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Friday, September 4, 2015

Sometimes a price difference between two similar items just does not make sense!

Sunflower seeds are among the least expensive nuts or seeds you can buy for snacking or baking. I like to add them to oatmeal-raisin cookies, granola, oatmeal, salads, and half and half with roasted almonds in pesto, in place of the traditional pine nuts. We also like to snack on them, as is, or mixed into trail mix. And I prefer the flavor of roasted sunflower seeds over raw ones.

I was buying sunflower seeds from the bulk section of Fred Meyer on Tuesday (my senior discount day -- 10% off -- yay! me for being 55). I had my choice between roasted or raw, hulled seeds. The roasted ones were selling for $3.99 lb, while the raw ones were selling for $1.49 lb. Which ones do you think I chose?! For $2.50 lb savings and 5 minutes of work, I think I can roast my own sunflower seeds.

While I roast whole nuts, like almonds in a low-temp oven, I roast sunflower seeds and any other small seeds in a pan on the stove. I add a small amount of oil to the pan. Heat over Med flame. (You can dry-roast them, but using hot oil coats each seed so they roast more evenly in oil, I've found.) Then I add the seeds, and stir constantly for about 5 minutes, until they've turned color, from gray to light tan. I dump them onto a piece of brown paper bag, to both halt the cooking and remove excess oil from the seeds. A little salt, and they're just perfect.

The other benefit to buying seeds and nuts raw, then roasting your own at home, is that the roasting process shortens the keeping-life of both nuts and seeds, about by half (according to There really is no telling when seeds and nuts sold in a bulk bin were roasted, from a consumer's point of view. I have a much better chance of my seeds tasting fresh, if I buy them raw, then roast them at home, myself. And once home, they will keep much longer and I'll have more time to use them up. Less waste!

Don't you think that's crazy that there could be such a price difference for a convenience so very easily replicated at home?


Cat said...

It IS crazy! I generally buy the raw, but ours are mostly eaten by the pet rabbit (who also works by fertilizing our yard and garden ;) ) as part of a homemade food blend I make for her. However, I found them recently for a similar low price (1.55 per lb) while checking out bulk bins at the local grocery chain and realized they are less than the price I've been paying through Amazon Subscribe and Save. So I'm thinking that, roasted, my family might enjoy them as a crunchy topping for salads and such. Thanks for sharing the how-to!

Lili said...

Hi Cat,
Lucky rabbit!!!

I've been adding roasted sunflower seeds to salads this summer. It gets just a little more protein and healthy fats into all of us. And they aren't a grain-based snack food, which works better for me.

That's great that you found a less expensive source that even with Amazon.

In the past, when I've wanted to buy a large quantity from the bulk bins, I've been able to talk with the dept manager about buying at the bin price, but in the original sack/packaging. A little simpler for me, in not having to do all of the scooping into plastic bags, but also saved them work of refilling the bins. I did this with whole wheat flour for years, until I found our wholesaler. When the supermarket had the ww flour on sale, I would call and talk to the manager and they would order/set aside a 50-lb sack for me.

Anne in the kitchen said...

It does seem like a huge price jump to me also. I think I would have to roast my own. We were hoping some old sunflower seed would germinate and produce seeds this year, but no dice! Of course I found the pack of seeds and there is no telling how old they were. Guess we will buy them once again.

Cat said...

That's a great idea! Our local health food store used to do that for me on some items, till it was bought out by a chain.

Have you ever made homemade sunflower butter? I guess it might not be as cost-effective as your PB deal. Maybe not even as mine at my current $1.49 Aldi price (for the natural variety). But for people like myself who are allergic to peanuts, it might make a reasonably-priced spread compared with buying commercial sunflower or almond butter.

Lili said...

Cat, I used to make sunflower seed butter (and posted about it here on my blog back in 2012), when peanut prices went through the roof. Homemade sunflower seed butter was much cheaper than peanut butter at the time. Here's that post:
Many schools don't allow peanut butter anymore (allergies), so sunflower seed butter is a good alternative for sandwiches.

Lili said...

Hi Anne,
Oh no, what a disappointment!

I had the same issue with old lettuce seeds this year. They worked fine last year, but just one year's difference and none of the seeds germinated.

There's always next year for growing sunflowers!

Cat said...

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for another great use sunflower seeds in pesto!! I completely forgot about using that seed in our meals. We ran out of hemp seeds and bought almonds to use in pesto, since pine nuts is too expensive for everyday consumption. Too bad that is not sold in bulk at our stores. Maybe I should take a closer look at Sam's and Costco if they sell it in large quantities. Or Amazon.

We pan roast our sesame seeds in the frying pan. I never thought about how long roasted seeds last versus raw, but that is something to consider. We bought raw almonds and used it straight from the bag in our pesto. I didn't think it tasted as well as it could, for one, the almonds did not process into a smooth consistency. Do you think we should have roasted the almonds before using it? My husband insisted we can eat almonds raw.


Lili said...

I think roasted almonds taste sweeter than raw, so I prefer them roasted. If you choose to use roasted almonds in your pesto, roast them whole, in the oven (About 325 F degrees), just until you can smell them. Then chop them on the cutting board before adding to the food processor. You get a finer grind that way. And grind the almonds with oil, only, first, then add other pesto ingredients. I also think roasted nuts process better than raw. the raw ones almost resist some of the cutting, due to their very slightly gummy texture, if you know what I mean, instead of crisp texture of the roasted.

Yum, I've been in a pesto mood all week. Such delicious stuff!

I know, pine nuts are just out of price range for me. My grandmother used to buy them in the desert southwest part of the US, when she'd drive through, Maybe on one of your Vegas trips you'll stumble upon a good price on pine nuts.

Laura said...

I always forget about sunflower seeds for some reason, though I do like them. I don't love how they sink to the bottom in salads, though. I've no ever thought to use them in place of pine nuts in pesto. Might be worth giving it a try--I have a lot of self-seeded basil growing in my neglected garden and putting it to use will make me feel good!

EcoCatLady said...

That's fascinating about roasting shortening the shelf life - somehow I thought it was the opposite. I actually don't eat many nuts and seeds because of allergies, but on occasion I buy some cashews and I've steered clear of the raw ones because I always seem to get a moldy nut or two when I buy raw. What do you suppose it means?

Belinda said...

I would definitely buy the raw ones. Plus an added benefit is that I will eat less because they are not as yummy as the roasted ones. lol

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your helpful suggestions!! I need to write it down but can't find my steno notepad lol I do agree that roasting, chopping and then processing with oil will definitely help with the consistency.

Why does pine nuts sound so dejavu in Vegas? Not sure if we had seen signs or road stands selling the nuts. My husband thinks it was pistachio nuts and beef jerky for sale. He said this time we be looking for these nuts that's for sure. We hope to still keep our booked flights this winter (purchased a month or so before my dad got his awful pinched nerves). Our son and DIL are willing to help us watch him.


Lili said...

Hi Laura,
That self-seeded basil is quite a bonus! Now there's an instance where neglect paid off. Enjoy all of that basil.

Lili said...

Hi Cat,
A moldy nut, hmmm, that doesn't sound appealing. I'd be buying nuts from a different supplier.

Lili said...

Hi Belinda,
Now that is very true for me, as well. I'll only eat them if I've roasted them first, which takes time and effort. so, once my little pile of roasted sunflower seeds are gone for the afternoon, I'm done with that snack.

Lili said...

Oh, how wonderful for you and your husband to have your son and his wife keep an eye on your dad for you, while you take a brief break.

You may have seen roadside stands selling pine nuts. The 2 states well-known for pine nuts, that I know of, are Nevada and New Mexico.

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