Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Homemade Soft Drink Replacements

My little epiphany regarding convenience foods compared to making things from scratch, and my goal to make some changes and share them with the world was challenged this morning. I remembered I have guests coming tonight and no pop in the house. Not only that, I haven't had anything to serve my guests for the past 3 or 4 weeks, and I am starting to feel like a very lousy hostess!

I could probably find pop on sale somewhere, but that would compromise my $100 challenge. Not only that, but my husband and I are trying to keep pop out of the house for our own health. I tried keeping it around just for guests, but the only success I had was when I bought only root beer, because I hate root beer... but it turns out most of my guests agree with me.

My husband made homemade ginger ale a few weeks ago, following Alton Brown's recipe. He enjoyed it, and will probably make it again. I wasn't particularly impressed with the flavour, and it takes 48 hours to make, so it isn't an option for tonight.

I found a great solution that I have used before and been very happy with. A lovely cold beverage without too many calories, which can be made easily and quickly and costs very little - Iced Tea!


I use the Hillbilly Housewife's Iced Tea recipe for perfect iced tea every time. It is a great, easy recipe I have used before. I made it with 1/4 cup of sugar, but follow her advice and sweeten it to taste.


On her site, she says she makes the entire batch (8 quarts or 2 liters) for only $0.08. I will have to keep an eye out for cheaper tea bags. My batch cost $0.22 for the tea bags, bought last week on sale and $0.03 for 1/4 cup of sugar for a grand total of $0.25 for 2 liters of beverage.

A two liter bottle of no name pop usually costs about $1. I think I have seen it for as little as $0.75. If I am being generous with the price of pop, my homemade alternative still cost only a third of the price of store bought soda. I saved at least $0.50, and given that I was going to go out and buy some pop at full price I saved more than $0.75 easily.

Over a year, if my family drinks 4 liters a week, I am saving at least $52.00. If you drink more pop, your savings could be even greater!

(Please don't remind me that it we just drank the water straight we would save at least $26 more!)


Today, my homemade alternative was more convenient than store bought because I didn't have to make an extra run to the store with two small children in tow.

It took about 15 minutes of my time, from start to finish to make the tea, and then some time to cool, although the recipe suggests serving it immediately over ice too. Most of the "cooking" time is waiting for the tea to steep, which is hardly labour intensive.

Sure, it is a little more work than opening a bottle, but the effort is minimal, and worth it when you compare taste!


I love homemade iced tea. It feels like a special treat and I am proud to serve it to guests. You can adjust the sweetness to taste and experiment with different flavours of tea bags to make all sorts of new beverages. Homemade beats store bought for flavour, hands down.

Environmental Impact

I made my tea in a reusable drink pitcher I will use over and over again, rather than buying it in 2 liter plastic bottles or aluminum cans. We would recycle these things, or possibly even reuse them, but on the waste hierarchy, reduce is the best option, which is what I am doing by not purchasing the bottles.

Sure, I had to turn on the kettle, and I use my refrigerator to cool the tea down, but I am certain that the energy the transport trucks use to tote all those bottles of pop around far exceeds my small usage.


It probably isn't entirely fair to compare store bought soda pop ingredients with homemade iced tea ingredients, but I don't have an empty iced tea bottle at home, and I do have an empty Diet Coke bottle at home!

The Diet Coke contains carbonated water, caramel colour, phosphoric and citric acid, aspartame (contains phenylalanin), flavour, sodium benzoate, caffeine, acesulfame-potassium. Aspartame and acesulfame-potassium are are only there because it is a diet drink. The regular Coke is probably made with high fructose corn syrup, which is full of its own perils. Interesting side note for my fellow Canadians: did you know that the glucose-fructose you see on food labels seems to be the same as the infamous high fructose corn syrup?

If there are 17 teaspoons of sugar in 20 oz of pop, there is over 1 cup of sugar in 2 liters of pop. My 1/4 cup of sugar is starting to look very healthy! If I decided to use honey instead, I could steer clear entirely of white sugar.

There is also some evidence that tea may be a healthy choice of beverages, while I haven't seen any new studies on the health benefits of soda pop!

I won't let my kids drink the iced tea, just as I won't let them drink Coke or coffee or hot tea or any other high caffeine beverage, but I think that homemade iced tea will permanently replace the store bought convenience of soda pop at our house. If nothing else, the way your guests eyes light up when you offer them homemade iced tea makes it worthwhile!


  1. Hi Meredith!
    I've recently come across your blog and LOVE IT!! Thank you so much for all your great tips and info - can you tell me where in the KW area there's a FOODLAND?

    I'm also a big fan of homemade iced tea. Here's my super easy version with fewer tea bags. I have a glass 2 litre jug from Sobey's and I pour boiling water over 3 tea bags directly into the glass jug. I wait about 3 minutes or so to brew then remove the tea bags so it doesn't get bitter. My kettle only holds about 1.25l so i top up the rest of the jug with water. I add 2 capfuls of lemon concentrate and 1/3 cup sugar. Once it's cooled a bit on the counter (without the tea bags) I put the lid on and shake it up.

    As of yesterday I've 'discovered' homemade super easy lemonade - 1/2 cup lemon concentrate, 1/2cup sugar, fill up to 2 litre COLD water. It's pretty good!!

    Again thanks for all the info!

  2. Hmmm, will have to whip up a batch this weekend. I was thinking of trying a batch of homemade iced coffee too. Coffee is more expensive but slightly different take, expecially if entertaining. Good idea!

  3. I was mystified by Foodland too... I kept getting their flyer delivered to my door, but couldn't find them.
    The closest Foodland to us, in Waterloo, is in Elmira. It is an easy drive for us, just straight up the expressway. The Foodland and No Frills, also in Elmira, have to have deals worth driving for!
    I am also going to look into the possibility of price matching their sales. I know Walmart would probably do it, if they carry the same or similar product. I would like to find out if any other, more convenient, stores will price match for me!

  4. Bravo! Soda is bad for you in so many ways, and bad for the environment in at least as many ways :) Hot or iced tea is an amazing alternative, and thrifty too :)

  5. Hey, Meredith! I think this is awesome. My wife and I are starting to reduce the use of store brought drinks and food, too. As our dentist in Bartlett has suggested, we must avoid drinking too much of these frizzy drinks because of the negative effects on our teeth, especially of our kids. You're right about teas -- they're much beneficial than sodas. Let's go for teas!