Introduction: DIY Shelf Stable Energy Bars

As preppers/survivalists, my wife and I are always looking for shelf stable foods to add to our storage and bug out bags, one of the things we have spent our money on are various MetRx, Cliff, and “granola” bars. While the various store bought bars have a variety of flavors and the calories, proteins, carbs, and fats you need in a survival/bug out situation their biggest downfall is their cost.

A few months ago I started experimenting with various recipes and ingredients and came up with a DIY energy bar that is tasty, low cost, and most important shelf stable for at least 6 months.

Step 1: Ingredients and Tools

Ingredients:

2 cups rolled oats

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt

1 ½ cups mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

2 cups honey roasted peanuts or nuts of your choice (chopped or crushed)

14 oz. sweetened condensed milk (1 can)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups peanut butter (I used extra chunky)

2/3 cup water 

You will also need two large mixing bowls, measuring cups, measuring spoons, large wooden spoon, and a large kitchen knife.

Step 2: Mixing, Kneading, Putting It in the Pan, and Baking

Pre-heat your oven to 325 degrees.

Measure the various DRY ingredients and place them in one of the mixing bowls, stir until all ingredients are well blended.

Measure the various WET ingredients, EXCEPT THE WATER, and place them into the other mixing bowl, stir until all ingredients are well blended.

Slowly add the DRY ingredients to the bowl containing the WET ingredients and kneed all ingredients together, adding the water a little at a time until well blended.

Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and coat with non-stick cooking spray (I use butter flavor personally). Dump the dough you just kneaded into the center of the cookie sheet and press the mixture firmly into the pan. The more pressure you can use pressing the mixture into the pan the better the bars will hold together when you cut them out.

Place the pan on the center oven rack and bake at 325 degrees for 13-15 minutes. When they are done baking remove and cool for 20 minutes in the pan.

Step 3: Cutting and Dehydrating

Once you have let the baked dough cool for the 20 minutes move the pan to a large counter top and flip the pan so that the bottom is now the top. Remove the foil and cut the baked dough into whatever size bars you want (I cut mine approx. 2”x4”).

Place the bars on your dehydrator racks and dehydrate them at 135 degrees for 1 hour. If you don’t have a dehydrator (you should really get one!) decrease the oven temp to 200 degrees, re-line the pan with aluminum foil, place the bars so there is at least 1” all the way around each bar, and put back in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Either way once they are done cooking cool the bars completely.

Step 4: Sealing and Storage

Once the bars a cooled completely I sealed most of them in food saver ™ bags, put them away and totally forgot about them, that was six months or so ago. While going through the cabinets I found the bars we hadn’t eaten when they were made and decided today would be a good time to see if they were still good (remember I originally made them to see if I could make something shelf stable at low cost).

After cutting the seal on one of the food saver ™ pouches the first thing I did was the smell test (if it smells rancid it probably is), it passed the smell test! I pulled it from the pouch and it was still moist and soft, it passed the second test! I broke a small piece off the bar and nibbled it down to check the flavor (which was mmmmm tasty!) and then waited to see if my stomach would reject it, it didn’t! So I tore off a bigger bite, chewed it up, and swallowed it down without any adverse reactions.  After eating two of the bars back to back I am still here!

Step 5: 3 Year Old Tested, 3 Year Old Approved

Once I was sure I wasn’t going to get sick eating 6 month old DIY energy bars, I brought in the ultimate taste tester, my 3 year old daughter. She is in that “I don’t like it phase” of her life and has become the pickiest of eaters. If she likes them, they have to be good, as anyone with a child in that phase knows perfectly well.

She not only ate the one in the picture but proceeded to eat 2 more which is the most she has eaten of anything in one sitting in the past month!

Step 6: Conclusion

These bars cost about $.55 each compared to $1.89 or more for the store bought bars. Nutritionally they stack up rather well against the store bought bars. You can add to, substitute, or subtract from the recipe fairly easily.

 I have made a variation of this recipe in which I subtracted the peanut butter, added 8oz. of pineapple/orange juice, and 1 ½ cup of raisins and came out with a very tasty bar.

