Monday, May 26, 2008

Drink Hearty

There's a lot of talk about getting rid of soda as a drink for health reasons. Soda is a lot of empty calories for no nutrition. "But we drink the zero calorie soda so that doesn't matter" I hear someone say. Fine. Satisfies the thirst without adding in empty calories. No nutrients either. But have you looked at the prices on those sodas that are calorie free lately? And then have you totalled up the number of bottles that a family can drink up in one week? Summer is coming and drinking is going to go up with the hotter weather.

The name brand sodas all run around $1.69 a 2-liter bottle regular price. Someone is always having a sale on these sodas, but the prices still are pretty stiff. 4 bottles for $5.00 was available in a few markets. The one market that put coke on sale for 5 for $4.00 was wiped out of soda on day one of the sale. Let's say you only drink one 2-liter bottle of soda in your house per day. Regular price that comes out to about $12.00 a week just for soda. Drink more than one bottle and the cost per week rises as well.

There are alternatives that can cost you way less while still giving you "flavored" water. Lipton tea bags were on sale all of last week and this week at 100 for $2.99. According to the label one tea bag makes one 8-ounce cup of tea. Baloney. Anyone who has ever used these tea bags knows that they make more than one 8-ounce cup of tea. They make a regularly strong 12-ounce glass with no problem. That means that one box of tea bags makes 1200 ounces of iced tea easily. That is the equivalent of 17 and 2/3 bottles of soda. Let's round that to 18. Okay, you need a sweetener. Like your tea really sweet? Two teaspoons of sugar per glass? Let's really give you a sugar high and put in three teaspoons of sugar. That's six cups of sugar for the 18 two- liter equivalent of tea. 10 cups of sugar to the bag, a bag at $1.69, that's $1.02 for sugar. Like a little lemon in your tea? Add in about $1.20 in lemon juice to flavor all those two-liter equivalents. Total cost: $5.21 for 2-1/2 weeks of ice tea. Buy a cheaper tea bag on sale and you reduce your cost. And yes, the teabags come in decaffeinated so that is not a problem. Even adding in diet sweetener instead of sugar still adds up to big savings. You need about 96 packets of the sweetener to equal the largest amount of sugar. Buy them on sale and you are only adding in about another dollar. Reduce the sugar/sweetener and you reduce the cost as well.

So, one way to save yourself some money and still drink something refreshing. (And there is all that talk about the health benefits of tea as well.) 18 2-liter bottles of non-nutritive soda at $18 to $30.60 versus $4.21 to $6.21 in the equivalent amount of iced tea. Not to mention that it is a lot easier to store 100 tea bags then it is to store 18 bottles of soda. It's also a lot easier to carry home the tea bags. You don't have to worry about losing the fizz out of the bottle either.

Someone mentioned to me that I'm "nickel and diming" too much and there is no real savings. Excuse me? Anyone else notice that those nickels and dimes turn into fat dollars and those dollars into $10 and $20 and $30 dollars?


Anonymous said...

And for us lazier people there is ready made ice tea mix with the sweetener and lemon already added. I beat your cheap price with it. A can that makes 22 quarts of tea was on sale for 2.99. That's 11 bottles of Coke. And the can was diet tea. The decaf tea was more, about 4.00 for the can but still way cheaper then soda.

Leora said...

I'm always the one bringing up more bad news when it comes to people's favorites, but here's some more bad news for soda drinkers:
Artificial Sweeteners Linked To Weight Gain
8 ways soda fizzles your health

Colas are particularly bad, as they rot your bones.

Diet soda is not healthy. Sorry for being the bearer of bad news.

Anonymous said...

My husband didn't believe that cutting pennies and nickles and dimes would be any real savings either. So instead of shopping with a check or a credit card I took out the grocery money in cash. Whatever I saved in a week and didn't have to spend was put into an envelope. At the end of the month I took out the envelope and showed him. In the first month I had $219 in the envelope. He's a real believer now. I'm earning about $50 an hour for the time I spend working out how to shop cheaper. Not bad for a few hours work.

