Updated on 09.21.11

Saving Pennies or Dollars? Juicing and Blending

Trent Hamm

saving pennies or dollarsSaving Pennies or Dollars is a new semi-regular series on The Simple Dollar, inspired by a great discussion on The Simple Dollar’s Facebook page concerning frugal tactics that might not really save that much money. I’m going to take some of the scenarios described by the readers there and try to break down the numbers to see if the savings is really worth the time invested.

Liora writes in: I love vegetable and fruit juices, so I decided to buy an inexpensive juicer instead of buying veggie juice at a stand next to my school- I think this will pay up very quickly because a cup of juice in that place costs 3.44 and a cup of juice at home costs pennies to make.

It is going to save you some money, but how much money?

In the past, we had a standalone juicer that we used several times after we first acquired it, then sat to the side simply because the cleanup was quite a lot of work for just a few cups of juice.

Instead, today we just use a blender. We take the raw fruit, toss in a little bit of ice, and blend until you have a liquid. Toss the pieces in the dishwasher and you’re good to go.

So, why didn’t we continue using the juicer? We tried two different models over the years and found that both required approximately 10 minutes of cleanup for each batch of juice that we made. The only way we could make juice efficiently using it was by making a lot of juice at once. There was also the prep time, which involved the cleaning and peeling of the fruits and vegetables that we used.

So, for example, if we were to juice a bushel of apples, we would have the initial cost of the apples – about $20. After juicing, this would make us roughly twelve quarts of apple juice (about three gallons).

Cleaning and slicing the apples took about twenty minutes – doubling that time if we chose to peel the apples first (so that we could use the pulp for applesauce).

Juicing the apples took about ten minutes, as we’d have to stop to remove pulp and clear out clogs at least a few times.

Cleanup would take another ten minutes.

This would mean that for three gallons of fresh apple juice with a juicer, we’d have to use $20 worth of apples and forty minutes of time. There’s also the additional (small) cost of a portion of the cost of the juicer itself, plus the cost of the electricity, totaling perhaps another dollar. Of course, this is fresh, high-quality apple juice.

The only comparable apple juice I could find at the store would be fresh apple cider, which would cost around $8 per gallon. This would have a total cost of $24 for three gallons.

Now, it’s worth noting that I consider my homemade juice to be substantially better than anything from the store. The homemade juice is significantly better than the $8 per gallon juice from the store.

Of course, if you’re comparing this procedure to the cost of the juice that Liora is buying ($3.44 for a 16 oz. cup, meaning $27.52 per gallon), then making her own juice is a tremendous bargain.

Still, if you’re in a situation where you’re buying juice from a juice stand, you’re far better off buying yourself an insulated cup and buying high-quality juice from your local grocer. Then, just fill up that cup each morning before you go and enjoy the juice when and where it’s convenient for you. That will still be less expensive than the juice stand if the juice stand is anything like the one that Liora visits.

Making your own juice (or at least bottling it yourself) saves dollars, not pennies, over repeatedly buying it at a juice stand.

Speaking of which, I think I’ll go fire up my BlendTec now, toss in some bananas and strawberries and a few ice cubes, and drink something delicious (and healthy).

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  1. EmilyP says:

    I think carrot juice would be another fun one to run the numbers on, as carrots are cheap but bulk carrot juice is hard to find. But I don’t have a juicer myself, so I don’t know how much juice you can get out of a $3 5lb bag of carrots.

  2. Tracy says:

    It depends on the kind of juice you’re buying from the stand.

    Apples are fairly inexpensive and produce a decent amount of juice. Pomegranates are the opposite.

    But I love the taste of fresh squeezed juice – although like Trent, my juicer is such a pain to clean I don’t use it as much as I’d like.

  3. Cheryl says:

    Drink water and eat whole fruit.

  4. Dorothy says:

    Cheryl is spot-on. Juices are far too calorie dense. You would not, for instance, sit down and eat 5 oranges, but you could easily chug the juice of 5 oranges, bypassing the fiber and quintupling your caloric intake.

    Drink water; eat whole fruits and veggies.

