Sugar and Spice and All Things NOT So Nice


The last few posts here at MTTD have been real downers. I have written about the rising costs of meat, food and groceries. Today I want to be more proactive (and positive) and begin sharing some ways for you to save money.

Last September in the post Sugar and Spice and All things Nice we talked about how expensive spices in general were. I also shared the idea of buying spices in bulk to save money, and listed a few places where you could do that.

Spice Seasoning Mixes

Another HUGE  way to save money is to make your own spice seasoning  mixes. Seasoning mixes include steak seasoning mixes, taco seasoning mixes, poultry seasoning mixes, fish and meat seasoning rubs, and the like. All these are is a mixture of several spices mixed together.

And the price of these store bought mixes is even higher than regular spices. Out of the stratosphere in fact.

And those soup mixes you see in stores – convenient, yes. But WAY over priced.

Take Cinnamon Mixtures

Cinnamon Mixtures are basically two ingredients: sugar and cinnamon.

Seems simple enough.

Yet you will find cinnamon mixtures in the spice aisle of your local grocer.  And the price is about five times more than if you just bought cinnamon and sugar and mixed it yourself.

Let’s look at cost. At one regular, non-specialty grocery store today this is what I found.

1 – 3.62 ounce jar of pre-made cinnamon sugar mixture cost $4.09

1 – 3.37 ounce jar cinnamon cost $1.29 (least expensive)

1 – 80.00 ounce (5 pound) bag sugar cost $3.59 (On sale I could get sugar for $1.99, but let’s not complicate this.)

1 – 20 ounce store brand bread cost $1.99

It doesn’t take a math genius to look at these numbers and see that making your own cinnamon sugar is the least expensive alternative. Even I don’t have to do the math on this one.

But for some fun let’s do some anyway.

For one-fourth (.25) ounce more of cinnamon-sugar mixture I have to pay $2.80 more than I would for just the  jar of cinnamon. And even if that .25 extra ounce was all sugar, I am paying way more than I need to, as the sugar I found is ONLY $0.04 a FULL ounce. So for one-quarter an ounce of sugar in the pre-made cinnamon mixture I am paying $2.76; more than half of what I would pay for a entire 5 pound bag of sugar.

This is nothing short of highway robbery!!!

Even with the cost of bread thrown in there for good measure, making your own cinnamon mixture will save you money.

In short make your own. No recipe needed. Just mix some sugar and cinnamon together to taste and spread it on your toast or use in baking.

This same math would play out over all pre-made spice mixes (soup mixes, etc.) on your grocery store’s spice aisle.

The markup on spices is very high.

The markup on spice mixes is even higher.

Except for the cinnamon sugar, which is how we made it when I was I child, I personally do not have recipes for spice mixes. You can find dozens of them on the internet though.

To get you started saving money, I have listed a few spice mixes here with an internet link. I do not know any of the people behind these links. I just did a search and listed some. These should get you started.

You can find the following seasoning mixes and more at:

Creole Seasoning Mix

Taco Seasoning Mix

Chinese 5 Spice Powder

Italian Seasoning

Herb Mix

Greek Seasoning

Herbs de Provence Seasoning

Pumpkin Pie Spice Mix

Seasoned Salt

No-Salt Seasoned Salt

Creole Meat Seasoning

You can find these mixes and more at:

Poultry Seasoning Mix

Rice Seasoning Mix

Ranch Dressing Mix

You can find a Chili Seasoning Mix here:

Do You Have the Next Hit Secret Seasoning Mix?

You can also make your own secret seasoning mixes by simply combining your favorite spices together. Maybe some of you already have family mixtures that have been handed down for generations.

If so, listen up.

One man hit pay dirt selling his own seasoning mix. Todd Courtney made his own seasoning mix and gave it to friends. It was a hit and he began selling it. Read his story and look at his profit margin by clicking the following link: Making It .

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a MTTD reader had the next big seasoning hit?

You never know.

Featured Recipe         Hamburger Stroganoff

Today I have a real treat for you. Today I share an inexpensive hamburger, or ground chuck,  version of a meal fit for a Russian Tsar; or at least a Russian Count; Beef Stroganoff.

Like many old recipes the actual origins are a bit murky. The popular version that it was made for Count Pavel Stroganoff. That seems to have been disproved as a version of the recipe was found in a published cookbook that predates the Count by 30 years.

And there is other evidence that the dish has been handed down in Russia for generations since the 1700’s.  Some people say that it is really a Hungarian dish as there was a sour cream beef dish in the fifteenth century of Hungarian King Mathias’s court.

That would make some sense as Hungarians put sour cream on almost everything.

And I remember reading once that the origin of Hungarians is not a settled question either, and that some historians believe Hungarians come from one of the Russian Cossack tribes. If true, that might reflect my strong interest, fascination, and feelings for that culture.

The original dish seems to have just been beef and mushrooms in sour cream. But there is controversy about that as well.

Today there are hundreds of versions. Personally, over the years I discount any Beef Stroganoff recipe with catsup in it. I doubt the Tsars knew what catsup was. I guess that is true of Worcestershire sauce too, and I do use that in my version.

In any event, and what ever the origins of Beef Stroganoff, and whatever ingredients were or were not in the original it is one wonderful dish. And as with many classics it is not difficult to make. It is really quite easy.

Following is my version of this classic, made inexpensive by using hamburger. However, you can substitute sliced sirloin or other cut of beef if you so desire. The recipe would be the same.