 A quick note on dehydrating the bars, you don’t want the bars to be totally dehydrated like jerky. When you pull them off the trays (or out of the oven) they should still be a little moist and soft. You can dehydrate them all the way down and have a nice crumble for your Cheerio’s ™ and milk in the morning.

 

Nutritional Breakdown (Based on the information provided with the individual ingredients and some math)

 

 

 

  • 320 calories
  • total fat: 1.9g
  • saturated fat: .5g
  • cholesterol: 8.7mg
  • protein: 15g
  • carbohydrates: 50g

 

 

 

  •  Note that this is approximate as the size of the bars can (obviously) vary a bit, and is based on the recipe yielding only 24 bars.
  •  How does this nutritional profile compare to commercially available energy bars?

     

     

    Homemade

    Cliff Bar

    Power Bar

    Gatorade Bar

    4 Fig Newton’s

    Calories

    320

    240

    230

    260

    220

    Protein

    15g

    10g

    10g

    8g

    2g

    Carbohydrates

    50g

    44g

    45g

    46g

    44g

     

     As you can see, the homemade bars compare very favorably to the commercially available alternative, they taste great, are shelf stable, and are far less expensive!

     

     

     

     

     

     

Comments

author
superthunder bolt (author)2016-09-02

This seems like Western version of Chikki ( Indian sweet )

author
ParthaS7 made it! (author)2016-05-12

Great bars. Thanks for the recipe. Made the following mods to make it "diabetic friendly". Replaced the AP flour with freshly milled 3:1 WW to barley, sub 1/2 cup of Chia seeds and 1.5 C of rolled oats instead of just oats. Swapped out water with Sorghum syrup, evaporated milk instead of condensed milk and 1 cups of dates. Did not dehydrate with these substitutitons.

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author
Pvenuti (author)2016-01-03

A friend of mine already has a DYNOMITE recipe and wants to market her bars. She thinks adding the acid will retain freshness. She doesn't think she can sell her product using the dehydrator " bags".

author
Pvenuti (author)2016-01-03

A friend of mine already has a DYNOMITE recipe and wants to market her bars. She thinks adding the acid will retain freshness. She doesn't think she can sell her product using the dehydrator " bags".

author
Pvenuti (author)2016-01-03

Do you need a dehydrator for shelf life or can you use asorbic acid instead ?

author
KjrèJ made it! (author)2015-06-17

Thank you so much for this recipe!

Since I am using these as a quick meal and not part of my survival stash, I substituted evaporated milk for the condensed milk to cut back on a lot of sugar. I added a heavy tablespoon of blackstrap molasses to add a little moisture for baking, and they turned out awesome!! I found that 45 minutes of dehydrating @ 170 in my oven gave me a firm, but internally-chewy texture.

IMG_20150615_181705.jpgIMG_20150616_184324 (1).jpg
author
KjrèJ (author)KjrèJ2015-06-17

I also added 1/4 cup of toasted, dry quinoa to further buff the protein content

author
michelle.berry.7505 (author)2015-01-19

P.S. my fellow BOB, do you think "dry" roasted nuts might be preferable, for long-term storage purposes? I mean, the more dry we can get, ....

author
michelle.berry.7505 (author)2015-01-19

Hello and Ty! Only thing I see lacking in your (genuinely generous) recipe is the "DATE" you created this life saver... and possibly a follow-up since finding your forgotten 6 mo. stash. Times are most worrisome today. I'm knowledgeable but just getting started. No time or money to waste. Do you have any follow-up to offer? God Bless you --Michelle

author
conspiracy.theorist.393 (author)2014-12-01

outstanding. Made them a few days ago. Kids love them, I love them, cheaper then store bought and something that I will be keeping in the BOB, car, and my work for those calls that go way too long. Thank you very much for the recipie

author
SparkySolar (author)2014-10-22

I love this instructable thank you so much

author
cindypitts821 (author)2014-08-13

What size pan did you bake these in? Doesn't appear to be a 9x13...

author
tomsweet65 (author)cindypitts8212014-08-13

You would be correct. It is a 10x15 cookie sheet. If I put 9x13 in the text some where I apologize.

Thanks for the comment!

Train to Survivae!

