Have I told you guys that I’m so thankful that you read my blog random thoughts? I am – so very much. It’s because of you lovely readers that I started to think creatively about some of the ingredients that we buy and use often. Because of you, I went to the farmer’s market and paid much less than shelf-price for fruit. Because of you, I’m inspired to come up with creative meal ideas to make better use of the food we have at home. Because of you, I’ve given some thought about a few staple items in our budget and may be able to lower their costs. It may not be much, but every little bit counts!
I pondered the four most common liquids we use each month and really started thinking about how I can get them for less, or make them myself, or use something else instead. All while keeping a high level of nutrition and eliminating anything that isn’t really food (like plastic). Here’s what I came up with.
Mr. Crumbs drinks coconut water every day in his smoothie. It has numerous health benefits and he really likes the taste (and I know this because I made him try a smoothie with regular water, just to make sure it didn’t taste good… hehehe). He’d rather have this over any type of milk (cow, almond or coconut) so this will stay in our budget and diet. I’m not brand-loyal, but it does need to be 100% pure and natural without added sugar or flavors. After some research, the only brand that really lives up to this standard is Zico.
After searching in stores and looking at WAY TOO MANY sites that offer Zico, the best price I’ve found is at Trader Joe’s – $3.69 each. He goes through one liter each week so I’m looking at $14.76 per month.
I’ve decided to add this to my “exception list” for coupons and will keep an eye out when they’re on sale to see if I can get a better deal. While I haven’t seen many coupons for coconut water, I can cling to hope!
I drink almond milk every day in my smoothies. I’ve considered using coconut water instead, but since that’s more expensive, I’ll just stick with almond milk. The best price I’ve seen is once again at Trader Joe’s for $1.69 per quart.
I can make homemade almond milk using almonds and water. Doing the math though on the cost of almonds – even when bought in bulk – makes the homemade version cost twice as much. And this doesn’t include the time it takes to prepare and make the milk.
For the time being, I’ve decided to continue buying almond milk at Trader Joe’s, bringing me in at $6.76 for each month (one quart per week). I’m adding this to my “exception list” for coupons too. If a better deal comes along, I’m stocking up!
Kefir is also a staple in my smoothies and will continue to be for the incredible health benefits. I use one quart each week and can buy it locally at Trader Joe’s for $2.99 per quart.
After a little bit of research, it turns out that I can make my own kefir! The good news is that’s it’s super easy – kefir grains and milk. The bad news is since I don’t know anyone who has kefir grains to share, I’d have to fork over $21.98 out of my budget up-front. Although, once I have the grains, I don’t have to buy them again (assuming I don’t kill them, that is).
I pulled out my calculator for this one and determined that if I bought kefir grains and made my own kefir (using organic milk), I would break even after about 3 months (compared to buying 4 quarts of kefir each month). The savings would start immediately in the fourth month and continue from there on out.
I can buy one gallon of organic milk at Trader Joe’s for $5.99 each month instead of kefir and after month #4, I’m essentially saving $5.97 each month. Over the course of 12 months, I would end up saving nearly $50.
It may sound strange to spend $22 to save $50, but by making my own, I wouldn’t have to “ration” the kefir. I could bake with it, include it in the kids oatmeal, or even replace the almond milk in my own smoothies. It would be an easy way to ferment other foods we eat.
Once again you lovlies have come to my rescue an provided me two easy recipes for homemade buttermilk. I want to compare homemade versions with store-bought to see which is most cost effective in the long run.
Store-Bought: The best price that I’ve found for buttermilk is $1.29 for a quart. Since one quart has four cups, that’s $.32 per cup.
Homemade #1: The first homemade recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of vinegar added to just scant one cup of milk. I buy vinegar in bulk at Costco for $2.16 per gallon. One tablespoon costs $.008 and one cup of milk (from the $1.99 quart) costs .50. So homemade recipe #1 would cost me $.51 per cup to make.
Homemade #2: The second homemade recipe calls for adding 3 3/4 cup of milk (again from the $1.99 quart) to 1/4 cup of existing buttermilk ($1.29 per quart). The milk would cost $1.88 and the buttermilk .08 with a final cost of $1.96 for four cups, or $.49 for one cup.
As it turns out, buying buttermilk from Trader Joe’s is actually cheaper than making my own. If I continue to bake the potato buttermilk bread, I’ll buy the buttermilk. However, if I’m ever wanting to make something I hadn’t planned for (homemade ranch dressing, buttermilk pancakes, buttermilk scones, etc.) then I could easily do homemade recipe #1 since I always have vinegar on hand.
So there you have it folks. This is a perfect example of trying to lower your budget, one baby step (and one dollar) at a time. It’s very difficult (and time-consuming) to sit down and evaluate every single food you eat at one time. It’s MUCH easier to choose two or three (or even just one) of the foods you eat most often and attempt to locate them for cheaper, find a substitutes, or even make them yourself!