Cheap Eats: Muffins

I have a love-hate relationship with muffins. While they can often be sweet, fragrant, moist, and filling, too often they are dry, sticky, crumbly, and so cloying they taste like cake (which, while not completely terrible, is maybe not what I want to eat at 8am). For this reason, I rarely buy muffins (also, in the great morning-breakfast-war between muffins and bagels, my allegiance falls on the holey side). If I do have muffins, I make them myself, the old fashioned way, by scratch, if you know what I mean. I'm of course a fan of my mom's fantastic spiced muffins, but for the humbler (and more budget conscious) out there, there is little better than the sweet, simple, and absurdly inexpensive Jiffy.

I've already mentioned my love affair with Jiffy in a previous post, but it is really so great that it deserves its own mention. I started making Jiffy muffins in high school, where I always had a bowl of batter cooling in the fridge, or a tuperware full of muffins, ready to be grabbed on my way to school. I went with the plain corn muffin box, which was easily dressed up with different ingredients or spices. I loved the versatility of the muffins and the sweet, homey way they came in their own tiny box, wrapped in paper.

It was always nice to make up a batch, stirring in different ingredients and pulling them from the oven hot, golden, and delicious. They made great breakfasts, especially when I'd pop them in the countertop oven to freshen them up. The top would be crispy and sweet, while the bottom pillowy and hot, ready to sop up melting butter. Sigh.

I tried some crazy mixes with the muffins, throwing in my spice cabinet and seeing what came out. One time, my family was heading out early in the morning for a plane trip and the night before I made different muffins for each member of the family. I had my Dutch coccoa with burnt sugar, cinnamon brown sugar, blueberry with raspberry jelly, and chocolate chip walnut. They were all so fantastically amazing, and my sleep-deprived family was amazed at my baking prowess.

But perhaps the most notable thing about Jiffy is the price. With virtually no advertising and, the 1970's-era box graphics seem to imply, no marketing, they pass the savings onto a muffin-starved public. An 8-oz box of Jiffy corn muffins (my fav) costs a whopping 79 cents. 79 cents! Do you know what you can buy for 79 cents? Maybe a packet of pretzels in a very old vending machine. Maybe some penny candy. Maybe a pen? (a really cheap pen) It is crazy how cheap this is, especially considering a muffin at Starbucks, aside from being loaded with sugar and calories, can be sold for more than $4. That would buy you about 30 muffins, Jiffy style (minus the cost of the milk and eggs). I say with savings that nuts you should splurge on extras, like candied ginger to sprinkle on top of the muffin.

I leave you with the recipe for my coccoa and sugar muffins, which are so amazing I could eat them morning noon and night. They have the same chocolate fix for people who like chocolate muffins, but avoid the cakey sweetness that plagues so many choco muffins. The coccoa will taste slightly bitter and not too strong (for a more chocolatey kick, substitute chocolate milk powdered mix), but the flavor melds beautifully with the sweet sugar crust. Top with a sweet jam or eat plain.

1 box Jiffy 8oz corn muffin mix
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
1 cup coccoa powder
1/2 cup sugar crystals (Sugar in the Raw works well)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Blend the mix, egg, milk, and coccoa powder--batter shouldn't be too dark brown
Once mixed, let sit for about 4 minutes
Fill muffin tin about 2/3 the way with batter
Cover each muffin with a layer of sugar crystals
Bake for 15-20 minutes


  1. This looks like your love for cucpcakes disguised. If only you could take every meal in a tin foil...

  2. ...says the direct recipient of 99% of the baked goods...