parameters. Next time I see dates on clearance for obvious reasons, it will be slightly easier to quell my desire to get in on a good deal.

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