Yep. It's true. Smoothies are quite the rage right now. What's not to like about them? They're fresh and healthy, and they taste great! They're quick and easy as well. I whip out several a week and my kids always want some too.
I just realized the other day that one of my smoothie related habits is actually a money saver too!
Let me start by giving a few quick "how I make smoothies" statements so you won't be confused by my lack of ingredients.
-I only use fruits, vegetables, and water or juice in my smoothies. No milk, yogurt, ice cream, etc.... It's straight up servings of my 5+ a day.
-I usually use a regular blender. I like having the whole fruit and all it's nutrition. I don't juice. I might use some juice to thin things out, but I don't have a juicer.
-I also have a Nutri Ninja Pro. A little better than a Nutri Ninja (IMHO) and helps liquify hard ingredients (like apples) a little better than a blender. It's quite affordable and keeps the whole item in my smoothie, just how I like it, nutritionally speaking.
-I don't use recipes. I might, just to try something that looks interesting every now and then, but I pretty much just whir stuff together, taste, and only occasionally need to adjust.
-I DO have a general formula. I almost always have a banana just because I like the creaminess it adds to the texture. I always add fruit, a mix of fresh and frozen or whatever I have on hand. I always add a veggie. It's normally greens, but I've been known to but in celery, asparagus, kale, steamed broccoli, red bell pepper, etc...
-I don't use ice unless I've only used fresh fruit. I prefer to use frozen fruit and forgo the ice. I just like the texture better. But it does need to be cold for me to enjoy it.
Now that we have that out of the way, let me tell you a little secret. I used to waste produce. (gasp!). If I had bananas going bad, I'd freeze them because I could always use them later for banana bread; but, any other fruit or vegetable I'd just toss. I hated to waste them, but I wasn't going to eat them past their prime. As I transitioned more and more to organic produce, and organic prices, I get sicker and sicker each time I wasted some precious produce.
One day, slicing apples for my daughter, she didn't want one slice because it had a bruised area. It was still good, but just bruised. Normally, I'd balk at her pickiness, but I knew I didn't like the texture of bruised apples either. The bruised part gets kind of mealy. But I didn't want to waste the whole slice because of one bruised area. I was about to cut out the bruise when I thought, "Why don't I just put it in a smoothie? I'm not going to make another one today but I could probably freeze it and then use it some other time. I use frozen fruit all the time in my smoothies, why not freeze some fruit myself that can go into them?"
And that began a whole new adventure for me. When I write about it, it seems to be such a common sense thing I am almost embarrassed to share. But I press on, lest any other smoothie makers out there are doing the same thing.
The problem was I was buying fresh organic produce to eat, and frozen organic produce for smoothies (with the exception of bananas and greens that I put in fresh...at the time). When we didn't eat all the fresh produce, I'd throw it into the compost. The frozen fruit was for the smoothies, the fresh for eating. Why was I so compartmentalized?!
Now here is money saving tip #1 - you've probably guessed it by now...freeze your fresh produce when it's going south! Now when I have apples, bananas, strawberries, blueberries, peaches, etc... that are just a little too soft to enjoy eating fresh, I cut them and do whatever else there is to do them in order to make it smoothie ready. Then I put them in a freezer bag and stash the bags in the freezer. That way I'm saving money by not wasting my produce!
Today I had several small fuji apples, a granny smith apple, and a few bananas.
I peeled the bananas and sliced the apples, cutting the core out. I put my apples in smoothies peel and all. The pectin in peels in great for skin!
If I have a combo of fruit that would be good together in one smoothie, I put it in a bag together. That makes a short cut for me so I can just grab one bag and dump it in the blender with water or juice and whiz one up. No decisions to make about what to put in the smoothie. Otherwise I put all like items together. So here I have a combo of apples and a banana in one bag, and some bags of each type of apple, and a bag with a banana.
But wait, don't forget veggies! I looked in my fridge and had some organic baby lettuce and herb mix that was starting to limp out. Guess what, those textures (the bruised apple and limp greens, etc...) don't come across the same when you blend it all up into a smoothie! And did you know that Americans waste 60% of our bagged salad greens?! They're the most wasted vegetable in the nation!
And even better, they can go in the freezer with your other frozen smoothie materials!
Totally works! The same goes for celery and other veggies too!
Which leads to me to money saving point #2- If you have less of your fresh produce wasted because you freeze it for smoothies, you buy less frozen produce because you're adding more to your freezer collection once or twice a week from your fresh stash.
When I started making smoothies with greens in them, I recognized pretty quickly that I was wasting less greens. The bag I threw away still had some in it, but I was happy to realize I was using more of them because I was putting some in smoothies. But it took me a few weeks after freezing my own sad looking fruit to realize that I didn't need to buy as much frozen fruit as before.
I had been buying 2-3 bags of frozen fruit a week specifically to use in smoothies. After a few weeks of just picking up that many bags out of habit, I started noticing a bit of a pile up in my freezer. I realized I had 2-3 bags worth, sometimes more, of frozen fruit and veggies I had saved from my fresh produce stash.
I'm really down to buying 1 bag a week of frozen fruit now, sometimes I can skip a week.
And it works for juices too! I've put in orange juice, carrot juice, tomato juice, and more. If there's a juice that needs to be used up, in it goes. And it can be frozen, but requires thawing time.
I usually start with plain water and add splashes of juice to get it to the right consistency. What's the right consistency, you ask? It depends on my mood. Sometimes I want something thick and mostly frozen, like a fruity Blizzard, and sometimes I want something far more drinkable.
So there you have it, waste less fresh produce by freezing it, and buy less frozen produce because you saved more of what you already had!
Oh, a bonus! I just thought of a money saving tip #3! You could totally buy clearance organic fruit and vegetables that are starting their trip down the retirement road and make freezer smoothie bags out them! No more do you have to pass up a whole box of organic mangoes that priced crazy cheap because you could never eat that many before they go bad, freeze for smoothies!