Homemade or Store Bought? A Frugal Comparison of Strawberry Smoothies

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We hear everywhere that’s it’s both cheaper and healthier to make your own everything. We’re told this is so but is it really? I decided to investigate, comparing ingredients and putting pencil to paper on costs. This article compares the costs and nutrition in a simple strawberry smoothie to Naked Juice’s Power C Machine, a product I’ve used several times.

Note: Please keep in mind that I’m not picking on this company. I chose it due to familiarity. Prices are local, and yours may vary. 

Homemade Strawberry Smoothie

Recipe

  • 1 C strawberries 
  • 1 6 oz. yogurt
  • 1 C milk
  • Makes 2 15 oz. smoothies

Costs

  • 1 qt. strawberries = 2 cups
    • $3/ store $5/ farmer’s market = $1.50/$2.50 per cup
    •  free if you grow them
  • 1/2 gallon 2% milk = 8 C 
    • $1.79/8= $0.22
  • Yogurt, 6 oz. $0.44

Recipe Costs

$2.16/ $3.16 total. $1.08/$1.58 per smoothie. Growing your own will reduce this dramatically since the most costly item is the strawberry. 

Nutrition 

Strawberries are rich in vitamin C. They contain high amounts of folate (vitamin B9), manganese, potassium, and antioxidants. They also contain various plant compounds that have many health benefits and small amounts of several other vitamins and minerals. From the Healthline website:

  • Calories: 32
  • Water: 91%
  • Protein: 0.7 grams
  • Carbs: 7.7 grams
  • Sugar: 4.9 grams
  • Fiber: 2 grams
  • Fat: 0.3 grams

Store Bought Naked Juice Power C

Cost

  • $3.29/ 15 oz.

Nutrition *From their website

  • Protein 2g
  • Vitamin D 0 mcg 0%
  • Calcium 40 mg 4%
  • Iron 0.7mg 4%
  • Potassium 680 mg 15%
  • Vitamin A 30 mcg 2%
  • Vitamin C 1140 mg 1270%
  • Zinc 3 mg 25%

Comparison

Naked Juice claims no added sugar or preservatives, but everything is made from a purée. The zinc is in the form of zinc oxide. A widely used food additive that can also be found in cosmetics and other manufactured items. And check out the carbs and the sugar! Quite a bit more than contained in our humble strawberry. And 220 calories! That’s quite a lot for such a small plastic bottle. This drink contains small amounts of iron, vitamin A, and calcium, all good things, but check out the sodium! This drink is 1% salt. 

Therefore, I conclude this health drink, while it contains many healthy things, is still the high carbohydrate/high sugar/high salt stuff that processed foods have become famous for. On top of that, there’s a plastic bottle. Rinse and reuse, or recycle, but it’s still a factor. This writer prefers to cut down on the amount of trash in landfills. An old A&W root beer glass purchased years ago at a rummage sale is eminently reusable. 

Other good points about making one’s own: the food that goes into the blender looks like food. Strawberries, milk, and yogurt are all reasonably identifiable compared to the purée in large metal factory-style containers. These containers are dumped into huge vats to make the drink. My food is made to order in small batches. 

So, to Recap

Cost Benefits

One 15 oz. strawberry smoothie costs either $1.08 or $1.58, depending upon where the berries are sourced. If you can grow your own, then the cost is even cheaper because the most expensive ingredient is now (mostly) free.

One 15 oz. Power C smoothie costs $3.29. Obviously, making smoothies at home is cheaper by a considerable margin. 

Health Benefits

The processed food smoothie does have many healthy ingredients, but in my opinion, these are far outweighed by the sugar, salt, and carbohydrates. I hope the drink is made from actual high-quality food, but I have to take their word for that. When making smoothies in my kitchen, I know what went into them. 

Taste

Granted, this is entirely subjective, but this writer very much prefers the taste of homemade. The processed drink has a liquid cardboard quality that I find distasteful. Homemade, hands down. 

So how do we enjoy this wondrous brew throughout the year?

Strawberry season is all too short, and this year was cut even shorter in my area by heavy rains. Easy! Freeze them. Strawberries (and many other berries) freeze very well for this purpose. What I don’t grow in my garden comes from the farmer’s market. Even at $5/quart, I’m good because the money goes directly to the farmer.

Keep in mind they won’t stay good for long in the refrigerator, and plan accordingly. This year I bought four quarts at a time, an amount I knew I could process quickly. Washing, sorting, cutting, and packing into freezer bags took me about one hour per session. I sugar pack mine using one-quart freezer bags, two cups of strawberries to 1/3 cup of sugar in each. There are recipes for packing without sugar. Check out the Ball Blue Book for some good ones! 

