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.
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!