Smoothie operator: which is cheaper, homemade or shop-bought?
At least once every lunchtime at drop-in nursery or at baby singing, I have parent ask me where I buy the Troll’s fruit smoothies from as they don’t recognise the packaging. I explain that I make all my own and use these fantastic re-usable food pouches that I picked up off of Amazon for £13 (about 130 kr).
I suppose I am occasionally too quick to jump on the defensive (often the reaction is 'oh cool’, but more than occasionally I detect the hint of an eye-rolling ‘oh, he’s one of those types') and I start explaining that it’s not because I have anything against shop-bought stuff as a matter of principle, and it’s certainly not because I am worried about the ingredients or ‘all the chemicals they pump into them’ as one mother put it. I make my own because it’s fun, ridiculously easy, I get to experiment with flavour combinations, and it’s just cheaper than buying them in the shops.
The last point I have just taken for granted, and after a chatting with a mum yesterday at baby-singing I decided to get actually calculate how much, or maybe even if, I was actually saving any money. Perhaps once you've bought all the fruit it really isn't that much cheaper?
I thought the easiest thing was to buy a commonly available smoothie and then recreate it as best I could at home using fresh fruits. I picked Rema 1000’s organic (ugh) kiwi and mango smoothie as that’s the one one of the kid’s was drinking today at drop-in nursery and I've seen other parents with it, too.
All the fruits I used to make my own were bought in the same supermarket on the same day, and for fairness I didn’t buy discounted fruits (e.g. bought in bulk or on offer).
The first thing I noticed when I studied the ingredients list was that only 35% of this smoothie was actually kiwi and mango, the rest was made up of banana, apple and pear.
Usually, when I make the Troll’s smoothies, I am not too bothered about the exact amounts and proportions of the fruit – most of the time it’s just chucking together whatever’s left at the end of the week. To make it a meaningful, like-for-like comparison my recreated smoothie has exactly the same proportions of the different fruits as the Rema 1000 one: 30% banana, 25% apple, 20% kiwi, 15% mango and 10% pear.
As banana is the main ingredient in the smoothie, I used started with that and then scaled everything up from there in terms of the actual quantities of the fruits, keeping the proportions the same, but allowing me to make a sizable and worthwhile batch. To calculate the cost, I pulled the cost per kilo figure off the receipt and scaled it down to per gram.
For anyone thinking about trying this recipe out, I cooked the apple and pear first to soften it a little and help make the smoothie smoother, rather than having to deal with any hard, raw lumps.
So, starting with 3 bananas (338g) as 30% of the weight, the total amount of smoothie made was around 1126g (about 1260ml of liquid).
A portion of Rema 1000 Organic kiwi and mango smoothie is 90g and costs 9.70 kr. For an equivalent portion size using fresh fruit, I calculate the cost to be 3.37 kr, making the homemade smoothie nearly a third of the price.
The quantities of fruits I used makes around 12.5 portions. I’ve poured the smoothie mix into the silicon food storage trays (£15.99) I use for portioning and freezing all the Troll’s food. Each one of the pots holds about 75mls, but because the Troll is a massive food monster, a portion for him is actually two of these. Handily, the middle size of the found pouches is exactly the right size for this.
Given that they smoothies made of exactly the same types and quantities of fruits, I didn’t expect there to be much of a taste difference, but, for a bit of added fun, I ran a blind taste test on my wife to see if she could at least tell which smoothie was which. (A double-blinded trial would obviously have been ideal but I’m not sure I want to drag a third person in to all these shanningans.) Of course the Troll is the true test case here, but I’m not sure I can trust him to give me the considered and nuanced evaluation this type of serious research requires.
My wife’s verdict was that the homemade one “tasted ‘less’, but tasted better” and that it was easy to tell them apart because the homemade smoothie (which was made in a regular Bodum blender) had a courser texture.
So, by way of a crude list of pros and cons, a cost-benefit analysis:
Shop-bought smoothies are:
- obviously a lot more convenient than making your own. All told, it took me about 45 minutes to make this particular smoothie (Of course, on a normally, day it only takes me about 10 minutes to peel chop and blend the fruit, as don’t usually mess about calculating percentages of things and weighing things to the gram, but it still takes time.)
- have a really long shelf-life, so they’re really handy for just keeping in the changing back for emergencies (or on days like today when the Troll is insatiable and eats everything I had packed for him and still wants more!)
- pretty bad for the environment, even though the plastic packaging can be recycled
Homemade smoothies are:
- require an investment in equipment like food pouches and storage containers (but given the price differential between shop-bought and homemade that money is easily made back in a few batches, not to mention how much better for the environment it is.
- great for using up any fruit that’s about to go bad
- fun to make, and you have the chance to mess around with flavor combinations that you and your kid(s) like
- the *much* cheaper alternative, more than 60% cheaper, in fact.