Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Sweet Tea

With the economy down, every one is thinking of ways to save money. Fortunately, I've always thought of ways to save money, and my husband hasn't lost his job. So we really haven't noticed the downturn much. It also helps that we keep our minds off his 401k. I don't even want to know what's happened there!

Since I'm naturally a tight wad I thought it might be a good idea to share some of my thrifty ideas with the world. I'm gonna try to add a new tip each week for as long as I have ideas to share.

This first one might sound silly, but start drinking tea. Everyone doesn't like sweet tea, so this won't help everyone. If you do like sweet tea, however, it is much cheaper than other drinks. A two litter drink is over a dollar, and many households go through several of them a week. A box of tea bags are anywhere from $1 up depending on what brand and quantity you buy. And even a small box will get you through at least a week. Tea is better for you too. Of course water is cheaper and healthier than tea or drinks, but then I wouldn't get to teach you how to make real southern sweet tea.

There is a right and a wrong way to make tea. The right way is to boil water and then steep the tea bags. I make mine the "wrong" way, which means bringing the water and tea bags to a boil. In the south tea is strong and really sweet, and the tea comes out stronger the wrong way. Most everyone I know makes it the wrong way, and they don't even know it's wrong. Here's a how to on making sweet tea the "wrong" way.

What you'll need:
small pot
four family sized tea bags (I recommend Lipton, but that's personal preference)
one gallon pitcher
1-2 cups of sugar
large spoon

First you need to fill your pot to about an inch from the top with water.

Next, open your tea bags, pull the paper tabs off, and tie the strings together. This will make it easier to get them out of the pot later.

Put the pot on the stove, and bring to a boil. Be sure to keep an eye on it so that it doesn't boil over. You want to turn it off as soon as it starts to boil.

Not ready yet:
Take it off when it looks like this:
While you're waiting for the tea to boil, fill your pitcher about half full with cold water. Be sure not to fill it more than half way.

When the tea is done, turn off the stove and take the tea bags out. If your strings got in the pot, a fork is good for grabbing them. Let the bags drip over the pot a little and then put them in the pitcher of water.

Now it's time to add the sugar. I don't like mine as sweet as most people, so I only use 1 cup. If you like it really sweet you can use 2 cups. Any where in between 1 and 2 cups is fine. Just experiment to get the taste you like. Add the sugar to the pot, and stir until it is mostly dissolved.

The tea bags in the pitcher have probably cooled down some by now. Dunk them in and out of the water a couple of times to make sure they aren't too hot, and squeeze out the water. I like to squeeze my bags out by hand. You can also use your spoon and the side of the pitcher to get the excess water out. Just be sure you DON'T BREAK THE BAGS or you'll have tea grounds all in your tea. You can throw out or compost your tea bags now.

Pour the pot of tea into the pitcher. There might be some sugar left in the pot, especially if you used two cups, so fill the pot up with water and empty it into the pitcher. Fill the pitcher all the way up this way. You can fill the pitcher straight from the tap, but I think it's best to use the pot to be sure all the sugar comes out.

Now stir it with a long handled spoon and refrigerate. Can you tell I've been using my "tea spoon" a lot? lol

Tea is good for a few days as long as you keep it refrigerated. Also, be sure to wash your pitcher between uses, don't just rinse it out. Tea grows a fungus over time, and it will ruin the taste of your tea in the future if you don't wash your pitcher. And, no one wants to drink fungusy tea. Eeewwww!

Another tip, you can fill your pitcher part way with ice when making your tea. It will get it cold faster. Personally, I like the warm tea over ice. It's really good that way.

Me and my husband drink about a gallon of tea a day. I've started making two gallons at a time so I don't have to make it everyday. One large box of Lipton tea bags cost a little over $4 and lasts about a month. It's definitely more cost effective than buying all those two litter drinks, and we don't have to throw out all those plastic bottles either!

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