Tom

author
Ikadeo (author)2014-03-27

In order to reduce fat, sodium, and sugar, I think that replacing the peanut butter with two mashed bananas would be beneficial. Also, using unsweetened instead of sweetened condensed milk would cut down sugar. I'm going to try using those substitutions once I run out of the ones I made using your exact recipe and let you know how it goes. But I have low blood sugar, so maybe taking all of that sugar out won't be a good idea.

author
mnemeth2 (author)2014-03-13

Just wondering... Do you think removing the Milk from the recipe would give it a greater shelf life?

author
tomsweet65 (author)mnemeth22014-03-24

I have tried the recipe without the milk and gotten another 3-4 months out of them... We just finished off a batch made with milk that was vacuum sealed 18 moths ago (with O2 absorbers) that tasted the same as the day they were made... The batch without milk lasted about 24 months packed the same way.

Thanks for the comment!

Train to Survive!

author
Battlespeed (author)2014-01-09

I think I might boost your recipe by substituting 1/4 to 1/2 cup of Chia seeds (yes, the same ones used for Chia pets) for an equivalent amount of the rolled oats and see how that bakes up. Here's a comparison of both, (per cup):

Calories:
Chia = 1109
Oats = 311

Protein:
Chia = 40 grams
Oats = 13 grams

Carbs
Chia = 99
Oats = 54

If you buy the seeds in bulk you can get them down to about $7 per pound or even less.  It's a little hard to make the translation to cups, but I figure the seeds would add somewhere around 30 cents cost to one of your bars, but quite a bit more nutritious.   Be interesting to see how this would affect the texture (but I'd prolly throw a few tbsp of honey into the recipe too).

author
gunman15 (author)2013-09-23

I hope that you don't mind that I printed out the recipe, I liked the last one and i like this one even better, so do my team that will be BUGGING ____ with me, there are 4 teams of 5 we stick in convoys, 1 drives in each armored van, the remaining 4 are in different locations in the vans, we really like your recipe and WILL be stocking up! Thanks for the help, this will also be easier to compact and store in our B.O.B.s (Food Supply) and our stockpile.

author
LiftAndLove (author)2013-09-16

Any guess on the shelf life?

author
tomsweet65 (author)LiftAndLove2013-09-17

The ones my daughter is eating in the "3 year old tested, 3 year old approved" section of the Instructable are a day shy of 6 months old. I haven't stored any of the bars for longer than that so I can't say for certain if they would last longer than that or not. For our needs 6 months is a good storage life on something like an energy bar, since we do train on Bug Out scenarios we tend to use what is in our bags so the food, water, etc. is rotated at least 4 times a year.

Thanks for the comment!

Train to Survive!

Check us out at:

www.facebook.com/vanguardsurvival

author
abishop mitchell (author)2013-09-04

Looks yummy!

author
YPF (author)2013-08-15

Nice recipe. Personally I don't put water and the bars are still nice and soft.
I recommend to use a musubi press to shape the bars before backing (http://www.amazon.com/Spam-Musubi-Sushi-Press-K5SPS/dp/B000FWOB5S/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1376569652&sr=8-1&keywords=musubi+press). They are more firm and you can make them thicker. This way, they don't get smashed in pieces in our backpack.

author
Cotb (author)YPF2013-08-20

Or just press the spread dough into the pan with the bottom of a second cookie sheet.

author
YPF (author)Cotb2013-08-27

You are right, this is a quicker solution. However, from experience I found out that it can be a bit more messy. My cookie sheet was not very deep so it was not practical for the compaction process. Unless you aim for some thin bars.

Another advantage of shaping the bars before baking instead of after is that the baking process is more homogeneous. When you bake a large slab the center part might not be ready while the edges are getting dry. Since I pre-shape the bars I don't have that problem anymore.

author
Cotb (author)YPF2013-08-27

I like your plan as it would provide some attractive uniformity. How do your bars keep their shape while baking? Don't they spread?

author
YPF (author)Cotb2013-09-01

No, they don't change shape at all. Note that I don't put water in my version, so the mix is soft enough to be shaped but it doesn't spread when I pull out the press.

author
july1962 (author)2013-08-20

How can something with a milk product in it be stable for that long?

