I'm a cereal-a-holic. My family ate it every weekday for breakfast growing up, under the strict nutritional guidelines of my mom: one box of "junk cereal" per month, otherwise everything else had to be healthy (i.e., of the granola or raisin bran variety). In college, I discovered the art of mixing at the row of cereal dispensers (the mixes sometimes were of questionable nutritional value), and now, in my own kitchen, I continue the same mixing ritual (admittedly sometimes adding a sprinkle of "junk" to the healthy) for myself and my kids.
Turns out I'm not the only one obsessed with cereal and cereal mixing. I recently tested out the custom artisanal cereals of [me] & goji, a cereal-mixing upstart from New Hampshire. Three college buddies -- who shared the same experience as I did in the nutritional wasteland that is college breakfast -- set out in 2007 to build a better cereal. And to let customers navigate an easy-to-use online interface to customize their own cereal. That's right, no picking the sliced almonds out of your muesli anymore, or doctoring your All-Bran with Craisins and pistachios. Choose your base, your add-ins, nuts, seeds... I tried to count all the possible combinations, but ran out of zeros.
Everything is organic, too, and earth-karma points abound. They offer customers a chance to purchase a green credit at checkout for $1 to offset the carbon emissions from shipping; all the money goes to renewable energy projects through the Bonneville Environmental Foundation.
Now, you're probably thinking the same thing I did: this isn't your $3.69 box of Shredded Oats. And you're right; cereal bases start at $4.90, and each add-in costs anywhere from 25 cents (cinnamon) to $2 (chocolate-covered goji berries). According to their website, the average cost of the cereal created by their customers is $12, but can range as high as $56. BUT: the packaging is unique, and once you sort out the per-serving cost of the cereal, it starts to compare better with your average organic offering. [me] & goji offers a big cylinder of their cereal; these "capsules" hold 600 g (21+ oz.) of cereal, or 850 g (30+ oz.) of muesli or granola. And since your average cereal box holds 15 oz. or less, the per-serving cost gets much more reasonable. It's still possible to make a really costly mix if you add all the expensive toppers, but when I looked at a bag of Trader Joe's Muesli ($3.49) plus the sliced almonds and Craisins I was adding myself, the [me] & goji cereal started to make sense.
But what you really want to know is, it's DELICIOUS. [me] & goji sent me the mix I customized (labeled "mixed by hand by Adam's Mom" -- how sweet is that?), which I named "Sarah's Power Breakfast Blend" and loaded with dried fruit and nuts in a granola base. They also sent their pre-blended Holy Granoly! (they offer a number of pre-mixed recipes for the indecisive) and Adam's Apple, a flakes-and-apples blend they decorated just for Boston Mamas (you can add a favorite photo to the outside of your capsule for an additional charge). The flakes are crunchy, the granola even crunchier, the dried fruit big and soft, the nuts big and fresh. I'm trying hard to justify buying my old market cereals now, but I think I may have converted to custom granola. And since they have so many options, I'm going to buy some gluten-free cereal for my mother-in-law, some nut-free for an allergic cousin, some extra-fruity for a silly friend... If you get granola from me for the next major holiday, you'll know why.
[me & goji] might seem like a luxury at first, but when you take into account the customization of the process, the quality of the ingredients, and how important those ingredients are in getting you through a busy day, this cereal turns out to be quite a bargain. Especially if you can keep your kids' mitts off 'em. Good luck with that.
THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED
Congrats to winners Mary, Marcelle, and Amanda!
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*Three lucky winners (drawn using Random.org) each will receive a $20 gift certificate to [me] & goji.