Friday, May 18, 2012

Smoothies in a Bag: Five Days of Smoothies

Note: I'm wordy and keep telling tangential stories. To get to the meat (or fruit as it were) of this post, hop on down to the bolded bit.

So I celebrated Scaling Up by taking yesterday afternoon "off" and spending 4 hours to plant approximately 100 jillion irises (lovingly donated by my dear friend who was Scaling Down her flower beds) in my gardens and around my yard. It was very satisfying and pleasant until the last half hour or so when I hit the wall, but still had to water everything and then got attacked by gnats from the place that is definitely not heaven. [Note: Just as a little warning to the wicked, being attacked by billions of irritating insects who want something from you that they surely cannot have is unpleasant. You should repent immediately.] But somehow I've strayed from the point.

The point was that I finished and then drove my tasty and cheap self to Rally's and got a bunch of burgers and fries for our dinner that night. I felt pretty guilty about it, but then we managed to actually eat together before Kip went to work and I realized that it wasn't as perfectly perfect as an inexpensive pre-planned crock pot meal would have been, but then there are moments in life that aren't always preplanned inexpensive events and I've really got to learn to roll with that. Our meal together (which, incidentally, was enjoyed by all) was good enough for that day.

And, you know, that wasn't really my point either. My point was that it was nice to have a little extra time. I also got to do something else I've been meaning to for a long time. I got to plan out and prepare these smoothies in a bag. There is one for each workday of the week. But first, some back story (don't you just love back story?)

About a month ago, I was at a little gathering of women and one of the ladies commented about how her family never has time for breakfast because they're always running out the door. Her family's solution was to blend up some quick whey protein smoothies and then drink them in the car. Whey protein isn't my thing, but I thought it was a pretty good idea. The problem was (and she was bemoaning this fact as well) was that the smoothie powder/mix was expensive--she said it cost her family $50-60 dollars a month. That put a little bee in my bonnet. And I've been meaning to come up with ideas for inexpensive weekday smoothies ever since.

Below you'll find Five Recipes for Five Days of Smoothies. Each recipe makes about 4 C of smoothie (or 4 servings). The idea is to put the main ingredients in a bag in the freezer so that each morning you can just pop them out and add liquid and voila out the door you go--just as you would be able to do if you had a pre-prepared smoothie powder or mix of some sort.

I've tried to use a variety of tastes so that no one will get bored. Some are milk/yogurt based. Some are fruit/water based. They all contain fruits and vegetables. One contains peanut butter. You can be as creative as you like with the fruits that you put in. However, for consolidation purposes (so you can just buy one bag of frozen fruit if you want) I used blueberries/strawberries (essentially a berry mix) for the berry ones. You could sub in peaches or any other berries/fruit you wished to buy a variety of frozen fruits and then use the leftovers for next week's smoothies.

A few notes:
1. These smoothies are made with whole foods and will provide a lot of fruits, vegetables (and usually greens).
2. They have (usually) no added sugar (most commercial varieties of smoothie have a decent dose of added sugar and if you get it from Starbucks or the mall you can count on a ton of added sugar), though using apple juice as I sometimes do is cheating a little since it's quite sweet.
3. Most of them provide good protein sources.
4. 1 C of smoothie isn't a meal for everyone, but it's better than nothing when you're in a hurry. Also, although a cup of smoothie is a little skimpy for me, my little kids can't usually drink that much--they tend to drink 1/2 C or so. Also if I drink one of these at 8:00, I'm usually getting hungry around 11:00 or 11:30. That's not a huge stretch of time, but it's long enough for an early lunch, and it's just as long or longer than a bowl of cereal will get me. 
5. You don't have to use them as out-the-door-in-a-flash meals. I think they're really nice to have around for after-school snacks that are quick, or to get your fruit/veg's in at lunch or dinner or as a more filling (and overall better imho) substitute for coffee.

