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Saturday, January 5, 2013

Flavored Water to Make for Pennies

New Years . . . resolutions . . . get healthy . . . drink less soda and more water . . . could do that . . . but water gets boring . . . enter flavored waters

So, those bottles of water with flavorings and vitamins added are all so tempting. Also a bit pricey, if you make them a habit. To get myself and my family drinking more water, while making it interesting in the process, I make my own flavored waters.

This time of year (in the Northern Hemisphere), oranges are a natural for flavoring water. They're economical, readily available, and easy to prepare for a pitcher of water.

I start with filtered water in a 2-quart pitcher.

I wash 1 orange with a drop of liquid dish detergent (you can also do a vinegar soak if you're concerned about any possible residue from dish detergent), and rinse well.

I slice off the ends of the orange, cut into thin slices, and add to the water. I allow the water to sit at room temperature for about an hour, then chill. Serve in about 2 hours. That's it.

And since I'm a waste not, want not kind of gal, when the water is finished, and I'm left with my water-logged slices of orange, I drain them in a strainer for 10 minutes, run through my blender, and make Sunshine Muffins (a muffin recipe that calls for a whole orange, peel and all). I used seedless, navel oranges. If my oranges had seeds, I'd have picked them out before pureeing.

My homemade flavored water tastes lovely, has some vitamin C (from the orange slices), and with my oranges bought on sale for 48c/lb, the two-quart pitcher of flavored water cost about 25 cents, including the cost of the filtered water.

I like to up-cant the waters to bottles with caps. After a few hours of steeping, I use a funnel to pour the water from the pitcher, into a repurposed cider bottle (a wine bottle would also look nice). This keeps my water fresh-tasting (doesn't pick up odors from the fridge) and frees up my pitcher for a new flavor. An up-canted bottle of water, wrapped wine steward-style in a napkin, is lovely enough to leave on the table through dinner.

Orange is my personal favorite this time of year. But there are so many other possibilities for homemade flavored waters. Here's a list of ingredients to start with:

watermelon (cut into chunks)
cantaloupe (cut into chunks)
raspberry (crush with the back of a fork)
strawberry (crush with the back of a fork)
blackberry (crush with the back of a fork)
grapefruit (slice whole)
lemon (slice whole)
lime (slice whole)
pineapple (peel and slice, or use just cores)
kiwi (peel and slice)
cucumber (peel, if waxed, and slice thin)
mint (crush with wooden spoon in pitcher before adding water)
rosemary (crush with wooden spoon in pitcher before adding water)
basil (crush with wooden spoon in pitcher before adding water)
thyme (crush with wooden spoon in pitcher before adding water)
ginger root (peel, then slice thin, crush gently with wooden spoon before adding water)

Try mixing an herb and a fruit, such as basil and lemon, or pineapple and mint. Mix a few fruits, such as crushed raspberries and lemon slices. Add cucumber slices to cantaloupe and kiwi. Fresh ginger root is a delightful addition to lemon flavored water. If your family would prefer, try doubling the fruit, such as two sliced oranges.

A few tips:
Crush berries before adding to the water. Peel waxed cucumbers, fresh ginger root slices, pineapple slices and fuzzy kiwis. If you have a whole pineapple, peel, slice and core to use as normal, saving all the tough cores for a pitcher of water. Crush fresh herbs gently with  a wooden spoon to release the essential oils into the water.

What if you don't have any fresh fruit on hand. Can you use canned fruit? Absolutely! The two canned fruits that work the best for this purpose are canned pineapple and mandarin oranges. Add these fruits to the bottom of a pitcher and crush with a wooden spoon briefly before adding water. The canned fruit isn't as flavorful as fresh, so the crushing extracts flavor to compensate.

Can dried herbs be subbed for fresh? I've only tried this with dried mint. What I did was place about a half-teaspoon of dried mint in a small dish with water, and allowed to sit overnight. The next day, I added the re-hydrated mint leaves to my pitcher of lemon water.


Homemade flavored water is not only a penny-pinching alternative to commercial flavored waters, but there's less waste (plastic bottles -- see below), and there are no impossible-to-pronounce ingredients. And as a bonus, I can hardly keep up with the demand for this water. My kids drink about as much of it as I do. We are drinking much more water, and much less punch, soda, coffee and tea. (The only downside to all of this water consumption comes in the middle of the night!)

**Americans, alone, buy over 29 billion bottles of water per year, flavored and plain combined. To make all those plastic bottles, 17 million barrels of crude oil are used! And only 1 in 6 plastic bottles make it to the recycling center. Yeah, hard to fathom, isn't it?


  1. Looks good, Lili. Crystal over at Homemaking on the Homestead did something similar this summer. the fruit looks so pretty in the jars. I'll have to try that soon. :)

    1. Hi Belinda,
      Home flavored waters are such a nice change from plain water. In winter I like to use either orange or lemon water for making a cup of tea. It adds just a hint of flavor to my cuppa. Hope you give it a try.

  2. These waters look lovely and sound delicious. However, luckily, everyone here is happy with plain water. Occasionally, we make tea for a treat, but not often. We used to drink a fair amount of soda, but that is also a treat now that we don't have often.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      kicking the soda habit was very hard for me. These waters are just flavorful enough to feel like I'm drinking a drink and not just water. But I'm very happy for you and your family enjoying plain water so much! That's to be commended.

  3. Oh, that looks so refreshing. One of my New Year's resolutions is to cut back on diet soda. I know that it's really bad for me. This might just work to satisfy my craving for that can of pop. Thank you!

    1. Hi Sandy,
      as i said to live and learn, above here, diet soda was my big problem. I drank a couple of cans per day. And I, too, knew it was not a healthy drink. Flavored water really helped me to enjoy a beverage that wasn't soda, and had extremely few calories. Good luck with your resolution!

  4. That bottle of water looks beautiful. I especially like your wrapping the bottle like they do in a restaurant. Is that hard to do, the towel wrap? Can you do a post showing how that's done?

    1. Hi Janice,
      thank you! A sommelier bottle wrap is easy to do. I'll put something up later this week for you. Many years ago, I had a friend who was a wine steward in a lovely restaurant and he showed me how to do this. Not hard at all, but nice in that it protects the table from drips, and absorbs condensation, and in this case, "dresses up" a bottle of water.

  5. I have been doing this with lemons and limes for a while now and it is so tasty (I even froze some lemons when they were cheap so that I could enjoy it in summer). I never thought about using other fruits though, pineapple and mint sounds lovely :)

    1. Hi Economies,
      being summer where you are right now, you have so many choices for fruits and herbs that you could add. Berries are nice, too, and give the water a pink glow.


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