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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Monday, July 25, 2011

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Beverages

Frugal Kitchens 101

Beverages are a normal part of most meals.  Depending on your choice of beverage the cost of a meal can be greatly increased when dining out and even when eating at home.  In addition to the added costs, many beverages simply are empty calories, high in carbohydrate content especially HFCS.  These types of beverages should be enjoyed on a limited basis in moderation.  Most restaurants do not mind if you bring a sippy cup of some type of beverage for toddlers but it would be inappropriate to bring your own beverage into a restaurant.  I have brought in herbal tea bags though with some restaurants charging the price of a cup of tea for the hot water.  The variety of beverages available at home are almost endless.  Some are more frugal than others.  Today's Frugal Kitchens 101 discusses beverages and ways to save on their costs.

  • alcoholic beverages - The following prices are based on alcohol prices in Ontario, Canada.  A litre bottle of hard alcohol (eg. whiskey, vodka, etc) averages about $32 or $1.23 per ounce.  A case of beer (24 pk - 355 ml) costs about $36 or $1.50 per beer with premium beers (eg. Sleeman's) considerably higher.  Wines will come in at about $2 per glass to considerably more depending on the wine.  Clearly, alcoholic beverages will raise the price of a meal.  When serving alcoholic beverages, serve in moderation reserving for special meals and entertaining.
  • milk and dairy beverages - At one time milk was the beverage of choice for growing children but now that has changed.  Milk still remains popular in some homes.  Buy milk on sale then freeze to use as needed.  Reduce the serving size from 10 ounces to 8 ounces.  Reduce the number of milk servings as it really is not necessary to have three glasses of milk per day.  The biggest nutritional  concern with milk is the fat content.  Switch from whole milk to 2% or skim milk to address this issue.  
  • carbonated soft drinks - I really am not a fan of carbonated soft drinks at all.  I occasionally drink sodium reduce club soda but seldom any other kind of carbonated soft drink.  A 24 pack case of brand name carbonated soft drink averages about $8.99 here but they do go on sale for about $4.99.  Carbonated soft drinks really are a nutritional nightmare.  Regular soda is laden with empty calories in the form of sugar and HFCS.  The average regular soda contains the equivalent of 17 tablespoons of sugar!  Cola drinks also contain caffeine.  The problem is some adolescents are drinking as many as ten cans of regular soda daily.  Diet soda is usually sweetened with asparatame, a known haepatocytic chemical thought to contribute to liver cancer as well as being a neurotoxin.  If serving carbonated soft drinks, don't serve them with the actual meal.  Keep them as a treat and restrict to only one or two carbonated soft drinks per day preferably not daily.  Always buy carbonated soft drinks on sale.
  • non-carbonated soft drinks -  These include fruit drinks, KoolAid, drink mixes (eg. ice tea, lemonade).  In general, fruit drinks are not a good value for your food dollar.  Some of them contain only 10% fruit juice with the rest being nothing more than artificially flavoured water. 
  • fruit juices - Fruit juices can be high in sugar but in general can be a good value for your food dollar.  Consider making your own fruit juices if you grow a garden or have fruit trees.  If at all possible never buy reconstituted fruit juice as you are paying for the water.  Frozen fruit juice concentrate is by far the least expensive way to buy fruit juice and it often goes on sale increase the savings.
  • coffee - Coffee is a popular drink for many but too much can be a huge problem creating stomach irritation and increasing and problems with GERD.  Coffee is for the most part less expensive than carbonated soft drinks coming in at 9¢ to 80¢ per cup depending on your brew system.  While coffee plain coffee itself has only 4 calories per cup, flavoured coffees can be as high as 60 calories per cup.  If you use cream and sugar in your coffee as I do, the calories are about the same as flavoured coffee.  We restrict our coffee intake to two cups per day occasionally three.  If you like iced coffees, brew a pot then cool to be used for iced coffees at a fraction of the cost of coffee shop iced coffees. 
  • herbal tea - Herbal teas can be quite inexpensive depending on whether you  grow and dry the herbs yourself or not.  In general, store bought herbal teas cost 9¢ to about 30¢ per herbal tea bag although K-cups are available that will cost as high as 79¢ each.  Save on this cost by using the re-usable filter, My-Kcup and regular herbal tea bags or use an electric kettle.  
  • tea - I grew up drinking tea and still enjoy a few cups of tea each day.  Tea is about half the price of coffee because each tea bag brews two cups.  Plain tea only has 2 calories per cup but some teas like green tea have health benefits.  A gallon of iced tea or sun tea can be made for about 18¢ well under the price of store bought ice tea mix and without all that sugar!
  • water - By far the most frugal beverage is water.  Water comes in at well under 1¢ per glass.  Most people do not drink enough water either.  Ideally an adult should drink at least 2 litres of plain water daily to help flush their body of toxins.  An added bonus is drinking more water helps reduce water retention while aiding in weight loss.  Do not buy bottled water unless absolutely necessary like longer travel trips or while on vacation.  Instead invest in a pitcher style water filter and two refillable water bottles per household members.   Flavour with a fresh lemon wedge if desired.  Find excuses to drink water rather than another beverage.  Most restaurants don't charge for water so you can save on the meal but your body with thank you with softer, silkier hair, fewer skin blemishes, weight-loss and a better feeling of well-being.

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