You are not too good for bruised fruit there, pal
EC: How to Make Smoothies When You’re Broke AF
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Three or four times a week, I make smoothies for breakfast. Wait, wait, before you click away thinking that this might be one of those articles, please consider two things: first, that on the non-smoothie-making days, I usually eat cereal, sometimes cinnamon toast, and even occasionally cake; and second, this is not part of my weightlifting program or my plan to Instagram the concoction in a mason jar with a striped straw and a hand-lettered label. I am a woman who writes about fried chicken and barbecue whenever she can. A woman who jogs in liquor T-shirts. And a woman on a budget.

Between a milkshake and a powdered peanut butter/chia seed concoction is a smoothie for me. And this is where things get fun. Welcome to the Stephanie Super Saving Scavenger Seasonal Smoothie System™.

Non-Food Requirements

Zip-top freezer bags (rinse and reuse—no single use plastic, people)
Big cup

The Base

Frozen greens are your friend. My default is chopped spinach in the one-pound bags. Those run under $1.50 in my part of the world (South Carolina), but I am not averse to other types of greens, from collards in the winter to curly kale from a friend’s garden. While chopped is optional, frozen is not. I want to save you from the slightly gritty, definitely “toothy” fresh kale smoothies of many an experimental morning. “Toothy” is never the adjective you want in a smoothie. Help me help you.

Frozen bananas are the building blocks. Steer past the jaunty yellow bunches and head for the reduced for quick sale sacks. You can score a whole bag for $.35. Come home, peel ‘em and stack ‘em in zipper bags. That one languishing on the counter can be added to the bag too. Oh, and that one you took in your lunch that stayed in your lunch bag for the return home won’t go to waste in the S.S.S.S.S.S. System™. No banana left behind!

Milk makes it all go. I’ve done it all: almond, soy, coconut, juices, waters, and even kombucha. Some were okay, and some were downright strange, but good ‘ol cow’s milk is hands down my favorite. It’s easy to find, creamy, and if I can score raw milk from the market, I’m already winning before 9 a.m.

The Add-On

Urban “foraging.” Depending on the season, I forage in my neighborhood for loquats or blackberries, but this point also extends to farmers’ markets and friends. I once bought a whole box of overripe local peaches from a farm stand for $5. Recently, a friend pressed a bag of cherries in my hand as I left after dinner. All get cleaned, pitted, chopped, and frozen in those bags. The bonus of this is not only are you super saving, you’re eating seasonally.

Back to the quick sale rack. Be willing to say “yes.” Pomegranate with a bruise? Mango with a squishy side? A bag of four oranges that seem to have sunspots? Yes, yes, and yes. They all find a home in the freezer bags.

Add-ons are just that—add-ons. One or two add-ons are delicious, but don’t go getting crazy with three or four. These are super saver smoothies. You don’t blow all your add-ons on one morning.

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Getting Fancy

Ginger. Fresh ginger is easy to get and a little goes a long way. A peeled, half-inch piece in the mix tastes delicious with most add ons and has many health benefits.

Cinnamon. A good sprinkle can help a simple base shine and is nice with cantaloupe and citrus. Good for you too.

Avocado half. This is a luxury treat unless you live in California or you can score some on the reduced rack, but the good fat packs stick-to-your-bones power in your smoothie, and it makes everything so pretty and green. Unless you have dark fruit, and then everything is light gray. Sorry.

The Assembly

There is no measuring, but in my blender I usually sprinkle ½ cup of spinach, break a banana in at least half, add about ⅔ cup of some add-on, and stand by with the milk since the amount shifts depending on the juiciness of the fruit and desired level of froth. Pour it all in a big cup and you’re done.

Not the best combo? No matter. It’s the system that keeps on giving. There’s always tomorrow.

Stephanie Burt is the host of The Southern Fork podcast.