Beverage strategies: reducing waste and costs

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When aiming to live more frugally, reduce waste or build savings — perhaps, towards that first $25k — a first place to make cuts is likely with beverage purchases.

As a kid, nothing elicited a more troubled look from my parents than ordering a beverage with a meal (they were raised lean, and, hence, so was I). Their concern makes sense: A non-alcoholic drink can often cost close to half of an entree, when (in the US, at least) tap/table water is typically provided with a meal.

It might sound lame, but throughout school and college and into my 30s, I drank little more than tap water at home and out. At a bar, I might grab a Coke or a more refined soda water and lime — drinks that were often comped to me as “the designated driver”  — and it didn’t seem to slow the fun. It proved to me that one can be frugal  and/or alcohol-free and still be social (and a good tipper).

Now in my 40s, I drink some alcohol but mainly at home. I also enjoy coffee, but I’ve stopped purchasing specialty barista drinks in the US —  it’s often better and always cheaper to simply order a house coffee here.  You can set yourself apart further (and often save a little more cash) by carrying your own coffee cup. For example, I’ve had the same travel 12oz / ‘medium’ KeepCup for over six years now.

Keepcup
Travel companions: Keepcup for hot beverages and a Nalgene bottle for iced water.

Via Twitter, I shared with the Dividend Diplomats another beverage strategy and product to consider: Uncle Lee’s Organic Green Tea. I was worried, as the guys (in their 20s) were already into their third pod coffee mid-day. I truly hope the Diplomats and other ‘pod people’ will consider (if not switching to tea) getting a Bialetti, a thermos, and a compost bin for grounds, too — fairly simple lifetime products that can make a big difference and reduce waste.

Bialetti
A Bialetti / “Italian” coffee maker — no filter, all it needs is a stove top / heat source, water and ground coffee. Anything with a lid can serve as a compost bin — for the coffee grounds, etc.

Uncle Lee’s  seems to be sold in boxes of 100 packets, and the only plastic I note is the box wrapper — everything else seems to be compostable. As the Diplomats remarked, it’s hard to beat 100 packets of organic tea for under $7. Plus, who doesn’t love pandas?

Uncle Lee
Uncle Lee’s Organic Green Tea. The bags, paper packets and the box (maybe shred?) seem to be compostable.

Many tea drinkers already know that most gas station convenience stores and similar in the US offer free hot water near the coffee urns (but check with the clerk). Additionally, I’ve been carrying the same water bottle for nearly a decade, and I tend to fill up on ice and water from convenience store soda machines (occasionally there is a charge for ice).

In the Bay Area, earthquake concerns encourage families to keep a two-week drinking water supply — roughly a gallon per household member and each pet x 14 (days).  Follow CDC advice for emergency water supplies, and remember that personal beverage strategies can help with various life goals!

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