ProfK said...


I'm not going to argue that soda adds anything nutritive to a person's diet, but read your two articles a little closer. In the first one the author of the study says:" Problems with self-regulation might explain in part why obesity has risen in parallel with the use of artificial sweeteners. It also might explain why, says Swithers, scientific consensus on human use of artificial sweeteners is inconclusive, with various studies finding evidence of weight loss, weight gain or little effect. Because people may have different experiences with artificial and natural sweeteners, human studies that don't take into account prior consumption may produce a variety of outcomes." In short, the data is INCONCLUSIVE and there are other factors besides the artificial sweeteners that can be accounting for weight gain in diet soda drinkers.

Years ago my orthopedist told me that it is the carbonation in all kinds of drinks, including plain seltzer, that causes calcium leachage in bones. He recommends that women in particular don't drink carbonated drinks. Ice tea is not carbonated so it doesn't fall into the "ossur" category.
The pendulum on caffeine is swinging back the other direction with studies now showing that caffeine can produce benefits and not produce deficits in health. Stay tuned for that.

Just a little word of caution. Your second article is written and sponsored by a company whose business it is to sell water. They have a vested interest in making other products look bad. They might actually be giving us the facts, and they might not. They aren't a "trusted" source because they are in the business of selling a product.

Anonymous said...

"Someone mentioned to me that I'm "nickle and diming" too much and there is no real savings. Excuse me? Anyone else notice that those nickles and dimes turn into fat dollars and those dollars into $10 and $20 and $30 dollars?"

There might have been a generational thing involved there. Was the skeptic young ?

I think the younger generation, on the whole, is not as proficient in thriftiness, belt-tightening, and saving as some of their elders are. Growing up in more affluent circumstances might well be the reason.

Anonymous said...

Why is just plain water never mentioned as an alternative to flavored drinks? The supply is as close as your kitchen sink, there is no expiration date so it keeps in the fridge for a long time if you like it really cold. It's pareve so no problem of when you can drink it. It has fluoridation so it helps your teeth. What's not to like about water? And the cost? Nothing.

Leora said...

Prof K, you are right, I throw up these articles very quickly. But there are enough solid book sources that say sodas are bad. I'm very cautious of artificial sweeteners, even the all the evidence is not in.

I'm a big fan of drinking water. Too bad my Eldest only drinks juice. He's a real sugar-lover, despite being brought up with an obsessive health nut mom.

Leora said...

Found a better link, off Dr. Weil's site (he's a fairly good health source):

Confused About Carbonation?

He says the carbonation leaching bones is really a confusion with the cola studies. So carbonation is OK (according to him).

Anonymous said...

Water? Are you kidding? Not unless it's got quadruple filtering and you've checked it under a microscope. I wonder if those who got all panicked in Brooklyn about the microscopic bugs that are sometimes found in the water system remembered that that water is used in hundreds of other products. Do they check their juices for bugs? Or the coffee they buy at Starbucks? How about the dehydrated soup mixes? So it's okay to eat dead or dry bugs? Have they put poultry and fish under a microscope?

How did they ever live in Europe and here in the earlier centuries when they used well water and water from streams? Not such a big deal then I guess. Or someone had time on their hands last year with nothing to do but stir up a new problem.

Anonymous said...

I confess to a lot of ignorance about the bug in the water problem. There are all kinds of bugs that are so small that you can't see them with the eyes alone. Even washing carefully won't remove them all or we won't know if they are removed because you can't see them. Now that science has shown us that there are these incredibly small bugs, does that mean we have to stop eating and drinking almost everything? A friend says it only applies to those bugs that you can actually see. Anyone know the scoop on this?

Lion of Zion said...

i was at the coke museum in atlanta a few years back. they showed old promotional films that touted coke as the preferred beverage because of its role in spreading nutrition around the world. i kid you not.


