Tag Archives: coffee

Frugali-tea

Let me just start out by saying that I really like tea.  I always have.  I like it hot, iced, luke warm, black, green, red, plain, flavored, loose, bagged, morning, noon, night, caffeinated and not caffeinated.  I even like teas that are not teas: tisanes or herbal “teas.” So, this transition was easy for me…but for my husband–not so much.  He has often commented that he has nothing against tea, but that it doesn’t taste like anything. And he was always more of a coffee drinker in the morning.

I am proud to say that I have converted him. Not that he likes it much more than before, but, at this point in our house, it’s either water or tea, and however you squeeze it, tea has more flavor than water.  He still has coffee, too, so don’t feel bad for him.

The evolution of having just three things (water, tea and coffee) to drink in our house was gradual.   I used to buy a lot of juice, but, being cognizant of the amount sugar and calories most “natural” juices contained, I started to buy the stuff with the sweeteners. I would also occasionally buy soda if it was a really good deal, though diet, of course, because of the whole calorie thing. But, then I really started to worry about what the sweeteners were doing to my body.  At that time, I was also adding sweeteners to several cups of hot tea throughout the day, usually the yellow packets. And the simple truth is that nobody knows what sweeteners do to the body.  I decided I needed to stop playing roulette with a possible carcinogen and stop using sweeteners.  Okay, okay… I do still, on the very rare occasion, which is usually a latte, use sweeteners, but it is still a MASSIVE reduction for me.

Despite always having a cup of tea at home, I never really kept a pitcher of it in the fridge.  As long as I was buying juice, my husband wasn’t touching it. But once I decided to stop buying juice…I knew I needed another option.  I grabbed a margarita pitcher that, sadly, had never seen enough margaritas, and began to keep a pitcher of iced tea in the fridge.

There are many schools of thought on how to properly prepare iced tea.  This is my method: Fill pitcher with water, throw in 5-6 bags of tea, stick in fridge.  Within a few hours, it is steeped. I tend not to use hot water because I am using a glass pitcher.  I apologize to tea connoisseurs around the world that may be cringing at this method of tea preparation (i.e., not steeped at the correct temperature for the correct amount of time)  but it works just fine.  And, really, if it were more work, I might not do it.  I usually use a plain, cheap black or green tea bags as a base, and then add one to two bags of “flavor” such as mint or chai.  Sometimes, if I want to get fancy, I might add a bit of honey or fresh squeezed lemon.  And now that I have a juicer, things can start to get really crazy.

The advantages of converting to tea rather than juice and soda are numerous.  1) There is the health benefit of not drinking sugar and other crap and drinking tea, which has a lot of health benefits. 2) There is also the cost advantage.  If before I was spending $2-$4 on each 64 oz juice, now I spend mere pennies on a pitcher of iced tea.  For example, I just bought a pack of 100 grocery store brand black tea packets for $1.99.  If I made a pitcher of just plain black tea, it would cost just 12 cents.  If I added a couple of packets of Bigelow’s Plantation mint (on sale for $1.95 for 18 packets) the cost would shoot up to around 30 cents!  3) Plus, I am reducing the waste I am producing by not buying 2-3 large plastic bottles or many more cans every week.  When I am done using the tea bags they get fed to my worms.

Here is where I make my confession.  I still feel that my offerings are a bit meager for company.  I hate that I feel this way.  But I do.  As a hostess, I feel that I am being inconsiderate.  That not everyone likes iced tea like I do.  Or maybe they can’t drink it because of the caffeine. Or maybe they’re six years old.  So, I still feel pressured to go out and buy more choices.  I hope to wean myself off of this need.  And I think the way I will do that is by playing around with combinations of flavors to add to my tea, so that it’s an exotic offering rather than a boring one.  I’m already thinking of throwing a piece of ginger in the juicer and experimenting. I hope to come back to this page and add many interesting (and cheap) recipes.

Stop the Madness

This year we had a death in our family.  It was sad.  He had been with us for about seven or eight years, and always faithful, consistent and reassuring.  It wasn’t a pet, it was our coffeemaker.

Despite now having reached a new level of awareness, my husband and I have often been victims of falling for the “newest thing”.   This includes one of those press one button, pod, instant coffee machines. Our machine of choice was the Tassimo. Yes, we know we basically chose the laser disk of the coffee pod machine world, but we were loyal and committed, even as Keurig began to take over the world and Tassimo pods were harder and harder to obtain.  Plus, the Tassimo made cappuccinos and caramel macchiatos, which the Keurig never did (and still does not!).