What You'll Need for 5 Days of Quart Sized Smoothies:

1 avocado ($.50-1.00)
1 bag baby spinach ($1.79)
1 ripe mango ($.50-1.00)
1 bag mixed berries, (or blueberries or strawberries or peaches or whatever frozen berries make you zing) 16 oz. ($2.50-3.00)
2 C-1 quart apple juice ($1.00)
1 quart plain yogurt ($1.79-2.00)
1 quart milk ($.50-1.00)
3-4 Tbsp peanut butter (.25)
4 bananas (.50)

Total: $.9.33-$11.54. That's between $32 and $45 per month on homemade whole foods smoothies (Or...$1.86-$2.30/day or $.47-$.58/serving)

[Note on pricing: I could get all these things for the cheaper price at Aldi within the last 2 weeks. However, I also included prices that are Walmart comparable and more realistic for many who don't have access to such an inexpensive store as Aldi. Pick your own farms can be a good source of cheap local berries and Asian stores/markets often have great deals on avocados/mangoes/yogurt]

The method:

1. In 5 separate Ziploc bags, freeze all ingredients except the yogurt, milk, fruit juice, or water.
2. When you're ready for a smoothie, throw that in the blender with the appropriate liquids.

Note: If using apple juice concentrate (I always do because otherwise my family drinks all the apple juice before it ever makes it into a smoothie), use 1 Tbsp concentrate and 3 Tbsp water for what would have been 1/4 C juice. You can add the appropriate amount of concentrate into your bags of frozen fruit.

Day #1: Avocado Spinach Smoothie

To freeze:
1  ripe avocado
2 C spinach
1 large banana (broken in chunks)

To blend, add:
1 1/2 C apple juice (or 6 Tbsp concentrate and 1 C plus 2 Tbsp water)
1/2 C plain yogurt

Day #2: Berry Soup

To Freeze:
1 C blueberries
1/2 C strawberries (or just sub some mixed berries for the blueberries and strawberries)
1/2 C spinach

To blend, add:
1 C plain yogurt
1/2 C milk

(This is only as sweet as your fruit, so if you're using sub-par frozen fruit, you can add a bit of honey, sugar, or a Tbsp apple juice concentrate to sweeten it.)

Day #3: The Brown Berry

To Freeze:
1 C berries (peaches work wonderfully too)
2 C spinach
1 banana (broken in chunks)

To blend, add:
1/4 C apple juice (or 1 Tbsp concentrate and 3 Tbsp water)
1-2 C water

Note: This might come out a little sludge colored depending on the kind of berries you use. I realize this can put some kids off, so please note the following:  Red berries = sludgy color; blueberries = purple color, peaches = bright green color.

Day #4: Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie

To Freeze:
2 ripe bananas (broken in chunks)
3-4 Tbsp peanut butter
1/2 C spinach (optional--it will turn your smoothie greenish, so if that'll ruin it for your kids, beware)

To blend, add:
3 C milk (I like whole; oh yes I do, but other kinds will work too)

Day #5: Mango Lassi

To freeze:
1 mango, peeled and fruit cut off the bit
2 Tbsp sugar (here's the exception to that no sugar thing; sorry, although seriously, compared to yogurt bought at the store, this is nothing)

To blend add:
2 1/2 C plain yogurt
1 scant C cold water
Note: A quirt of lime doesn't hurt, but if you don't have it, it's not a problem.

This is what I did to prepare:

1. Measured my fruits in their baggies.

By the way, these little mug things people use for coffee...We love to use them in the summer to keep drinks cold. They work wonderfully for cold water when you're running errands, and they can hold cold smoothie too. 

2. Added a sticky note with instructions (a permanent marker would work well too, but I couldn't find one--it's probably in my 2-year-old's dresser drawer or some wonderful place like that)

3. Stuck them in my freezer.
4. It took me 15 minutes to prepare these and I was taking pictures.

PRINTABLE recipe and instructions.

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