  5. valleycat1 says:

    I’m with #3 & 4 – we had a veggie juicer for awhile but I felt awful throwing out all the solids for just a little bit of juice. For the quantity of juice you get from most vegetables, I question whether it really is only pennies a glass (though most likely would be less than $3.44), unless you have a big garden.

    And I agree with Trent – clean up is an issue, especially since we don’t have a disposal.

    Have a nice big salad or make fruit smoothies instead.

  6. Johanna says:

    Seriously, can we ever have a post about food without the Nutrition Nannies jumping in to police other people’s choices?

    Also: “You would not, for instance, sit down and eat 5 oranges”

    Speak for yourself.

  7. JS says:

    We inherited a juicer from a family member, and we also found it to be a huge pain to clean, so we got rid of it when we moved.

    If you make a lot of smoothies or protein shakes, countertop blenders are awesome. They’re not as powerful as a regular blender, but they’re much more compact and easy to clean, and the blender jars usually come with lids so they are portable. It’s definitely a want instead of a need, but if it saves you from stopping at the juice stand or conveinence store, I think it’s a good purchase. We got a Magic Bullet at our wedding shower and use it all the time.

  8. Priswell says:

    I love my juicer. I use it every day. To me, it’s not a waste of time, and if you rinse it right away, it’s not that hard to clean – but it’s a Jack La Lanne, and it’s built for easier cleaning. I’ve used some less expensive models and they’ve got too many nooks and crannies inside the machine that make it nearly impossible to get all the fiber out.

    I compost the pulp, as well.

  9. Talyssa says:

    it seems like the newer juicers may be better than what you had – mine doesn’t require any prep other than making hte fruit small enough to fit in the hole – an apple will go straight in, a large orange might need the skin peeled off or to be cut in half. pulp is quite dry and although I do prefer to peel my oranges so the dry pulp doesn’t absorb some of hte juice (which may be ALL in my head) its not needed.

    the cleaning is still kind of a hassle – but its not any more hassle than I have found a blender to be. This was not a terribly expensive one, its a well reviewed costco breville.

    I think if you had my juicer your example wouldn’t involve all that prep time – unless you still care about the apple sauce, in which case I’m not sure it would even work for that because the pulp is pretty dry

  10. almost there says:

    Having watched the documentary “Fat Sick and Nearly Dead” recently my interest was raised as to juicing. In the movie two men lost weight by going on a juice diet of only fruits and veggies for 30 days, one morbidly obese man lost over 200 lbs. I looked into the Breville juicers featured on their site and they aren’t cheap. But for the results I guess one gets what on pays for. It seemed in the film that not much prep went into the food as it went into the hopper/feed tube. One should watch it, as it is pretty entertaining and heartwarming. And those Aussies always have great expressions such as a guys weight going up and down like a brides nightie. :)

  11. krantcents says:

    Never quite made it to a juicer, but I used to make smoothies for breakfast all the time.

  12. Stacy says:

    I do blender smoothies instead because I want the vegetable/fruit fiber that you lose when you juice. I buy tons of whatever is in season then freeze it for future smoothies.
    Blending or juicing, I figure anything that ups your intake of fruits and veggies can’t be a bad thing.

  13. Riki says:

    I love smoothies!

    My typical recipe is: 1/2 c vanilla yogurt, 1/2 c soy or regular milk, 1 cup (or a bit more) frozen fruit, a banana, and a handful of spinach.

    Can’t taste the spinach at all.

  14. Carole says:

    I personally have never “juiced”, but it may make sense for some people. A frugal mindset pays off over the years not from any one thing but from the sum of all the little things one does that are frugal.

  15. lurker carl says:

    I guess I’ve been around enough people with feeding tubes that liquified foods have zero appeal.

  16. Liz says:

    Peels in applesauce give it a nice reddish color, so I always leave the peels on. (I also don’t bother to remove the seeds, since my stepson can always be counted on to mash the cooked apples through my old food mill/strainer thingy.) Applesauce for me is just about no work at all. But I also don’t really love random fruit/vegetable juices.

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