We originally converted from a regular coffee maker to the Tassimo because only my husband was drinking coffee and he wanted a single serve machine that was convenient and low fuss. And it truly was convenient and low fuss. I mean, how easy: choose pod, insert pod, push button and voila, instant, good coffee for one person. As time went on, though, we realized that it was an expensive habit.  A package of regular coffee, with 16 servings would run about ten bucks, maybe less if you had a coupon, and many packages, especially of the larger servings had fewer pods. So if my husband wanted two cups of coffee a day, we would be spending close to $40 a month…on coffee.  If I spent that much on Starbucks a month, I can assure you my husband would have given me a talking to.

But that was only one aspect. We were also aware of how much we were throwing away with each serving of coffee. Sometimes I would remove the coffee to feed to my worms, but that was tedious and I was still throwing away the pod. Yes, once again here we are telling you what you should do, only after we splurged on what you shouldn’t do…we’re like your parents in that way. But as much as we hate to admit it, parents know what they’re talking about, right?

Still, we didn’t want to spend money on a new coffee maker when the Tassimo was still working. And we didn’t really know in what direction to go, so we just kept using it. It was almost a blessing when it started to crap out. Though, being conscientious, we tried quick fixes we found on the internet.  They worked! And Tassimo gained another eight months of life.

In the end, though, we decided when the last round of expensive coffee was done with, we would retire the Tassimo.  We spent a long time researching our options. My husband still wanted a coffee maker that would only make one cup at a time and now we had a new goal of not generating pod waste every day. Consequently, we wanted a machine where we would be able use our own coffee.

At this point we seriously considered a keurig or a keurig compatible machine, which honestly was, like, 99.9% of the single brew market. (Completely made up number.) There were so many options and brands, too.  With many styles you could buy your own K-cup and use your own coffee.  Plus you could always splurge on one of the billion flavors of coffees, teas, and hot chocolates in pods–you know, if you were into that kind of waste. Let’s not pretend I would be above that. We thought for sure we would end up with a Keurig, or K-cup compatible machine…I mean, really, do they make any others? Why, yes, they do.

We decided on the Hamilton Beach Single Serve Scoop Coffee Maker. http://www.amazon.com/Hamilton-Beach-Single-Serve-Coffee/dp/B005GUGBS4.  It is everything we wanted in a coffee maker.  Convenient, single-serve, very reasonably priced and we can use our own coffee.

With my husband as the judge, it makes a really good cup of coffee. And there is nothing to throw away but the grounds.  It has a double filter system which they advise you clean out after every use.  Amazingly, my husband does this step, which really just amounts to rinsing out the grounds and occasionally giving it a good rub with the sponge. Easy enough. Some reviews complained about excessive splashing on the backsplash, but that is because they either didn’t realize or were to lazy to move the platform up.  It adjusts for your cup/mug.  It can accommodate any size mug, and most normal sized travel cups. This was actually something annoying about the Tassimo.  It did not fit many of our mugs, and none of our travel mugs. The Hamilton Beach Scoop only has two options, regular and bold, hence two buttons.  This is a definite advantage over the Keurig machines since I think their machines are often confusing and difficult to maneuver–and I am no button-maneuvering slouch.  I know my way around buttons and menus, and Keurigs are plain tricky. This machine takes the “choices” out of the equation.  You only get the amount of water out that you put in and you measure a the coffee in your scoop according to your preference.  It may take a couple of cups to get it perfect, but even your trial runs will net a pretty good cup of coffee.

Because you are brewing your own grounds, this machine could still work for a large family or a fanatic coffee drinker. There is the extra step of rinsing out the scoops, but 1) it’s easy and 2) they actually give you two of them. So everyone can have the exact cup of coffee they want.  I like flavors, my husband doesn’t, now it’s a win-win. An six ounce cup of coffee is plenty for me and he wouldn’t mind drinking a 16 oz cup.  We can both have it to order and the coffee doesn’t have to sit around to thicken like office coffee if we’re on different schedules.

Just to be clear, my snobbery does not override my common sense. We did not resist a K-cup machine just because we had been loyal to the underdog, Tassimo, but also because the reviews for the re-usable filters were pretty unfavorable.  Plus the machines themselves were much more expensive.

Now, instead of spending $40 a month on coffee, we are spending around $15.  We still buy good coffee, like Starbuck, Gevalia and Caribou Coffee brands. Incidentally, have you noticed how they now sell coffee in 10 oz and 12 oz instead of a pound? Sneaky marketing bastards. We could spend even less money and get cheaper coffee, but let’s not be too hasty.

It doesn’t do espresso…but then again, neither does the Keurig  (though the pricey Starbucks Verissimo does.)  It just makes a solid, consistent cup of coffee that meets our goals of being less expensive and producing less waste.

One last thing, to try to decrease the amount of waste we would generate by disposing of the Tassimo (it wasn’t in good working order, if you recall) we gutted the Tassimo and listed the parts on ebay.  This idea may have been a few years too late.  We still have all the parts.  But at least it made me feel a little better about throwing away the entire thing.