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Cheap Coffee Beans!

Seeking out the best bargains isn't always easy! Prices don't necessarily determine what is and what isn't a bargain, that's for sure, and all too often we can fall for those fluorescent stickers and stars that have us brainwashed into thinking they represent a cheap and cheerful buy. Lookalike names fool us into mistaking them for something better and, as a household of coffee drinkers, I have been caught out by this when searching for cheap instant coffee. If it ends in 'cafe' then it has to be good, hasn't it? In the case of one particular discount supermarket, this really isn't true, although we did finally reach the end of the 89p for 500g instant coffee.

As an avid fan of the online clearance food warehouses, it is to them I have turned my attention over the past year for my coffee. In January 2013, we bought 10 x 1kg bags of instant cappucino at 99p per bag. If I'd to equate it to instant coffee, it would be equivalent to about 10 x 500g of instant, I'd think, as the cappucino mix comes with milk powder already added, plus it is slightly sweetened, so anyone taking sugar in a normal coffee may need less than half that when using the mix. It was great once we got used to it, saving on both mlk and halving the sugar usage on the hot beverages front. Couple this with the bulk bought instant hot chocolate and we really were onto a winner. But like all good thing, our stocks dwindled then ended.

Back to the coffee drawing board I went - and pulled up the Approved Food website (this is my friend referral link). You can try it now, if you feel the need. Just hit the 'start shopping' button and then hover your mouse over the 'Drinks' link at the top of the page. Select 'Hot Drinks' and that's where I found the coffee beans at £1.49 per kilo and the coffee whitener! (Note, this is coffee whitener, not milk powder, but at 5kg for £1, I'll get used to it.) It's also where I found the Cadbury's hot chocolate mix, which is great value if you live in a rural area with no nearby shops selling stuff like that. There's also loose leaf tea at 50p per 500g, a brilliant buy if you don't mind using tea leaves.

Being wary of bargains that are too good to be true, I decided to research coffee beans a little further. I've mostly been a drinker of instant, as freshly ground beans were well beyond the budget of any normal frugaler - until now, that is. If you want to buy coffee in bulk, it needs to be stored in airtight containers and kept in a cool, dark environment. Avoid fridges and freezers, as moistire harms the beans in storage. Like spices, coffee beans do best in opaque, sealed containers and it's probably best to keep a little for daily use and top it up from the bulk when needed. So, now I know it's best to leave coffee in its original packaging and why it's best to be sealed in airtight, dark packaging.

My order from Approved Food arrived; I had taken a gamble here, after seeing that coffee beans normally cost anything from around £10 to £25+ per kilo in supermarkets. At £1.49 per 1kg venting pack, I didn't want to buy too many in case they were no good but I was running the risk of missing the bargain if they turned out to be great value and were sold out by the time I went to place a subsequent bulk order.

The cheapest coffee I can find anywhere is a major supermarket's own saver brand instant coffee granules at 47p per 100g (£4.70/kg). We have tried this variety in the past and it was actually quite acceptable, from a non-coffee connoisseur's point of view, but I should also say that we  have friends who would refuse to allow such cheap, nastiness any shelf space in their kitchens. Likewise, we tried the 'cheap foodstore' variety of instant granules with a name ending in 'cafe', suggesting a likeness to a well-known big brand. It failed dismally. Even for a hardened frugaler like myself, the 89p price tag  just wasn't cutting it, although we did eventually drink the stuff.

Keeping in mind that you use double the amount of ground coffee as you do instant, this makes my cheap coffee beans £2.98/kg and once I factor in the delivery costs, it takes it up to £3.44/kg, but yikes! These cheap coffee beans are still working out much cheaper than the very, very cheapest instant granules.

Have we anything else to consider?old coffee grinder

Yes! Coffee beans need to be ground, so we need a way of grinding them. There are several alternatives here, from placing them in a bag with a tea towel over the top then bashing them with a hammer, to grinding them with a mortar and pestle or popping them through an actual grinder. I opted for the latter, after discovering my mum still had her old coffee bean grinder lurking at the back of a cupboard! Problem solved!

The first beans arrived and have now been tried and tested. Yes, they are past their 'best before' date and yes, I do need to store them all in their original packaging in a cool, dark, dry area, but I don't live in a fully centrally heated modern home, I have 2 unheated rooms, an unheated hallway and a dry outbuilding, so cool storage isn't a problem here.

Anything else?

Yes! They tell me that slugs and snails hate coffee grounds but that gardens, compost heaps and wormeries love them, so I'm thinking I'm onto a good thing here - the luxury of ground coffee, the novelty of grinding the beans and the potential for improvement in the garden by way of deterrng slimy marauders. Now all I need to do is find la Cafetière so I don't need to replace my paper filters for the coffee maker when they run out, nor will I need to rely on electricity when I can boil the water and fill the coffee pot from the kettle on the log burner.

Final analysis

The beans arrived, I have my grinder, I ground said beans and then added a heaped tablespoonful to the coffee maker to make us each a mug of steaming hot coffee. Well, it acually made us extra, as I had over estimated, so I would suggest a dessert spoonful or 2 teaspoonsful per person in future - around 7g. Having done the taste test, I have been back on site and will soon have a grand total of 15kg of coffee beans, which are going to be stored in a sealed, dark plastic crate in the outbuilding while friends and neighbours help us drink our way through the coffee. This should be enough to last us until spring 2014 and should save a small fortune while enjoying the luxury of real coffee.

Approved Food

Seriously, I'm not sure how my grocery bill would be if it wasn't for the likes of Approved Food , mainly because I don't give a stuff about 'best before' dates. Waste not, want not is high on my list of priorities and if companies can provide money saavy shoppers with cost-cutting opportunities that prevent otherwise good food from being binned, burned or buried, then that's OK by me. For any leftovers we have here, I have a garden, a wormery, compost bins, hens, ducks, a cat and friends with pigs that love apples.

By NYK, Frugaldom

NB: This is an affiliated or sponsored post.


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