Fun Fact: In Canada, mac and cheese is called "Kraft Dinner" even when it is not Kraft brand. That's what you learn from attending Bible college in Canada. You learn that, and a lot about the Bible. Now, on to the post.
In the spring, I found boxed macaroni and cheese for $0.25 per box. When I was a new wife, that was the standard price, but now it is a rare deal. Now I only see boxed mac and cheese for $0.35 or higher, and that's the store brand. Coupon queens may find better deals, though.
I bought a lot of boxes when they were $0.25. Over the summer, we ate them up. They were good for lunches, since my husband was home more over summer vacation. Those boxes I bought have been gone for a few months. Now we love home-made macaroni and cheese.
I remember Amy Dacyczyn did a cost comparison in The Tightwad Gazette of boxed mac and cheese verses discount purchased macaroni and bulk cheese powder. She came to the conclusion that the boxed mac and cheese was a better deal. But is it a better deal over truly home-made whole wheat, real ingredient macaroni and cheese? Today, I crunch the numbers.
For our family, a meal was two boxes, with a half cup of milk and a half cup of butter mixed in. We usually mix in meat and veggies, and lately we've been on a taco mac kick, but today, we're dealing strictly with the mac and cheese. I'm using $0.35 as the cost per box as that is what I would be paying if I were still buying it boxed.
2 boxes of macaroni and cheese - $0.70
1/2 cup milk - $0.10
1/2 cup butter - $0.50
We make our own whole wheat noodles. I say that "we" make them not because my husband helps, but because Daniel, my three-year-old, likes to roll out the dough as best he can. I wrote a pasta tutorial here. It's a very basic recipe. I have more recently been making a soaked grained pasta. This recipe works great. Soaking grains is not really an extra step, it is just a different spacing of steps. Instead of making the pasta dough right before you make the pasta, you make it the night before and let it sit. It makes for a much healthier pasta. The grand total cost for making your own pasta is $0.24.
To make cheese sauce, I melt the following in a pan, then stir in the cooked noodles.
1/2 cup milk - $0.10
2 tablespoons butter - $0.25
4 ounces of grated cheese - $0.49
I first tried this recipe when I was still using American cheese for everything, so if it works with American, it will work with whatever cheese you have. It works great with my mozzarella.
Grand Total: $1.08
I actually hadn't calculated the cost until I wrote this post, as I was willing to pay more for a healthier mac and cheese. I wasn't sure I would beat the conventional boxed mac and cheese, but real food is triumphant again! Pretty exciting, huh?
UPDATE: I miscalculated the cost of the butter in the homemade version. Two tablespoons is $0.13, not $0.25, bringing the total to $0.96.