When I went to a class all about making green smoothies last year, I was inundated with ideas for getting my family (myself included) to eat more veggies. Suddenly there were all sorts of possibilities for using leafy greens and other vegetables we had never used before.
We sampled many different combinations and each one was different and delicious. It’s amazing how a handful of berries can transform a blender-ful of kale and chard (which I never would have touched before)into something not just palatable, but good! I was determined to get my family eating healthier via the green smoothie.
The only problem was that we had just a regular blender, not a green smoothie blender. And it was second-hand.
Blending raw, whole foods requires a stronger motor than your standard blender. The teacher said the only real options for a green smoothie blender are a Vitamix or a Blendtec. I came home and did a little research on the price. When I saw the price tag of around $300-400, I knew that I had to make our regular blender do the job for the time being.
Meanwhile, I found lots of ways to save money with green smoothies. With some trial and error, I learned some secrets to making green smoothies in a regular blender.
I was a little surprised that some fresh greens put a strain on my blender. We used a lot of chard because it grows so easily in the garden most of the year. Because it tends to have stringy fibers, fresh chard was especially hard on the blender. The strings would wrap around the base of the blade and completely stop the motor. Thankfully our blender had nine lives.
I found that frozen chard and other greens blended easily.
I picked and washed chard, kale, spinach, and other greens from the garden, then froze them in Ziploc bags
Greens are easy to break when they are frozen. Handling frozen greens is much easier on the blender than fresh greens.
Our wimpy blender struggled with ice. There would be giant ice chunks in our smoothies because the blender’s blade would just kind of “sand down” the edges.
Instead of using ice cubes, we froze most ingredients for our smoothies. Instead of using fresh bananas, we froze them first. Instead of fresh strawberries, we put them in the freezer. Frozen foods are not as hard as pure ice. The frozen ingredients made for a refreshing cold smoothie without having our blender lose a fight with the ice.
Chop it up
High-power blenders do an amazing job pulverizing raw foods like apples and carrots. With a regular blender, you will have to do more of the legwork yourself. If you are nervous about whether or not a fruit or veggie will blend well in your smoothie, try chopping it up well before adding it. This will give your blender the best possible chance at making a smoothie with a good texture. Depending on your blender, even pre-chopping may not allow you to blend some ingredients in to a smoothie-like consistency, but it’s worth a try!
Lots of liquid
From the beginning you will want a good amount of liquid. When we are making a full-blender smoothie we add at least 2 cups of liquid. Be sure to add more if your blender struggles or sounds like the motor is straining. Having a mixture that is too thick is rough on the motor.
Thicken at the end
We often use homemade yogurt to thicken our smoothies. It is easiest on your blender if you save the yogurt or other thickeners until the end. Having a more liquidy mixture to work with when the blender is pureeing your fruits and veggies will be easier on the motor. Once all the ingredients are smooth, add in the thickening ingredients and allow the blender to simply mix them in.
Our second-hand blender lasted nearly a year!
Using these tips, I made our second-hand blender last for nearly a year of green smoothie abuse. We made about five smoothie a week for 11 months.
Seeing my determination and perseverance with the green smoothies, my husband surprised me at Christmas with a Blendtec blender. Now that we were serious about green smoothies (it wasn’t just a fad or something we intended to do), he felt good making the investment in a quality blender with a great warranty. He got a great deal on a factory certified refurbished Blendtec and we love it!
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Krista Stockman says
I actually bought a $20 blender from Wal-mart maybe 2 years ago and it’s doing very well! It doesn’t blend ice easily, so like you I just freeze all my fruits and veggies beforehand. But I’ve been having a green smoothie with my breakfast nearly every morning and you’re right, it’s such a good way to get some veggies in. I definitely baby it and refrain from putting too much in at once, but it gets the job done well with frozen fruits and veg. Yay green smoothies!
Barbara Allen says
Thanks so much for this, I really need to see if I can switch to smoothies before I invest. Now going to test my old Oster, grocery store here I come! I love the “freeze the greens” trick, now I don’t have to worry about waste.
We were the same way. Once we realized that green smoothies were really going to be a part of our menu regularly we were fine investing in an awesome blender, but in the meantime, we made our old blender work.
Freezing greens definitely saves on waste.
Karla Holland says
I have my Moms old blender. Avocado green, that tells you how old it is! I have been making green smoothies for over 2 years and it is still working away! I use 2 cups almond milk, frozen banana chunks, frozen loose leaf spinach, golden ground flaxseed, chia seeds, and chocolate ovaltine. Yum!
Thanks for sharing your recipe Karla! That’s great that your mom’s blender is going strong! I think some of the OLD appliances were made a whole lot better than the cheap ones for sale today. 🙂
I never thought to freeze the veggies to make it easier on the blender… interesting idea! Our regular blender broke this winter so we used a macy’s gift card and an ebate to purchase the base model Ninja. So far we are really happy with it. I would however, love to hear some of your green smoothie recipes!
It’s amazing what a difference it makes, especially with the greens. They just crumble. It makes me think of walking to the bus stop with wet hair in below freezing temps. My mom would tell me that my hair would freeze and break off. I was always too scared to test it out though!
Michelle @fitnpoor.com says
GREAT tips! I make smoothies with my regular blender all of the time. I just do them in small chunks instead of large portions.
I have to do a whole blender-ful since there are five mouths that want smoothies around here 🙂
Suburban Finance says
Nice tips! I love inexpensive and healthy stuff 😉 Although to be honest I like to have little chunks of ice in my smoothie, but you’re right, maybe I can replace it with frozen ingredients for the same effect.
Sometimes ice chunks are nice 🙂
Laurie @thefrugalfarmer says
Smart tips here, Stephanie!! We use our regular blender for smoothies too. When we lived at our old house, our fridge had a crushed ice option, which worked really well with the regular blender too.
Oooo crushed ice would be perfect Laurie! That would make it easier on the blender for sure!
I am a serious fan of green smoothies. Instead of using yogurt, I use avocado or banana for extra vitamins, and it’s just as smooth and creamy without the added animal product 🙂 Thanks for the tips. I find that kale is hard on my blender (and it never quite blends completely). I have a Ninja, which was only around $100, and it’s a great blender but I don’t want to spend $100 any time soon on another blender.
We use banana and avocado too 🙂 I peel and freeze the bananas (broken into a couple pieces) and they work great! Freezing the kale will make it much much easier on your blender!
Thanks for this good information. I am seeing so many smoothie recipes and never thought about some of the veggies being too much for my little blender. I have yet to try a green smoothie, but it is on my list!
Green smoothies are great! You can easily start by throwing some spinach into your regular smoothies. It will change the color, but not the taste of the smoothie since spinach is super mild. It’s a great way to sneak in some veggies 🙂