author
YPF (author)july19622013-08-27

It's not just milk but condensed milk, which just happen to contain some preservatives. Hence the stability.
The main killer I would say is the added water. If you don't dehydrate the bars they won't last long. Without added water the baking process only (no dehydration) gave me a good results for two weeks. I didn't dare testing after a longer period.

author
tomsweet65 (author)july19622013-08-20

I am only guessing, but I think baking and then dehydrating them even further helps with keeping them from going bad... I wouldn't recomend keeping them much longer than I did, which was quite accidental to begin with...
Thanks for the comment!
Train to Survive!

author
Talenthia (author)2013-08-23

I made these today... not bad. I'm sending them with my husband and son on a canoe/kayak trip this weekend. I didn't want to drag down the dehydrator so I did the oven trick and they are still a little bit more moist than I thought they would be. I'll seal some up individually and save for hikes and other trips and throw a few in their camelbaks for this weekend and see how they like them.

author
richardgreco (author)2013-08-22

Hey tomsweet65,
I used Wolframalpha.com . It is a awesome site that will (has) revolutionized the internet. Wolframalpha.com returns computations on your inputs. For example, enter 1 cup of peanuts, or Netflix, or 'Plot Sin[x] +Cos[x]', or 'the GDP of the USA per capita".

Saying all that, I could have done it all wrong too. Remember I added your total ingredients, you probably did it per serving. My results are for if you sat down and ate the whole batch (which I might end up doing anyway).

author
tomsweet65 (author)richardgreco2013-08-22

Thanks! I will check out the site... as far as I could with the information on the individual ingredients I. Tried to figure the per serving information... that said, math(at least anything more than 2+2... or windage and temperature adjustments...lol) has never been my strong point... Thanks again for the site info!
Train to Survive!
www.facebook.com/vanguardsurvival

author
richardgreco (author)2013-08-21

sorry, missed the upload the first time.

WolframAlpha--_2_cups_rolled_oats__1_cup_all-purpose_flour__Â_teaspoon_salt__1_Â_cups_mini_semi-sweet_chocolate_chips_2_cups_peanuts__14_oz_sweetened_condensed_milk__2_cups_peanut_butter--2013-08-21_1122.pngWolframAlpha--_15_cups_mini_semi-sweet_chocolate_chips_2_cups_peanuts__14_oz_sweetened_condensed_milk__2_cups_peanut_butter--2013-08-21_1122.png
author
tomsweet65 (author)richardgreco2013-08-22

What program did you use to get the break down in the pictures? I used the nutritional info for the individual ingredients and from what you posted I may have gotten it very wrong... Thanks for the comment and the pictures!
Train to survive!

author
richardgreco (author)2013-08-21

I am going to try and make these. I took the liberty to have WolframAlpha calculate the nutrition for this recipe. I had to break the ingredients up into two batches because WolframAlpha didn't like all the ingredients at once.

author
wilki242 (author)2013-08-21

Sounds good but how about a diabetic version?

author
scubacarl (author)2013-08-20

I'll try to put the homemade bars in my "Bug-out bag" good job.

author
zinixo (author)2013-08-20

If you don't plan on keeping them too long, could you skip the dehydration step?

author
saxon1014 (author)2013-08-20

That's an awesome tutorial and break down! Very cool. I wonder about adding sunflower kernels, flax, dates...with the sugar content of the dates, and the oil content of the nuts & seeds, would that effect the shelf life?

author
nidanterry (author)2013-08-18

Just made with my kids. Good stuff.

author
orbit.al (author)2013-08-17

thanks for that. plain it is then.

author
orbit.al (author)2013-08-14

looks tasty. want to try this, but one question. (Not being a great cook). Is 'general purpose' flour plain or self-raising? Sorry if this is a dumb question.

author
tomsweet65 (author)orbit.al2013-08-14

All purpose flour is not the same as self rising, self rising flour has some yeast in it I believe (not sure since I am not that great a cook either) where regular all purpose flour does not... You can use self rising flour but the bars don't tend to hold together as well and the bars tend to be kind of doughy... The only dumb question is one you don't ask...
thanks for the comment/question!

Train to Survive
www.facebook.com\vanguardsurvival

author
ClayOgre (author)tomsweet652013-08-14

Self rising flour has baking powder in it, not yeast.

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