 This is what you need for 3 people:

2/3 to 3/4 pounds ground chuck

2-3 tablespoons butter

4-6 medium mushrooms

¼ cup chopped onions

1 small garlic clove minced

S&P to taste

¼ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon flour

1/2 – 2/3 cup beef broth (canned or from granules – I use bouillion granules)

6 tablespoons sour cream

Parsley for garnish ~ Optional

Cooked noodles

 NOTES: You can use any kind of steak cut into strips as well. You can serve over rice if you prefer. The recipe can also easily be doubled. I have never used parsley in this recipe before. I am only using it here for picture taking purposes. I need a color contrast on the otherwise mostly brown/tan color so that the picture looks nice.

Here is what you do:

Start the water for the noodles. When water is boiling add the noodles and cook according to package directions.

NOTE: This dish does not take long to cook. And you want to serve it right away. You don’t want to wait for the noodles to finish cooking. So start the water early.

Prep all vegetables first: onion, garlic, and mushrooms.

Melt 1-1½ tablespoons of the butter in alarge skillet. Add the  ground chuck.

Brown the ground chuck in one tablespoon of the butter. I also drain some of the fat from the skillet at this point.

Add another tablespoon and one-half of butter to the skillet along with the onion and garlic and the salt and pepper.

Sauté until onion and garlic is softened and translucent.

The water for the noodles us boiling now, so I am going to add the noodles. Cook the noodles according to package directions.

Now back to the Stroganoff. Add the mushrooms and cook until just beginning to soften.

Add Worcestershire sauce and mix well.

Stir in the flour and mix until the flour disappears.

Then add about ¼ – ½ cup of the broth to the meat and mix well.

This is how I do this. To make the broth I use 2 teaspoons of Beef granules. I add 2/3 cup of hot tap water to the granules and stir. (You could use beef broth.)

You may need more or less of the broth depending on how thick or thin you want your sauce. I start with about 6 tablespoons and proceed from there. Stir the broth into the meat mixture.

When it begins to thicken…..See how thick and gravy looking the broth is now? That is what you want…..

……now add the sour cream one tablespoon at a time. Don’t mix yet. Allow the sour cream to warm a bit and begin to melt. Then and only then gently blend into the sauce with a spatula.

Drain the noodles.

Mix the sour cream completely into the meat mixture. Sorry. I forgot to take a picture of this step.  

Serve the sauce over the noodles and serve with a salad and another vegetable.

Bon Appetit!!!!


¾  pounds ground chuck                    $2.80

2-3 tablespoons butter                       $0.45

4-6 medium mushrooms                    $0.78

¼ cup chopped onions                       $0.31

1 small garlic clove minced                 $0.05

¼ tsp Worcestershire sauce               $.03

1 tablespoon flour                             $0.05

1/2 – 2/3 cup beef broth                    $0.43

6 tablespoons sour cream                  $0.51

Parsley for garnish                            $0.09

S&P to taste

Cooked noodles                                $1.29

Total cost = $5.50
Cost per person = $1.83

Quote of the Day

Success in life consists of going from one mistake to the next without losing your enthusiasm. 

Winston Churchill

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8 comments to Sugar and Spice and All Things NOT So Nice

  • I’m sort of laughing but not. Really, people buy prepared packaging of cinnamon and sugar? Shoot, now I’m wondering if my kids do because there was ALWAYS a shaker of it in the cabinet for toast, cereal and pancakes. Did they not realize it’s just a mixture of…tada…cinnamon and sugar?

    I haven’t purchased prepared spice mixes or salad dressings for years; not only are they cheaper to make yourself but they are better tasting and in the case of salad dressings I think better for you as you can determine the fat content and not add a bunch of agents to keep them stable or fresh.

    Spices are expensive but I only buy them in bulk form (Costco) if I have people to share them with. Their shelf life for maximum flavor is short and I know I’ll never go through one of those huge containers soon enough but I am fortunate to live close enough to a couple of spice shops. Even if the cost per ounce if a bit higher I love that I can buy a small packet of an exotic spice and not an entire jar that I might never use again.

    Great article and nice list of links. Thanks.

    • Roberta

      Barbara: RE: buying cinnamon and sugar…..does sort of make you wonder, doesn’t it? But there it is on grocery store shelves. Thanks for your comment.

  • Leslie

    I have always made my own cinnamon and sugar and that is something I remember from my days at home. I bet we had the same shaker since the early ’80’s!
    The stroganoff recipe brought back many memories. I remember Dad making it the same way and I thought it was a German or Hungarian recipe but I guess not!

  • Pam

    Wonderful post!

    I have to agree about the cinnamon/sugar. I’ve never bought it and wondered the same thing…why?

    I buy several of my most commonly used spices in bulk, such as granulated garlic, onion powder, paprika, dried basil, sea salt, black pepper, etc.

    I do sometimes use Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, but more often than not I will mix up my own rubs and such. First, I like that I can control how much of each ingredient I want in it, and second, I typically won’t buy a spice blend that contains salt because I can’t control the salt level. (Other than the seasoned salt, obviously).

  • Mmmm stroganoff! And yes, spice mixes are overrated. I always mix my own. I even dry some l/o peppers and use them as spice. And another way to save $- to buy seeds-cumin, coriander, anise, nutmeg, etc. – they last forever- and toast and grind them yourself.

    • Roberta

      Thanks for the idea about buying your own seeds and grinding them. That is an excellent idea.

  • What a great idea to share simple recipes that save us money! Your recipe sounds delicious:-) Hugs, Terra

    • Roberta

      Thanks Terra. It is my goal with this blog to share inexpensive yet delicious recipes that people can afford during this reession. Glad you like the concept.