It’s easy to blow your grocery budget (not to mention your diet) with beverages. At the same time, it’s important to stay hydrated, and it gets really boring just drinking water all the time. My solution has been to keep several kinds of homemade, naturally low-calorie drinks in my fridge most of the time. I almost never buy pre-made beverages now (see the exception below), and I always have fun things to drink that I love. Here’s how I make it work:
Herbal or caffeinated teas: I can spend a mint on green jasmine tea or ready-to-drink hibiscus or chamomile teas. Instead, while I’m watching TV or doing my once-a-week cleaning around the house, I put a large kettle of water on to boil, and pull out my tea bags, loose tea, or even assorted, random tea bags that are leftovers or freebies that have piled up (this is a great way to get rid of tea bag clutter). In a large mason jar (other types of glass may shatter when boiling water is poured into them, so be careful), I add 3-5 tea bags, and add boiling water to fill about 3/4 of the jar. I let it sit for an hour or so, then add some honey or agave nectar to taste (sugar will come out of solution when cooled, so the other sweeteners work better). If it’s a bit strong, add tap water. If you are using green or black tea, be sure to remove the teabags after about 5 minutes because otherwise they will overbrew and taste too metallic. You can leave herbal bags in there for as long as you like. Put in the refrigerator and drink whenever you need a glass of refreshment, or divide into glass containers (I just saved a few from buying them) so you can grab-and-go.
Carbonated herbal waters: I love flavored seltzers, but it bothers me how much fuel it takes to ship the water around, and while they are typically inexpensive, they aren’t free (not to mention that carting and carrying them around is a bit onerous). My solution is a soda making machine, except I only use it to carbonate my water. I have a Soda Stream, and once a week I fill my two bottles with tap water, and use the machine to carbonate them. I let them sit a moment and then add fresh herbs; lemon verbena, mint, or fresh basil, which I grow in a “kitchen garden” of sorts next to my back door. Voila, I have zero-calorie, flavorful fizzy water for pennies and it’s super fresh. Since I filter my water, I know that the water I’m drinking is clean and delicious. In the winter, I add slices of lemon or lime to the water; this water makes great mixers for drinks too.
Juices: I enjoy juice, and I do occasionally buy some Santa Cruz Organics or other all-natural organic brand of juice. I also sometimes spring for a bag of organic oranges and squeeze my own. Either way, I always water juice down. This not only saves you money (it takes twice as long to go through a bottle of juice), but saves you calories too. (If you don’t already know, even no-sugar-added juice can contain almost as many calories as soda.) If you aren’t used to the taste of less-strong juice, start with 2/3 juice to 1/3 water or even less. Then gradually change the ratio until you are about 50/50; your taste buds will adjust to the less-sweetness. Sometimes I add some of my herb-infused carbonated water instead of tap for a lovely taste combination.
Related weight loss idea on MNN: Can I lose 10 lbs before Halloween?