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Friday, April 11, 2014

Does using baking soda to cut down on sugar in recipes really save money?

This is a question I needed the answer to. So I set out to determine just how much I'm saving every time I use baking soda in fruity desserts.

Using a small amount of baking soda in the filling for fruit pies or fruit sauces reduces the acidity of the fruit, so that less sugar is needed. I've used this little trick, off and on for about 20 years, when I first read about it in The Tightwad Gazette. But since last summer, I've been using it consistently with every batch of rhubarb (or other fruit) sauce, fruit crisps and cobblers, and fruit-filled pie.

For a fruity dessert, calling for about 4 to 6 cups of fruit and about 3/4 to 1 cup of sugar, I use about 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda, and reduce the sugar by about 1/3. This formula produces a final product almost identical to the original recipe. I actually think it tastes better, as the fruit flavor really comes through with less sugar.

As I bake with a lot of tart, homegrown fruit (rhubarb, tart berries and tart apples), for most recipes, I use about 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, but save about 1/3 cup of sugar.

My cost on baking soda

According to my 16 oz. box of baking soda, 1/4 teaspoon weighs 1.2 grams.
There are 378  1.2-gram servings of baking soda in a 16 oz box.
I can buy a 16 oz. box of baking soda for 50 cents on sale, or 59 cents regularly at the dollar store.
So, 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda costs me between $0.00132 and $0.00156, or, a little over 1/10th of a cent.

My savings on sugar

1/3 of a cup of granulated sugar weighs approximately 2.4 ounces.
I just bought a 50-lb sack of sugar for $18.75, or 37 cents per pound.
At that price, 1/3 of a cup of granulated sugar costs me $0.056, or about 5  1/2 cents.

So, every time that I use the baking soda trick to reduce sugar in recipes, I save about 5 cents. It really does save money. I make an average of 2 fruity desserts like this per week. So, in a year, I save about $5.20. I won't get rich on these savings, but all the little savings add up to a considerably smaller grocery bill.

If you buy granulated sugar in smaller bags, you may be paying more per pound, and could potentially save much more on this trick. Whereas, my cost of baking soda is likely in the neighborhood of what you pay, as I just buy the small boxes.

The added bonuses -- the desserts actually taste better to us, and we're cutting back on our sugar consumption! Win, win!

To use baking soda in fruit desserts, mix the baking soda in with the sugar, flour and spices, before tossing with the fruit, when making a pie, crisp or a crumble. Or, for fruit sauces cooked on the stove, after cooking the fruit in water to soften, stir in the sugar, then the baking soda. You'll see the fruit sauce foam up, then slump back down.


Kris said...

I've never heard of this before! I just like the idea of less sugar--saving money would be an extra bonus. Question for you--I make blueberry sauce and cherry sauce on the stovetop for pancake toppings. I mix sugar/cornstarch/water, bring to a boil and let it thicken, and then add my frozen fruits. I assume I would just add the baking soda in with the sugar/cornstarch mixture, making sure to decrease my sugar? Those are fruits that I don't need to soften in water first. Thanks!

Lili said...

Hi Kris,
I think you could add the baking soda either with the fruit or with the sugar mixture.
Blueberry and cherry pancake toppings sound delicious! I'll be over for breakfast this weekend!!!

Cat said...

Interesting! I hadn't heard of this either. But my mom always used a bit of baking soda rather than sugar in her spaghetti sauce to cut the acidity a bit (and I continue to as well). Guess it's the same principle, really.

Lili said...

Hi Cat,
I've read of using baking soda in tomato sauces, instead of a pinch of sugar. I would guess that you just need a tiny pinch of baking soda.
I wonder if a tiny pinch of baking soda could be used in homemade lemonade, to reduce the sugar. I'll give that a try, and see.

Kath Berry said...

I like to bake, but I have never, ever, ever in my life heard about using baking soda in this way. I'll try this with a crumble I'm making this afternoon and let you know if my family can taste anything different.

I tell you, I learn something new every time I read your blog. Keep the tips coming!

Lili said...

Hi Kath,
Oh good, let me know what you think. We think our desserts taste fruitier, and better!

EcoCatLady said...

Ha! OK... I'm laughing that there's another Cat out there with the exact same thought that I had! I was just wondering if the baking soda trick would work for marinara sauce. I guess great Cats think alike!

Live and Learn said...

Add me to the list of never hearing about the baking soda tip. I generally reduce the sugar in fruit desserts anyway without adding anything else. However, in a few instances, the baking soda might help. I had some sour cherries once, that no matter how much sugar was added, they were too sour to eat. Also, I generally don't cook with sugar except for desserts. I guess I like the sour taste.

Lili said...

Hi Cat (other Cat, CatLady, Colorado Cat -- gotta distinguish you somehow here),

Evidently a lot of people use this in pasta sauce, and they really like how it tastes. I'll give it a try sometime, myself. I'm guessing that it's just a tiny pinch.

Lili said...

Hi live and learn,
A lot of our homegrown fruit is tart. Maybe we're impatient and pick too soon. Anyway, this works very well with tart fruit. The pie I made the other day was half rhubarb-half blackberry, using some baking soda and reducing the sugar. It was delicious, and the fruit flavors really shone through.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if this would work in a quick bread. I am planning to make strawberry bread - maybe I will try it. I always try to use less sugar in recipes - sometimes it doesn't work out so well...
Jo Ann

Lili said...

Hi Jo Ann,
Mmmm, strawberry bread sounds delicious!

I've never tried the baking soda in a quick bread, where the fruit is simply folded into the batter. What I have done is use a cooked fruit sauce (like rhubarb sauce), cooking the fruit sauce with a pinch of baking soda and reducing sugar, then swirling this cooked sauce into the batter in a pan, for a coffee cake.
If you just added the baking soda to the flour, sugar, leavening ingredients (the batter), I don't think it would have enough of an opportunity to neutralize the acidity of the fruit.
Not sure how you incorporate the strawberries into the bread.

Anonymous said...

This recipe calls for crushed strawberries, so I am going to try putting the baking soda in with them before I add them to the batter.
Jo Ann

Lili said...

Jo Ann -- Oh, that makes sense. Yes, I think the baking soda would help neutralize the acid in the berries. Happy baking!

Kris said...

OK, I tried this with my blueberry sauce and it worked well. Glad you mentioned it bubbled or I would have been concerned. :) I'm betting I'll notice it more with our tart cherries--depending on the variety of blueberries we use, they tend to have more natural sweetness, anyway, but the cherries can be really tart!

Kath Berry said...

Wow! This worked! I made a wild plum crumble, using wild plums we picked last summer. These plums are quite tart, and I've only ever used them for jam before. It was delicious, and even I couldn't tell that there was quite a bit less sugar in the fruit part.

Cat said...

It depends on how much sauce you're making. For two pasta sauce jars (about 26 oz, or they used to be when I bought it), my mom used about 1/2 tsp, from what I remember. I now buy #10 cans of tomato sauce from Sam's (5 hungry kids) and make my own so have to adjust accordingly.

Cat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I have never heard of this either, it is very interesting and I am surely going to try it!. I have to admit that when I use an American recipe, I reduce the sugar by half. We aren't used to such a sweet tooth. This 'trick' will even be adding to consuming less sugar, great find!

Lili said...

Hi Maria,
I agree with you, that American recipes are often too sweet. I think many people would agree, as well. Store-bought muffins, for example, taste more like cake than quick bread.
I hope you like the way baking soda works in fruity desserts.

Unknown said...

Rhubarb is so much better with the Baking Soda! And you can cut way back on sugar. ( I've a friend who doesn't add any!). But someone said to me it ruins the vitamins? Could this be true?

Emily said...

At a sensible value, it's as of now launderable and reusable significance it can be utilized more than once.

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