I’m on a quest to reduce my monthly food bill. I’ve done a lot of great things so far—I’ve streamlined my process for cooking at home by collecting recipes, planning meals, and making cooking more hassle-free. Heck, I’ve even started freezer cooking.
But there’s one thing left that’s really been bothering me.
We buy a lot of canned drinks. They’re expensive, heavy to cart up to our 2nd floor apartment, and they fill up the recycle bin too fast. Between me and my husband, we can drink up to four energy drinks per day, and two to four cans of Diet Pepsi.
Quite simply, they needed to go, and I found the perfect way to do so: a challenge!
My Water Challenge
Every time I walked past the sink (with free water) to grab an (expensive) canned drink, I felt guilty. So, last week, I decided to quite cold-turkey.
I decided to lay some ground rules. First off, I could still drink beer and milk. Let’s be real now. I’m not in some stingy nunnery, and sometimes I eat hotter-than-planned enchiladas.
Secondly, I am allowed to make my own drinks with water from the tap, such as tea and yerba maté. I just can’t buy pre-made drinks.
This brings me to my main problem. The whole reason that I drank so many damn energy drinks in the first place is because I needed the caffeine to keep me productive throughout the day, and I hate coffee. I needed to find an acceptable caffeine substitute.
I thought maté would be the perfect substitute, but I wasn’t sure. So, I decided to crunch the numbers and see if it’d be both cheaper and an effective caffeine substitute.
Finding A Good Energy Drink Alternative
Is Maté An Effective Energy Drink Substitute?
Let’s compare the caffeine contents to see how both stack up.
One can (15.5 oz) of Monster Rehab, our most common purchase, contains 161 mg of caffeine.
One cup (8 oz) of hot-brewed maté contains 85 mg of caffeine.
Ounce-for-ounce, maté actually contains slightly more caffeine than the energy drinks I’d been consuming. Sure, I’d have to drink two 8-oz cups to get there, but that sounds like a first-world problem to me.
Conclusion? Yes, maté is an effective energy drink substitute.
Is Maté A Cheaper Energy Drink Substitute?
Let’s look at the cost breakdown to see which is cheaper.
We stock up on energy drinks when they’re on sale. The cheapest we typically get energy drinks for is $1.00/can.
I usually buy my maté in bulk off Amazon. Currently, I can get a half key of South America’s finest (affiliate link) for under ten bucks off Amazon. I measured it out using highly technical science methods that I learned in grad school (a kitchen scale and a teaspoon), and found out that there are roughly 300 teaspoons in each bag of maté.
I usually put one teaspoon of maté in each 8-oz cup. I could brew it a second time, but it usually tastes a lot more watered-down, and I figure most of the caffeine has been extracted by that point anyways so I usually don’t bother.
The only piece of equipment you need to brew your own loose-leaf maté is a tea filter. This one (affiliate link) is my favorite because I’ve found it’s best at keeping small powder particles out of the maté.
If I need two teaspoons of maté to get the same amount of caffeine in one energy drink, then each bag has 150 servings. Dividing $9.87 per bag by 150 servings means each serving costs just 7 cents.
Conclusion? Yes. Each time I substitute an energy drink with maté, I save at least 93 cents.
How Much Can I Save Over Time?
Typically, I would drink two energy drinks per day to stay productive. Thus, if I completely replace energy drinks with maté, I can at minimum save $1.86 per day, $57.66 per month, and $691.92 per year.
Related: CamelBak Eddy 1L Water Bottle (affiliate link)
The Diet Pepsi costs $0.21/can when on sale, and if I drink one can per day, I’ll save $6.51 per month, or $78.12 per year.
Together, by cutting out the canned drinks, I will save $770.04 per year.
Not too shabby! Now if only I could get Zach to switch too…
What I’ve Learned With My Water Challenge
At first I was afraid to replace energy drinks with water. It’s tasteless and seemingly cheap, in the negative sense of the word.
I’ve since changed my mind because I’m actually saving huge amounts of cash, and because I’ve learned several things:
- Our water filter was overrated. I couldn’t taste a difference so I threw it out.
- I like cold water with ice cubes. I used to prefer room-temp water, but cold water brings in a new sensation, and it makes up for the lack of sugar and other flavorings.
- Drinking more water during the day gives me a great excuse to get up to go to the bathroom during the monotony of office work.
- It’s a lot easier to just draw water from the sink than to cart huge crates of energy drinks up to our 2nd floor apartment.
Can I Keep Up With The Water Challenge?
I didn’t think I’d last more than a few hours with my water challenge. It’s been over a week, though, and I’m still here. Can I stay with it? Only time will tell.
Now, please excuse me while I go visit the restroom.
How much could you save by replacing one item with water? Leave a comment below!