by Ellen Ferlazzo
Cutting the Cost of Beverages
Those powdered drink mixes can be really expensive and many of them contain more sugar than you might want you or your kids to be drinking and most have few if any nutrients. If your kids are hooked on them, try to adjust the amount of sugar you add. Speaking from experience, adding 3/4 of a cup of sugar instead of 1 whole cup of sugar is barely noticeable to the kids. The only trick is when they get old enough to mix it up themselves and suddenly realize you've been shorting them! Of course, if they're old enough to do that, they're old enough to understand that too much sugar isn't good for them.
Dressed Up Water
Water is about the cheapest drink and very healthy, of course. Plain water gets a bit boring though for most people. I find if I add some sliced lemons, oranges, limes, or cucumbers to a pitcher of water, it adds just a hint of flavor and looks much more appetizing than plain water.
Frozen juices that you add water to can be cheaper. You can, of course, water them down more than is called for on the directions. If you have access to some free or cheap fruit, think about making up your own fruit juice though. You'll want to make up a simple sugar syrup ahead of time. This ensures the sugar is dissolved and doesn't just settle on the bottom of the glass!
Simple Sugar Syrup
3 cups sugar
3 cups water
Put the sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat. Stirring now and then, heat until the sugar is all dissolved. Let it cool, then pour into a glass jar or other container you can seal up and put in the refrigerator.
If you have access to some cheap lemons, you can easily make your own lemonade. I have two lemon trees in my backyard, so we make a lot of lemonade and lemon-based desserts. You can adjust the amount of sugar syrup you put in, according to how tart your lemons are and how sweet you like your lemonade.
1 cup lemon juice
1 cup simple sugar syrup (more or less to taste)
4 cups cold water
Mix this together and chill until serving. To make it even fancier, add a few lemon slices to the pitcher.
Make the lemonade as above, but crush a few strawberries into each glass before pouring in the lemonade.
1 cup lime juice
1 cup simple sugar syrup
4 cups water
I like to make mine in the sun, but you can also boil water and make a pot of tea using your regular method. For the sun tea, put a few bags of tea in a large jar, fill it with water, then let it sit in the sun all day. When it's brewed to the strength you like, add the sugar syrup to taste. If you add regular granulated sugar to cold tea, you'll just get chunks of sugar sitting at the bottom. This is much better! Add a sprig of mint for fun, as well.
Flavored Iced Teas
Add a cup or so of fruit juice or the canned fruit nectars to your iced teas. You can also experiment with some of the flavored teas as well.
Check out Ellen Ferlazzo's website at CheapCooking.com
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