Category Archives: Useful Stuff

Pumpkin Bars

It’s fall. That means Halloween, Thanksgiving, and maybe it might rain like two days in a row in southern California.

AND IT ALSO MEANS PUMPKIN BARS. I AM SO EXCITED TO MAKE THESE AGAIN. I AM MAKING THEM TONIGHT.

PROBABLY.

pumpkin bars

Gosh that looks so good.

Here’s the recipe:

4 eggs, 1 2/3 cups sugar, 1 cup oil (or butter), 1 can pumpkin.

Add: 2 cups flour, 2 tsp baking powder, 2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp baking soda.

Mix thoroughly.

Put in oven @ 350 F. (Until a toothpick comes out clean after sticking it in.)

I suggest a standard brownie baking sheet. Just mix the first line of ingredients, then add in the second line of ingredients.

This is for the frosting:

1 package cream cheese, 1/2 cup butter, 1 tsp vanilla, 2 cups powdered sugar.

Again, just mix all the ingredients. Melt the butter.

TOO. GOOD.

Oh, consider pairing the pumpkin bars with the KBC Pumpkin Ale from Trader Joe’s. It’s also good.

Produce price averages for comparison when shopping

The rural roads connecting cities in Ventura County, especially in the Oxnard Plain, are dotted with produce stands. There are at least ten farmers’ markets in the area every week. All grocery stores1 have their own fruit and vegetable prices. Not only do prices vary, but how produce units are sold is different place to place! (For instance: one banana for 19¢, one pound of bananas for 49¢, or one bunch of bananas for 99¢.)

Trader Joes Camarillo Christmas

It is not reasonable to go from seller to seller noting prices2—any ultimate savings would disappear in gas and time. I want to know, and I want you to know, if $1.50 for an organic orange bell pepper at Sprouts is a deal, or if sweet potatoes for $2.79/lb is overpriced at the farmers’ market.

How can we equip ourselves to be “empowered consumers?”

How about the United States Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service!?

They provide a Fruit and Vegetable Market News Report every Friday at this permanent link: http://www.ams.usda.gov/mnreports/fvwretail.pdf.

The report provides weighted average3 prices for a wide range of different produce. Charts in the report list the commodity, variety, unit, and then the weighted averages for the current week, the previous week, and a year ago. There is a national summary and regional breakdowns (Northeast4, Southeast5, Midwest6, South Central7, Southwest8, and Northwest9). Standard and organic produce have different sections.

USDA ERS Fruit and Vegetable Report Example

Next time I go out shopping, I’ll either write down some prices beforehand or pull the pdf up on my phone. (I may be down to design an app for it using USDA’s Application Programming Interface.)

Thanks, United States Department of Agriculture‘s Economic Research Service! Follow them on Twitter: @USDA_ERS. Check their main Market News page for more.

Bonus tip! Use the USDA’s Farmers’ Market Search to, well, find Farmers’ Markets.


How is the data collected? From a footnote in the report:

Fruit and Vegetable Market News surveys more than 200 retailers, comprising over 21,000 individual stores, with online weekly advertised features


  1. The big three: Ralphs, Albertsons, Vons. Then there’s Trader Joe’s, Fresh & Easy, Sprouts, Whole Foods, Lassens, Food for Less, 99¢ Store, WinCo. Probably more. 

  2. I did this with beer prices once. For academics. Seriously! I had a stats class and compared the price of beer at Trader Joe’s and BevMo. Ultimately, the null hypothesis was rejected. (Four- and six-pack beer prices at Trader Joe’s and BevMo! are the same.) Trader Joe’s is statistically lower. At least in December 2010. 

  3. A “weighted average” is simply an average where each number, or component, is modified by a factor reflecting its importance. For this report, newer price points are more important—weighted more—and older price points are less important—weighted less. 

  4. Northeast: Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont. 

  5. Southeast: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. 

  6. Midwest: Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin. 

  7. South Central: Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. 

  8. Southwest: Arizona, California, Nevada and Utah. 

  9. Northwest: Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming.