Reducing the Cost of Beverages
A big step for saving money on beverages is becoming willing to mix them up yourself. Most beverages can be mixed or brewed up at home, in your own kitchen, with a pitcher or blender, a big spoon, a bag of sugar, and a packet or jar of flavoring. This is true of milk, juice, coffee, tea, fruit-flavored drinks, milk shakes, slushies, smoothies, and a lot of other drinks too.
Mixing your own beverages takes commitment. It is easier to open up a carton of pre-mixed juice or fruit punch than it is to mix your own. If you read the labels on these beverages, most are from concentrate or have added flavorings just like homemade. This means that you are paying someone else to open up a frozen can of juice concentrate, pour it into a pitcher, add three cans of water and stir.
I mix up most of my beverages when I am cleaning up the kitchen at night. I have to check out the options for tomorrow's lunch anyway, so I take stock of the beverage situation while I'm at it. Most cold beverages taste best if they are chilled overnight.
When you commit to mixing your own beverages, you need containers to mix or brew them in. I prefer to use two-quart and gallon-sized pitchers. Yard sales are a good place to look for pitchers. Free containers are available in the form of milk jugs, two- and three-liter bottles, apple juice-jars, and even half-gallon pickle jars. A bottle brush and a little bleach may be used to ensure cleanliness.
Fruit-Flavored Drink Mix: These are usually cheapest in a store brand or off-brand. I regularly find them 10/$1 at a local dollar store. I use 2/3-cup of sugar for each packet of drink mix. Most packages call for a full cup, but I've found 2/3-cup works just as well. If you prefer yours sugar-free, then sweeten it with artificial sweetener to taste.
Fruit Juice Concentrate: These are available frozen. Orange, apple, and grape juice usually have the lowest price per ounce. Read the cans to make sure that you are buying 100% juice, instead of juice cocktail or "ade."
Tea, Fresh Brewed or Instant: Tea is one of the biggest beverage bargains these days. I usually buy tagless tea bags in a 100 count box for 99 cents. An entire pitcher of iced tea is less than a dime. You can easily add your own sugar if you like yours sweet; 1/2 cup of sugar per 2-quart pitcher is about right.
Coffee, Fresh Brewed or Instant: I buy both instant and ground coffee. Instant coffee is good for making flavored coffee mixes. If you have ever found yourself paying $3 or more for a cup of cappuccino, then you really owe it to yourself to mix up a batch of flavored coffee in your own kitchen. When making flavored coffees, I use the absolutely cheapest instant coffee I can find.
Fresh brewed coffee tastes better than instant. I prefer to buy it in large cans. The price per ounce is usually less this way, but not always. Compare prices with the vacuum packed coffee "bricks" to be sure.
If you prefer your coffee with cream, the most luxurious thing to use is whole evaporated milk. A fat-free option is to stir powdered milk directly into the coffee.
Soda Pop and Colas: Avoid brand loyalty; national brands will always cost more money. At my stores, I'm able to find 2-liter bottles are available for between 50 and 60 cents. 2-liters and 3-liters are almost always better buys than 12 packs. Some people don't buy large bottles because it goes flat before they get a chance to drink it all. If this is one of your concerns, then try the following trick. Squeeze the air out of the bottle, until the level of the soda rises close to the top. Then screw the cap on tightly.
Children will mimic the behavior they see in their parents. If you show them that sodas are a luxury and not a right, they will treat them this way. If they see you buying soda pop, when you've already told them that you don't have any money left for luxuries, they will learn that soda is more important than milk, bread and vegetables, which is not in their or your best interest.
Water: Never underestimate the power of water to quench a hearty thirst. Nutritionists say we need eight cups or two quarts each day. I keep a pop bottle of water in the refrigerator at all times. When the kids come inside from playing all day, the first thing they always go for is the cold water in the fridge.
Here's one last note. The biggest stumbling block I have experienced to mixing my own beverages is having a sink full of dirty dishes. I cannot fit the pitchers or jugs under the spigot when the sink is overflowing with clutter. One of the biggest boosts I gave myself was vowing to keep the dishes done. Not only are beverages easier to make, but also all of the cooking I need to do everyday is a hundred times easier. If you can only afford to give yourself one free gift this year, give yourself the gift of finally conquering the dishes. You will always be blessed by an empty sink.
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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