Beverages are one of the easiest places to save money on your food bill. In order to do this we have to be willing to let go of old expensive attitudes and open the door to newer, cheaper ones. All beverages besides water, milk, and fruit juice are luxuries. This includes Kool-Aid, soda-pop, coffee, cocoa, tea, root beer floats, cola, and almost any other beverage you can imagine. They add calories, caffeine, sugar, fizz and flavor to our diet. They do not add significant nutrition. When we buy these types of luxury beverages, we are paying for someone else to combine water and flavorings for us, and then package them in a container that probably costs more than the beverage itself.
This doesn't mean we need to give up our favorite beverages. It does mean that we need to recognize our favorite drinks for what they really are, luxuries. Then it's a lot easier to put them in their place. We can become realistic about where they fit into our budgets. I do this by assigning beverages 1 of 4 labels: High Priority, Medium Priority, Low Priority, and No Way. The kids quickly learn this system, and actually stick by it pretty well. Below you will find a chart detailing the beverages that I usually fit into my budget, and the priority I have assigned them. Yours will be different; that is all right. I just want to give you an idea of how to begin to change the way you think about beverages.
High Priority - Tap water, dry milk, fruit juice concentrates, evaporated whole milk
Medium Priority - Sugar and artificial sweetener for mixing our own beverages, unsweetened cocoa powder, store brand unsweetened fruit-flavored drink mix, bottled lemon juice, store brand instant coffee and tea, cheap ground coffee and tea bags
Low Priority - Whole milk, store brand soda-pop (3-liter), store brand canned 8-vegetable juice
No Way! - Fresh and refrigerated juices, chocolate milk, flavored coffee and tea, juice boxes or pouches, bottled water, name brand soda-pop and cola, most canned and bottled juices and punches.
Your list won't look exactly like mine, but it will probably be similar. If you notice, at the end of the Low Priority column, I list 8-Vegetable Juice. This is a long-time favorite of mine. I like to indulge in it when we have the extra cash. The rest of the family hates it though. This means that even though it may be very nutritious, it doesn't have a regular place on my grocery list. If no one will drink it, it's never a bargain. Instead it is special treat just for me. When everyone else gets soda-pop for a treat, I get a large can of store-brand vegetable juice. When there is room in your budget for a luxury beverage, by all means indulge a little. It makes sticking to a tough budget a lot easier. Make sure the important things are purchased first. Buying your favorite soda-pop on sale for half price is false economy when you don't have enough milk or juice to make it until next pay day.
Miss Maggie is an eccentric Appalachian homemaker who lives with her husband, children and pets in the mountains of Virginia. Visit her on the web at FrugalAbundance.com.
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