It is ridiculously hot today, and one of the best ways to relieve the heat is to sip on a cool drink. Here are some of my favorite frugal drinks to help you cool off on hot days.
Water is practically free if you drink it from the tap. On days that you sweat a lot, you need to make sure to replenish the fluids you lose and having a glass or reusable bottle filled with water is a great way to stay hydrated. If you don't like the taste of plain water, add some fruits or veggies to the water for homemade "vitamin water". Add slices of cucumber, apple, peach, or berries. It adds a bit of flavor with negligible calories.
Iced tea is incredibly refreshing. I make a gallon of tea at a time by pouring a gallon of hot water over 8 tea bags and letting it steep for 5 minutes. I remove the tea bags and add sweetener sometimes. Just a hint of sweetener is all I need. I've noticed that the colder I drink the tea, the less sweetener I need to use. Mint tea is especially refreshing. I buy boxes of store-brand tea bags (that are just fine in iced tea) for $2.39 for 200 bags. So using 8 tea bags and no sweetener, I can make a gallon of iced tea for around a penny. This is a huge savings over $5 a gallon pre-made iced tea.
Iced coffee is easy to make at home if you plan a head, and much cheaper and tastier than what you can buy at chain fast food joints. The night before, pour a gallon of cold water over a cup of coffee grounds. Cover and let sit on the counter overnight. In the morning, strain it through cheesecloth or a towel. You can add sweetener and creamer if you like, but it's more refreshing without it. Also, with the cold-brew method, iced coffee is significantly less bitter than hot-brew iced coffee.
Milkshakes are a summertime staple, but I find that ice cream makes me miserable in the summer. Instead, I make chocolate banana shakes. I keep bananas and one-cup portions of yogurt in the freezer. To make a banana shake, I place one of each in the blender, add chocolate syrup or a hot-chocolate packet and just enough milk or soy/almond milk to blend. If I want to drink this for breakfast, I add a heaping tablespoon of peanut butter for protein. It is delicious and refreshing, rather than bloating and fattening.
Make your own chai tea to serve over ice with milk, almond/soy/coconut milk. Nourishing Simplicity has a great recipe for chai concentrate.
Light fruit juice is great on a hot day. Full-strength fruit juice contains a lot of sugar, and costs a lot too. I buy full-strength juice and dilute it at home. I usually mix the juice and water 50-50 or 60-40 depending on the particular juice. Making homemade lemonade is another great way to get a bit of vitamin C while cooling off. Just make sure you go a little light on the sweetener.
If you get a hankering for a nasty, calorie-laden summer drink such as a frozen blended coffee, make it yourself for the most cost and calorie savings. Save leftover coffee/iced coffee in ice cube trays. Put into the blender with milk and your choice of sweetener/syrup. Top with whipped cream if you like. You can easily make this for less than a dollar at home, compared to $5+ at a restaurant, and it's likely to have fewer calories. (Note: A certain chain restaurant I worked at sold frozen blended coffee drinks. The "recipe" included a small amount of espresso concentrate with high-fructose corn syrup and a full 6 ounces of half and half).
Karen Voisinet on Facebook said she adds lime and a pinch of salt for a natural Gatorade.
I do water, lime, and a pinch of salt. Natural Gatorade.
Have a favorite summer drink I didn't list here? Share your recipe below!