Smoothies are a great way to get a variety of nutritious foods into your daily diet. They are convenient, quick and easy to make, provide you with nutrition on the go, and best of all taste amazing. But what if you’re working on a tight budget?
Good nutrition can be really expensive. People living in poverty are often overweight or obese, a seeming contradiction until you realize that it’s cheaper to get a greasy, fast food hamburger than it is to buy ingredients for a fresh salad or smoothie. If you’re carefully budgeting your food expenses, but you want to eat well and benefit from smoothies, there is a way. Healthy eating doesn’t have to be outrageously expensive. You just have to know the tricks and be willing to put some time into it.
Make Your Own Smoothies
For a lot of people, this first tip will seem painfully obvious. Don’t feel bad if you haven’t made this discovery yet. Many people haven’t. Buying a smoothie at your local smoothie shop or juice counter is way more expensive than making one in your own kitchen. Smoothies have taken off in popularity and you can easily go out and buy one on the way to work.
These already-made smoothies come at a cost. If you buy one from a chain like Starbucks, Tropical Smoothie Café, or Smoothie King, be prepared to pay more than $4. At home, you can cut that cost drastically. Another crucial benefit of making your own – you have control over what goes into it. Smoothies are notorious for hiding sugar and calories. The healthiest and the cheapest smoothies will come straight from your own blender.
Yes, you need a blender to make your own smoothies, and yes some high-end models cost an arm and a leg. However, buying a blender on a budget is doable. You want to find the right balance between cost and quality. There’s no point in buying a cheap blender if it doesn’t work well. If you get a blender that can’t crush ice and frozen food well, then you aren’t likely to keep making and enjoying smoothies.
Fortunately, I have just the resource to help you find the blender that’s perfect for you. It includes my recommended low cost blender – the one I used for the first 5 years of smoothie making.
When you do pick out a blender that you can afford, pay attention to the warranty and be sure to register your model so that you can get it repaired or replaced in case of a breakdown during the warranty period. I recently had a great experience with customer support at Blendtec. My jar was slightly damaged and they shipped out a new one in less than a week.
Stock up and Freeze
Once you have your blender it’s time to think budget ingredients. The main ingredients in all of your smoothies will be produce: fruits and vegetables. Use all of your grocery shopping budget strategies when you shop for smoothie ingredients. For instance, you can shop at a store that offers loyalty points and rewards. Use coupons whenever they are available. Visit your local farmer’s market where produce prices are often lower than grocery stores. Most importantly, stock up on produce when the deal is good. How can you stock up on fresh produce? By freezing it, of course.
Using frozen fruit to make your smoothie is a great way to get good texture and temperature without using ice cubes. When you see those pricey, small containers of raspberries on sale for 10 for a dollar, buy 20 and freeze them. You’ll have enough raspberries for several weeks’ worth of smoothies. Whenever you’re freezing bulk amounts of produce, portion it out in to freezer bags so that you have one smoothie’s worth of fruit per bag. This will make your life easier later. Not only will you not have to measure portions out later, but you will avoid the big clumps of frozen produce you’ll get if you just throw it all into one large freezer bag. This is one of my 5 Tips for Making Smoothie in No Time Flat.
You can buy fresh and freeze just about any produce from berries and peaches to kale and spinach. And don’t forget to check the freezer aisle in your grocery store. Frozen produce goes on sale too and is often as nutritious, if not more nutritious than fresh produce. Nutrients deteriorate from produce the longer it sits around, so if you do buy fruits and veggies to freeze, do it right away and lock them in.
Organic – When to Skip, When to Buy
Another big expense when you’re trying to eat well is buying organic. Depending on what you are trying to buy organic, where you buy it, and the time of year, organic produce can be pretty expensive. If you have all the money in the world to spend on groceries, that’s great. But if you’re like most people, you can’t afford to buy all organic all the time. There are certain foods that are best to buy organic and others that you can skip. For instance, think about oranges. You’re not going to eat the peel, so buying regular, non-organic oranges isn’t too risky.
The Environmental Working Group regularly tests produce for pesticide residues and reports on the dirtiest and cleanest. The “dirty dozen” are the top 12 types of produce with the most residual pesticide. These are the fruits and vegetables that you should get organic whenever possible. As of 2015 they are:
- Sweet Bell Peppers
- Cherry tomatoes
- Imported snap peas
The group also lists the cleanest fruits and vegetables. These are the types of produce that you can feel pretty good about not buying organic. The Environmental Working Group calls these the “clean fifteen:”
- Sweet corn
- Frozen sweat peas
- Sweet Potatoes
If you really can’t afford to spend much on organic produce, use more of the fruits and vegetables from the “clean fifteen” list. Pineapples, mangoes, kiwis, papayas, and cantaloupe are all delicious fruits for smoothies and also act as natural sweeteners. You won’t need to buy an extra sweetener when you use these fruits. Avocados are also a great ingredient for added nutrition and for creaminess. And, believe it or not, cooked sweet potatoes can taste great in many smoothie recipes. Who needs pesticide-laden peaches and strawberries when you have so many “clean” options?
If you really want to save on the cost of produce for smoothies and guarantee your fruits and vegetables will be organic, start a garden. Even if you don’t have a lot of space, with a few containers you can grow a lot of produce. Focus on growing those items that you use often in your smoothies, those that are expensive in the grocery store, and those that should be organic, but are pricey. Strawberries are easy to grow in a lot of climates, as are greens like spinach and kale.
Save for High Quality Superfoods
If you’ve perused the superfood recipes or articles on my site you’ve undoubtedly learned all about superfoods and how they take the nutrition of your smoothies to a new level. However, superfoods are not always the cheapest thing on your grocery list. You can learn to save money on these purchases, and certain types of superfoods have become popular enough that they are no longer so rare and expensive. If there is a pricey superfood, like goji berries, that you just have to have every day, use the money you’ve saved on your other items. Your cost-cutting strategies will allow you to save up for your more expensive smoothie add-ons.
You can also buy many superfoods in bulk and store them for long periods of time. Most online retailers run sales and specials, which is when I like to load up. Some foods stay fresh and nutritious longer than others. For instance, if you have a choice between buying chia seeds or flax seeds, go with chia seeds. They contain enough antioxidants to keep the healthy fats from becoming rancid. You can buy them in bulk and keep them in a cool, dry cupboard for several months at a time. Any dried or powdered superfood, like dry goji berries or powdered spirulina or maca root, will also store well for long periods of time.
My go-to online source for bulk superfoods, herbs, teas, and spices is Mountain Rose Herbs. I usually purchase things such as chia seeds, coconut oil, cacao, and maca once or twice a year from them.
Live Superfoods is another online retailer I recommend that is always running specials. Sign up for their newsletter and receive all of their great deals right in your inbox.
Hopefully you feel inspired to go out and save some money on smoothies. You don’t have to be wealthy to enjoy good nutrition and delicious smoothies.
What are some of your smoothie budget strategies? Please share for everyone’s benefit in the comments below.
Sources for this blog post include: