Inside the Flat Broke Kitchen: Coffee to go

2 Oct

Poor people need their fixes, too.

Carrying a cutesy cup of gourmet coffee, cappuccino, latte — whatever — is as trendy as living in a ultra-minimalist loft in Chelsea. But with the recession, the coffee industry has taken some serious hits. My theory is that regular customers now can’t afford gas station cappuccino, much less higher-end stuff!

Despite the boom-to-bust economy, people are still desperate for a fix. That extra jolt of java has become necessary for people to survive the work day — or a long day of job hunting. What will the impoverished caffeine junkies do?!

Welcome to the first installment of “Inside the Flat Broke Kitchen”. I’m going to not only make a quick, easy and CHEAP cappuccino, but also show you easy ways to take it on the road. You’ll look trendy AND smart as you stagger through another morning.

Keep in mind that prices will vary in different stores and locations. Your prices may be higher or lower than mine. But at least I can probably put things in perspective for you.

Recipe: Poorhouse Coffeehouse

Difficulty level: One out of 10. Actually, I don’t even know if it deserves a one because this is just sooooo easy.

Step 1: Find a carrier

I just purchased a package of Chinet Comfort Cups for about $3. The 16-ounce insulated cups with lids come in sets of 10. That’s enough to last you for two work weeks. They’re also cute, with their coffee-house-like design. You don’t have to be rich to be fashionable.

Another option is finding a thermos you can wash and reuse. This may be the cheapest option in the long run, but ask yourself one question and answer it with brutal honesty: Will I actually be able to clean this thing every day? Personally, I’m lucky I have time to flush the toilet, much less do dishes. So, I’m not going to kid myself.

If you do clean more often, this is probably your best choice. And more power to you!

Step 2: Choose your cheap, but good coffee

Coffee isn’t just coffee anymore. You have instant, ones that require brewing and the ones that still need beans ground. On top of that, there are 40 billion brand names and flavors.

For this, you will need instant coffee. I personally pick out one already flavored (if that’s how you do java), to save money on flavored creamers. Plus, it’s less bitter. Then, choose whatever flavor you want.

Personally, I’m a French vanilla cappuccino fan, and Wal-Mart has a great generic instant one: 16-ounce can for $1.99. It comes in the white “Great Value” packaging.

If you’re not at Wal-Mart, I’m sure there are other stores that have generics. If not (or you want a slight upgrade), Folgers makes a great instant cappuccino that goes for about $3.50.

Step 3: Assemble arsenal

Fill up the Chinet cup , thermos or whatever else you’re using, then pour it into a glass, microwave-safe plastic cup, whatever. The Chinet cups are not meant to be microwaved, so you’ll have to heat up the water in something else. Most coffee thermoses are made of metal, too.

Microwave the water for 1 minute, 45 seconds.

Then, add your coffee. How much you use depends entirely on personal preference — how strong, how sweet, how much water you have, etc. I personally use seven small spoonfuls for my “Lucky Seven” cappuccino. Warning: It’s not for the weak!

Add any extras you like, like old-school creamer (available in a generic just about anywhere), sweeteners, etc.

Step 4: Load up!

Pour everything into the portable cup/thermos. You and your caffeine are ready to tackle the day!

* * *

Why go through this when you can swing through a drive-thru or run into a convenience store? Let’s do some math here, shall we?

So, say you still keep up your habit of buying a Starbucks Venti-sized White Chocolate Mocha (my guilty pleasure from there) every work day morning — if you still have a job. Here, that costs about $4.50 a cup.

That White Chocolate Mocha will cost you an estimated $22.50 per five-day work week and $90 per month. (Weekly and monthly figures do not include vacation and personal days — if you’re fortunate to get them, or furlough days — if you’re cursed with them like I have been.)

McDonald’s McCafe has emerged as a cheaper alternative to Starbucks, and I have indulged. Their vanilla iced coffee is a great summer fix. But a large cappuccino from there costs about $3.50. That’s $17.50 a week and $70 a month.

So, let’s just say you downgrade to a gas station cappuccino for, say, $2. That’s $10 a week and $40 per month.

Think about what you could do with that extra $40 or even NINETY dollars every month.

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