10 Homemade Smoothies Better and Cheaper Than Chain Versions


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Smoothies from nationwide chains tend to use juice blends and artificial syrups to create expensive, high-calorie drinks disguised as healthy options. Some are marketed as meal replacements or have added ingredients with supposed "fat blaster" or "immune support" properties, in order to command a premium. These 10 easy smoothies are much cheaper than similar concoctions sold in stores -- and just as tasty.

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This combination of bananas, almond butter, and chocolate tastes like a milkshake but is nutritionally sound. Start with a frozen banana to give the smoothie a thick texture and subtle sweetness. Blend it with a protein-packed teaspoon of almond butter, a teaspoon of maple syrup or honey as needed for extra sweetness, a cup of milk, and a few spoonfuls of cocoa powder. The cost is little more than $1 for 10 ounces. A similar 20-ounce smoothie featuring the same ingredients, the Lean Chocolate, is sold at Smoothie King for $5.29 before tax, or nearly triple the price per ounce.

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Although strawberries are a seasonal fruit, frozen strawberries are available year-round and are even better for smoothies than fresh. Blend a cup of frozen strawberries with an apple and a cup of orange or apple juice to meet the recommended daily allowance of fruit for about $1. The Strawberry Whirl from Jamba Juice has the same ingredients but costs nearly $5 for the same size. For those drinking one smoothie a day, the savings from choosing homemade could be almost $30 a week.

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Delicious with or without rum, the piña colada is a classic blended drink. A cup of frozen pineapple combined with half a cup of cream of coconut yields 12 ounces of tropical indulgence. The drink can also be made with unsweetened coconut cream. Regardless, the price comes to about $1. Compare that to the 12-ounce piña colada from smoothie chain Maui Wowi at $5.

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While many people choke down unappetizing vegetable blends to get their daily dose of leafy greens, green smoothies can actually be delicious. A blend of kale, spinach, lemon, ginger, and pineapple juice is sweet and spicy with a subtle herbal flavor. The cost for a 14-ounce drink using high-quality greens is about $2. Smoothies from regional chains that also use high-quality ingredients are much more expensive. The 16-ounce Mean Green from Liquiteria costs $8, and the 12-ounce Rainforest from Juice Press, which includes coconut oil and banana, costs $12.

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This inexpensive blend is a great staple for the entire family. A cup of blueberries plus a frozen banana and half a cup of milk makes a generous helping for $1 or less. A similar but slightly larger smoothie from Smoothie King featuring juice blends and unknown ingredients costs more than $5. With a base of inexpensive frozen fruit, there's no reason to pay a premium.

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The creamy texture of blended mangos lends itself to smoothies and blended cocktails. A simple combination of 1 cup frozen mango, 1 cup frozen pineapple, and half a cup of orange juice creates a bright and juicy smoothie packed with nutrition for about $1.50. Smoothie King offers a similar smoothie of the same size for $5.29 before tax. The smaller Mango Orange smoothie from Maui Wowi is 14 ounces of orange and mango and costs $5.

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This go-to smoothie is a breeze to whip up, thanks to the availability and low cost of frozen berries year-round. Surprisingly filling, it's also a low-cost snack to enjoy anytime. A half-cup of berries, a banana, and a cup of milk or juice yields about 16 ounces of antioxidant-rich flavor for less than $2. The 12-ounce Berry Brilliance from Robeks costs $4, more than double the cost of homemade.

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This irresistible blend can actually be low-fat and low-calorie when made with skim, low-fat, or almond milk rather than whole. The ingredients -- a cup of milk plus a frozen banana, a tablespoon of cocoa powder, and 2 tablespoons of peanut butter -- cost less than $1.50. Jamba Juice offers a similar-size smoothie with the same ingredients for about $5, more than double the cost. The smaller, regional chain Juice Press sells the Almond Buttercup, a similar mixture with almond butter and cinnamon, for a whopping $9 for 16 ounces.

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This popular combination of fruit makes a rich, sorbet-like treat. One frozen banana plus a cup of frozen strawberries and a half-cup of pineapple juice costs around $1. Robeks offers 12 ounces of the same ingredients in the $4 South Pacific Squeeze, while Liquiteria has an $8, 16-ounce version that swaps the pineapple juice with a splash of cider vinegar for tang and probiotics. A similar swap can be made at home.

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Adding a kick to a smoothie from coffee is an appetizing twist. Steer clear of citrus fruits when mixing with acidic coffee, and stick to flavors such as bananas, berries, and nuts. Replacing the milk in the chocolate or peanut butter smoothie with coffee increases the cost only slightly to easily make 14 ounces for less than $2. Compare this to any of Maui Wowi's cappuccino smoothies of the same size for $5.

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