I have been noticing a common theme on some of the other blogs I read: a list of common items they do not buy. Now, I could make my own list, but I think it's interesting to expand on the theme. If I don't buy these things, what do I do instead?
First up: hot chocolate mix.
Even though we have had an unseasonably warm winter (no snow, no ice on the lake, green things still abounding outside), hot chocolate is still my go-to drink for winter evenings. I still remember looking for recipes a few years back for home-made mix, and being surprised at the number that started with Nestles' Quik, or something similar. Here's a hint: if you are starting with a chocolate mix, it's not really that different than simply buying a hot chocolate mix.
So, with some trial and error, I developed my own recipe. Fair warning: I like mine dark and rich and chocolatey, without being too sweet, so you may find you have to add more sugar.
Hot Chocolate Mix:
1 part powdered milkBoth because I'm lazy and I tend not to have milk in the house, I add powdered milk to the mix. This can be left out entirely, and you can either choose to drink as is (it's more chocolatey that way), or make it with hot milk instead. There will be a few bits of milk floating around, but they eventually disappear. If this offends you, apparently bashing the mix about in a food processor or blender helps. I wouldn't know, because, well, I'm too lazy to try it :)
2 parts Dutch-processed cocoa
2 parts sugar
Mix well, getting cocoa all over everything in the process, then store is a sealed container. Use 2-3 Tablespoons per mug of hot water (depending on the size of the mug and your taste).
I often add things to my hot chocolate: a candy cane for mint (which also makes it sweeter), some cinnamon and chili powder for a Mexican twist, and sometimes, if I'm feeling really decadent, Skor bits. YUM! Oh, yeah, marshmallows. Not a big marshmallow* fan, so those aren't on my list, but hey, if you like them... ;)
If you're not a big hot chocolate drinker, but enjoy the occasional cup, simply add a 1:1 ratio of cocoa and sugar to a mug, add hot water, and presto, hot chocolate.
Why Dutch-processed cocoa? Because I think it tastes better, and the local bulk food store carries it. For those interested, here is a comparison of "dutched" cocoa vs "natural". All I know is that I really do prefer Dutch-processed cocoa for hot chocolate!
As for cost, it works out to somewhere around 35 cents a mug, based on the going rates at the bulk food store (yes, I did actually weight each component to figure that out. Geeks rule). Leaving out the milk would drop that to around 28 cents a cup, but most of the cost is in the cocoa.
I actually have no idea how that compares to store-bought mixes. I think you could find coupons for those, so it's not as simple as checking out the normal price, plus I don't know how many cups you would actually get out of a can (my mugs are BIG, so the serving number, if available, isn't really accurate for a true comparison).
But here are the ingredients of one mix:
SUGAR, CORN SYRUP SOLIDS, VEGETABLE OIL (PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED COCONUT OR PALM KERNEL AND HYDROGENATED SOYBEAN), DAIRY PRODUCT SOLIDS, COCOA PROCESSED WITH ALKALI, AND LESS THAN 2% OF CELLULOSE GUM, NONFAT MILK, SALT, SODIUM CASEINATE, SODIUM CITRATE, DIPOTASSIUM PHOSPHATE, SODIUM ALUMINOSILICATE, MONO- AND DIGLYCERIDES, GUAR GUM, ARTIFICIAL FLAVORS. (Ingredients found here)
Yeah. I know I'd much rather drink something with only three ingredients. Also something with cocoa higher than fourth on the list. And vegetable oil? Really?? WTF?
Plus, homemade tastes SO much better! Especially with those left over candy canes....
*that link is from this site. Yes, I do find that site funny.