"And the cost? Nothing."

i just read that nyc is going to hike its water tax significantly. the water in a lot of the suburbs is not really drinkable.

although i agree that water is still the cheapest option, whether you drink tap or filtered.

i traded in my soda addiction a few years ago and now drink only seltzer. so does my son mostly when at home (of course in school he drinks whatever crap they serve). i'm thinking of investing in a seltzer maker. anyone have a suggestion?

Lion of Zion said...


"Someone mentioned to me that I'm "nickle and diming" too much and there is no real savings. Excuse me?"

i sympathize with that comment (although i didn't see it and i don't know the context). psychologically it is hard to appreciate such minute cost savings when at the end of the day you will still be in heavy debt. who needs the headache if overall it won't really help.

on the other hand, a person in such great debt is probably surviving because other are helping out (whether the schools, family, gemachs, the government, etc.) and it is hutzpah to not to make an effort to save every penny possible.

ProfK said...

The problem for many people who are in debt is that they have never broken down their spending into its individual components (Yes, I know that there are people who simply have no money but it is not them I am talking about). They have not worked out a spending plan, nor a budget. They are having "dollar" problems because they didn't add up the nickles. Use my soda example and expand it to a year. If you buy and drink one bottle of soda every day and you do not look for sales, you will be spending $617.95 a year just on soda. Switch to tea and you will spend only 84.20--a difference of $533.75. Now that is real money. What if you could do what I have shown with soda with only 4 other comparable products? That would be a savings of almost $2700, and nothing nickle and dime about a number that large. What if every week these people could reduce what they had to spend on necessities by as much as $100? Is $5200 such a small amount? Wouldn't that help those in a financial bind? But saving that kind of money often involves saving a dollar here and a dollar there, a dime here and a dime there.

Let me admit something here. I don't have to watch every penny I spend on any of the things we need and use during the year. I'm not in debt and hardly likely to get into it. Yet, I do nickle and dime the expenditures--why should I pay more than I have to for something when there is a fairly easy way to pay less? If someone is going to enjoy a windfall I would rather it was me then the manufacturers. I have a lot of better things I can think of to do with my money then to fund the Coke CEO's retirement package. For me it is a matter of pride that I don't fall into the traps the manufacturers lay to catch consumers. People who know what they are spending on to the nickle are better able to weather bad economic times because they know precisely where they can cut back or cut out. There's an old fashioned word for this: thrifty. It has nothing to do with cheap and everything to do with being smart with money.

Lion of Zion said...

well to realize that saving a few pennies today means saving $2700 in the long-run assumes people are forward-thinking. however, the reason many (the vast majority?) of people get into debt to begin with is because they don't think about the future.

Bas~Melech said...

I can think of better reasons than money for not drinking soda -- how about not stuffing your body full of garbage and fooling yourself into not getting REAL hydration?

Unfortunately, there are areas in which the situation is the opposite: Junky snacks can really be cheaper than healthy ones. I'm not just talking about prepared foods, either: Fruit can be pricey, has to be packaged with care, and has a very limited shelf life. The busy mom on a budget is sorely tempted to buy a bulk package of cheap "bag snacks" (like potato chips or that fake bissli stuff) so her kids can pick one out on their way to school every day.

People need more incentives to eat good snacks.

ProfK said...

Bas Melech,
A good point about the hydration. For those who are still drinking caffeinated sodas and caffeinated tea and coffee, caffeine is a diuretic; it removes water from the body. If you have been exercising or outside running around and have gotten all sweaty, with the body already removing water, then drinking something with caffeine in it not only doesn't hydrate you, it removes water that the body needs. If you drink a lot of caffeinated drinks during a day you could be causing yourself a water inbalance. Our doctor said that anyone with high blood pressure should avoid caffeine because it reduces body fluid, thus raising pressure even more. He said that it is not the caffeine that raises the pressure but what the caffeine does.

Bas~Melech said...

Not only that, but when you're thirsty, it feels like a drink going down, making you feel like you're getting hydrated, so you don't feel the need to drink water as well. So not only is it removing water from your body, it's also duping you into not replenishing it.

Luckily, I've always thought soda was gross... I can barely get it down when it's the only drink available.