Hint: label your bags with contents, date, and amount before packing your berries into them. Life is easier this way. Don’t ask me how I know! When the urge hits, pull out a bag and defrost, then into the blender. Voila! Cheap, healthy smoothie. 

Choose health

In these uncertain times, it’s very tempting to spend a limited food budget on cheap processed food. But is that the better choice in the long run? Processed foods generally contain huge amounts of carbohydrates, sugar, and salt. There’s not that much actual food in them, which is why they’re so cheap. Therefore, the belly may feel full, but the body is missing out on many necessary nutrients.

Many, including myself, believe many chronic diseases, such as obesity and diabetes, are directly linked to the food we’re eating. While whole foods may appear to be more expensive, and in some cases they are, they contain the nutrition our bodies need to be healthy.

As this article shows, homemade can be cheaper than those convenience foods and much better for you. This website contains many recipes for healthy food on a thrifty budget. Why not give them a try? You’ll be healthier in the long run! 

What do you make at home that other people buy?

Is there a particular food or beverage that you make at home that everybody else seems to buy? What is it and what is the price difference? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

Homemade or Store Bought? A Frugal Comparison of Strawberry Smoothies

6 thoughts on “Homemade or Store Bought? A Frugal Comparison of Strawberry Smoothies”

  1. Gluten Free pizza is my make at home thing! It is very difficult to find a good, frozen (or fresh) GF pizza that is affordable and/or worth the price. When I finally found a delicious brand a few years ago, I was totally loyal to it – then the price hikes started. I switched to buying their plain pizza shell, adding my own sauce & toppings at home. Now the price for the plain shell is more than I used to pay for the whole pre-made pizza. I started thinking about making my own and found a great blog (glutenfreeonashoestring.com) . Not having all the ingredients she used for the “copycat”of the brand I had been buying, I decided to play around with a regular pizza dough recipe but with some of the ingredients, and all of the techniques (!), the blogger used. Success! We have been able to continue our family “Friday Night – Pizza Night” at a fraction of the cost for pre-made, frozen GF pizzas. The whole family likes them homemade, and we enjoy keeping our tradition alive.

  2. Exactly! The price of convenience foods is going nowhere but up. And what are we paying for? In addition to the food itself, the price includes obtaining the food, processing it, the packaging, the marketing, and transportation to the store. Someone has to stock it on the shelf and ring you up for payment. All of that costs money, even if you use a automatic checkout terminal. And what we’re getting isn’t even food in many cases! Processed foods are carbs & sugar, very little food.

    I’ve learned to view cooking as self-care. Whole foods aren’t terribly cheap either but at least it’s real food! Granted it’s terribly hard to eat whole foods on a food stamp budget but it’s better for health in the long run. Many of the farmers at my local market take EBT tokens too.

  3. I wash and dry my berries and freeze them on a cookie sheet. Once frozen, portion them as you please in baggies or containers. No ‘bricks’, and easy to pull out just what you know you will use!

  4. I’m growing a new set of berries this year. Strawberries, 2 types of blackberries, lignon berries that grow on a very small bush and look and taste like small cranberries and raspberries. Some are beginng to produce some for next year. I make yogurt from powder milk I get free from a community pantry.

    When I make smoothies I use whatever fruit is available, yogurt, and some of the liquid from making yogurt. No extra milk. Sometimes I add a little Stevia.

    Sometimes I make a vgetable smoothie. Celry, parsly, cucumber, a small zuchinni and yogurt or cooked and peeled cooled beets, and fruit in yogurt. I add a little acv and honey. Other times I make a blend of greens, juicy tomatoes, garlic, parsley, basil, rosemary, a small zuchinni and season with a pinch of salt. Adding yogurt optional in the vegetables. Chill and enjoy.

    A Spanish style gaspachio, cold soup, is good too.
    Tomatoes, garlic, the center/heart of a celery with leaves,, red onion, acv, some of the middle of a loaf of French bread. Blend till smooth add a little olive oil. The bread thickens it and makes it silky smooth. It you want more texture add finely diced tomato to stir in. A little yogurt or a dollop of sour cream is a nice addition. Make garlic bread with the cut off crusts of French bread to eat with your soup.

    For a dessert we sometimes use vanilla ice cream with fruit. I have used homemade frozen yogurt. Cinnamon or ginger will enhance some fruits. Season to taste. With homemade yogurt frozen i add vanilla. If the fruit is also frozen it makes a thick slushy drink that’s spoonable or can be refrozen to eat like a sherbet or as bars on a stick if you have the molds for that.

    You can freeze any smoothy in molds or ice cube trays. Add a stick for easy eating. Kids love that. Great on a hot day.

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