Monday, July 28, 2014

Appliances Can Save You Money ... The Vitamix (or Other High Powered Blender)

I love small kitchen appliances. Not that they are necessarily small, they just aren't refrigerators, dishwashers, and ranges. I think some of them can be real money savers over time, and others are passing fancies or create a false need.

I do have a lot of small appliances, so I thought I'd write several posts about what I have, how they save money, how they don't, and other options.

First up is my Vitamix:

I am on my second Vitamix. I should still be on my first, but when it broke Papa didn't want to go without his smoothies for even one day, so we drove to Williams Sonoma and paid full retail on a new Vitamix 750. When I figured out the issue with the first one (we were out of the 8 year warranty and the bearing assembly on the wet container needed replacing or we could buy a whole new container) I wanted to return the 750, but Papa liked the preset programs and the fact that the machine blended smoothies far better than our 5200(due to the wider container). I sold the old Vitamix on Craigslist to help cover the cost of the new one.

My Vitamix (old or new) is probably my top stuck-on-a-deserted-island-that-has-electricity appliance. Anything a food processor, mixer, or bread maker can do I can do by hand (that doesn't mean I don't have them), but I am pretty sure that the smoothie was invented after the invention of blenders.

So, what do we do with our Vitamix? Well, near daily smoothies are one thing we do. I also make nut milks, cashew cream, plant based sauces, frothy hot cocoa, nut butters, hummus, and so much more. I have used it to grind grains, I grind our flaxseed in it, and I even process my own powdered sugar. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't use the Vitamix at least once, and it is usually used more often than that.

But does it save money? That will depend on how you eat and what you spend money on. I think people on special diets by choice or circumstance will save the most with a high powered blender. For example, the savings on nut milk really add up. A person with a corn allergy can process powdered sugar from pure sugar with no additives. Vegan foods can be very expensive, so if a person wants alternatives to dairy milk, sour cream, parmesan, ice cream, etc. it is far cheaper to make them at home, and a high powered blender is a huge help.

Whole nuts (or nut pieces) are generally less expensive that all natural nut butters, so a family that uses a lot of nut butters might have some savings that way. (I no longer make nut butter very often as I don't eat it and my teens prefer a natural store brand that doesn't require refrigeration.)

There are health savings involved as well; these are hard to quantify. For example, I want to make my own nut and seed milks not only because it is cheaper to make my own, or because I eliminate the package (environmental reasons), but because I don't want to consume carrageenan because it causes inflammation in the body and may cause cancer. Carrageenan is in many purchased nut and seed milks. I'd also prefer not to have synthetic vitamins added. Also, a freshly made nut or seed milk has more nutrition than one that has been processed and sitting on a shelf (cold or not). I made nut and seed milks as we need them, not far in advance.

Smoothies are another place where the savings might be more health-based than actually frugal. Afterall, we could eat oatmeal or cornmeal mush for every breakfast. I've calculated the cost of a smoothies made at home to be $2.50 for 32 oz. (those boys drink huge smoothies). I can't say that we are saving over the cost of someplace like Jamba Juice, because we wouldn't go there for smoothies. But each morning my guys take in lots of fruit (fresh and fresh-frozen), spinach, hemp seed, flax seed, and dates; they are loading up on fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals in their natural state, omega 3 oils, and more. They are very healthy boys and never need to go to the doctor for illness (just injuries).

If you are a coffee drinker and/or love hot frothy drinks the Vitamix is great at those! We'll make hot cocoa with almond milk or sometimes vanilla steamers sweetened with maple syrup. Papa can blend brewed coffee or chai with a milk alternative for a foamy latte.

I'll be honest; if you've seen commercials or demonstrations of the high powered blenders there are some things they advertise that it really isn't great at.  Hot pureed soups? Not really great. Chopping vegetables? Has to be done in water and isn't that great. Ice cream/frozen desserts? Not nearly as good as a high quality food processor.

The reality though, is that a person who can eat whatever kind of food they want and who places no restrictions on what they choose to eat (plant based, organic, whole foods, etc.) probably won't save money with a high powered blender. The cheapest store brand of peanut butter on sale is probably less expensive than buying nuts and making your own. Oatmeal is cheaper than fruit for smoothies. Powdered dry dairy milk costs less than making nut and seed milks. Again, the savings will be for a person who has follows a special diet for health reasons or choice, and those who choose not to eat processed foods and questionable ingredients. I can't imagine that Amy Dacyczyn would have saved money with a Vitamix (unless she trash picked one).

I calculated that I spent $35 per year for my first Vitamix. Do I think it helped me save $35 per year at a minimum? Certainly.

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