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A Frugal Mom's Guide to Good Coffee

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I have a hard time resisting a cup of coffee at a coffee shop. It isn’t just the coffee itself, but it is the act of going to get a cup of coffee, the soft music, and the break away from it all. If I am having a hard day with the kids or I just long for a small treat for myself, the first place I think of is the coffee shop.  In some ways I have replaced my desire to shop with a desire to just have some quiet time alone with a delicious cup of hot coffee and a book.

Running out to grab a cup of coffee on occasion isn’t a budget-buster, but running out daily to get a cup of coffee can cause some damage to the family finances. David Bach put it best when he coined the phrase, “latte factor” as a way to describe the little amounts of money that could be better spent on other things in our life. What seems like pocket change adds up and can easily become a $35 per week habit.

I hate to give up my coffee fix though so I have come up with my own strategies towards creating the perfect brew without the $5 per cup price tag. These recipes and tips have become a way of life for me and have helped us save a lot of money each week.

  • If you don’t have a coffeemaker, this will be a wise investment for yourself or for your family. A nice standard programmable coffeemaker will only cost you between $30-40 and will start saving you money with the first pot that you brew.  I try to visit home stores like Linens ‘N Things or Bed, Bath, & Beyond for appliances like these. With a little luck and frequent visiting, you can usually find a model that has been reduced in price. These reduced prices usually happen on models that are returned to the store or on the floor models. Be sure to ask if you can apply your coupon towards the item to get additional money off. I was able to get my coffeemaker that was normally $100 for $40 after these discounts.
  • You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a good cup of coffee. Consumer Reports ran a test of the best coffees in 2004, and two of their top choices were also offered at the best prices. Dunkin Donuts Original Ground Coffee (priced at approximately $7.66 per pound) and Eight O' Clock Coffee Beans (priced at approximately $5 per pound) came up as two of the best in their taste test.
  • Avoid coffeemakers that require pods because this increases the amount of money you will spend on your brew. Single cup coffee makers seem like a wise investment, particularly if you are the only one drinking coffee in your house, but the pods increase the cost greatly to each cup that you brew. If you are the only coffee drinker in your family, I would highly recommend purchasing a French Press which can be bought for less than twenty dollars at a department store like Target or you can often find these at thrift sales. This is a great way to get a single cup of coffee and save space in smaller kitchens too.  A French Press actually makes the best cup of coffee you will ever drink and takes about the same amount of time as a regular coffeemaker.
  • An insulated coffee mug is a great investment for people on the go. You can find tons of these at thrift stores or you can even get them at dollar stores. Keep your insulated coffee mug next to the coffeemaker so you can immediately pour it right into the mug and run out to wherever you need to get.
  • Coffee syrups can add lots of great flavor to your cups of coffee and you only need a teaspoon per cup to add a new flavor to your regular brew.  If you have a wholesale club membership, this is the cheapest route and you can find these with the coffee and coffee supplies in your store.  Starbucks also will sell their Peppermint Syrup and White Mocha Coffee Mixes from behind the counter for a lot less money than you would pay for the staff to make them for you. Just make sure to call ahead to request these supplies though because it comes from the store’s own stock and they may need to order it for you.
  • Never throw away your leftover coffee because it is a goldmine of possibilities. Freeze coffee cubes to make your own icy coffee drinks or to cool your coffee down quicker when brewing a hot batch. You can also store coffee in the fridge and make your own iced coffees by adding milk and a little coffee syrup. I love to save the small coffee bottles to make my own versions to store in the fridge for a yummy treat.
  • If it is the coffee ambiance you are after, you can create that at home. I love to look at the music in the coffee shops and bookstores and check it out from our local library. As I listen to the music and sip my faux coffee drinks, I can almost feel like I am there.

The Best Recipes for Coffee Lovers Everywhere

Amy’s Version of Starbuck’s Pumpkin Spice Latte

2 cups milk
1 cup very strong coffee
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons sugar (or one packet of Splenda)
1 teaspoon cinnamon (plus extra for dusting)
2 heaping spoonfuls of canned pumpkin

Pour all of the ingredients into a pot and heat over medium-high heat until the coffee is steaming hot. Pour into mugs and top with whipped cream & cinnamon. Enjoy!

Amy’s Version of Starbucks Iced Peppermint Mochas

6-7 coffee ice cubes
4 tablespoons sugar (or to taste)
A generous squirt of chocolate syrup (approximately 1/8 cup)
1 tablespoon peppermint syrup (purchased behind the counter at Starbucks)
1 cup prepared powdered milk  or regular milk

Place all ingredients into the blender and blend until smooth. This will yield one huge mocha or two smaller mochas.

Homemade Mint Truffle Creamer (& other variations)

1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups nonfat milk (or you can use prepared powdered milk)
3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
3 Tablespoons peppermint coffee syrup (or more depending on your personal taste)

Blend all ingredients together in your blender. Pour into a mason jar or your old coffee creamer dispenser. This creamer will keep up to two weeks in your fridge.

(To make French Vanilla Creamer- omit cocoa and peppermint syrup & add 1 tablespoon vanilla. To make Chocolate Almond Creamer-omit peppermint syrup and add 1 teaspoon almond extract. To make Amaretto Creamer- omit cocoa & peppermint & add ½ teaspoon cinnamon and 1 teaspoon almond extract.)