Six Million Dollar Smoothies: The Strawberry Banana Debacle

September is here! Why is this exciting? Because I’ve made the not-super-original claim that I—a grad student who makes well under living wage—am saving tons of money by using smoothies as meal substitutes. This month, I’m actually going to keep track of exactly how much money I spend on food. I think this might be a personal finance game-changer for me, so I’m excited to see what happens when, to quote the classic Nickelodeon show “Guts,” I “take it to the leaderboard, Mo!”

In the meantime, though, here’s another recipe!

A quick refresher for anybody who isn’t a regular reader: I AM in the midst of a diet, but you don’t need to be to use these recipes. I’ve become a smoothie evangelist because—if you’re smart about how you make them—they can be (1) healthy, (2) dirt cheap, and (3) excellent meal replacements.  If you want a low calorie smoothie, you can tweak the recipe below, and easily half the calorie content.


A more appetizing look at the Strawberry Banana Debacle. I LOVE the taste of spinach, so my smoothie looks really green, If you're not a big spinach fan, yours, my friend, will be an unsightly brown.

The Strawberry Banana Debacle: it looks like I forgot the strawberries, but trust me, they’re in there! I LOVE the taste of spinach, so my smoothie looks really green, If you’re not a big spinach fan, yours, my friend, will be an unsightly brown… hence the name. The good news: nobody’ll bogart your smoothie!

The Strawberry Banana Debacle

I named this recipe “the strawberry banana debacle” because, depending on the ratio of spinach to strawberries you use it may end up looking, well, like a frothy cup of a big mistake. But it doesn’t TASTE like a mistake, and that’s all that matters, right?

As always, If you want to up the protein—especially if you’re a vegetarian (like me) or not actively trying to lose weight (unlike me) I suggest adding one scoop (100 calories) worth of vanilla whey powder. I don’t think it hurts the taste, but try it and see what you think.

The recipe makes about a serving and a half, but I drink the whole thing, because why not? If you’re less ambitious, this recipe is big enough to share with somebody.

NB: Take out the Greek yogurt and you’ve got a vegan smoothie, though I’d suggest adding tofu or something similar to improve the texture.

An aerial view of the Strawberry Banana Debacle. Looks disgusting, tastes great.

An aerial view of the Strawberry Banana Debacle. Looks disgusting, tastes great.

Ice cubes, 4-5

Coconut milk, 1 cup (I use ½ cup unsweetened and ½ cup unsweetened)

Greek yogurt, ½ cup-1 cup (I prefer vanilla, but plain will work too)

Frozen strawberries, 1 ½ cup (or more if you want)

Banana, 1 whole, cut into pieces

Fresh baby spinach, 2-2½ cups (or however much you can stomach!)

Calories: 327-372

Keep in mind that spinach should be the LAST thing you put in the blender, because it can clog everything up. In fact, your life will be much easier if you blend everything else first, and push the spinach down into the blender afterwards.

If you try this recipe and you aren’t thrilled by the taste for whatever reason—you used a nasty tasting whey powder, or you have a strong aversion to spinach—try adding ½ cup of frozen pineapples (41 calories) to the mix. If you aren’t loving this smoothie then, this ain’t the recipe for you.

If you’re catching the smoothie bug and want another recipe to tide you over until my next post, check out The Big Purple Giant!

“The Six Million Dollar Scholar” is the personal blog of Andrea Milne, a Ph.D. candidate in modern U.S. History at the University of California, Irvine. To get the story behind the blog’s name, click here.

I’m Shrinking, and So Are My Bills!

Last month I made a promise to myself to lose twenty pounds by Thanksgiving.

Before I say anything else, I want to be super clear that this isn’t going to be a “thinspirational” blog post. I promise. This is NOT the place to go for fat-shaming rhetoric. Fact is, I was actually *quite* happy with the person I saw in the mirror a month ago.

In the past several months, however, an old medical problem has resurfaced—albeit in a new way—and my mobility has been severely compromised. I’m heading to surgical consult number two this week, so needless to say, the process of getting better is going to take a while. Until then, I just have to make it work, which means limiting my activity, and taking pain medicine. The only other thing that I can do for myself right now… is lose weight.

Makes sense right? When you’re carrying extra weight your joints are carrying it too, and—right now anyway—mine can’t afford any extra strain.

I promised to lose twenty pounds by Thanksgiving as an act of radical self-care, knowing full well that it was going to be a major uphill battle given my inability to exercise like I used to. Good news folks: I’m about seven pounds lighter today than I was this time a month ago! Hooray for me!

Actually, there’s more than one reason to be proud of me. Here’s reason number two: I didn’t anticipate that this would happen, but in adjusting my diet, I’ve also started saving a TON of money. Like, my grocery bill for the week has been halved, and then some.

THAT, my friends, is knowledge I feel a genuine obligation to share.

In the past I’ve been surprisingly successful using SlimFast shakes to lose weight, but there was NO chance of me trying that again, because it turns out I’m a little on the lactose intolerant side. I’ve significantly cut my dairy intake, and never drink milk anymore. I know meal replacement (“drinking your breakfast” of a different sort) works for me, so instead of buying shakes, I’ve started making my own smoothies.

Poor graduate students everywhere: you do NOT need a Vitamix or a fancy pants juicer to make a decent smoothie. A regular blender does the job just fine. That first shopping trip—the one in which you acquire bag upon bag of frozen fruit—is a little painful, but after that, your weekly shopping bill will go through the floor. MY GROCERIES FOR THIS WEEK COST ME UNDER $40. That’s fourteen plus smoothies, ingredients for a giant batch of homemade Santa Fe style Beans n’ Rice, and the staple foods I needed to replenish.

NB: I cook and freeze meals en masse about eight times a year, so I always have a variety of dinner options despite only cooking one big meal a week. If you’re cooking all of your meals the week you eat them, your grocery bills are always going to be big. Sorry.

High protein smoothies are not inherently diet-friendly—in fact, you have to craft your recipes very carefully if you ARE trying to lose weight with them—so replacing one to two meals with this stuff isn’t just a tip for grad students to lose weight. Nope. It’s a tip for folks like me who (1) desperately need to save money, (2) can fill up on a “liquid lunch.” and (3) won’t get too bored with the “smoothie experience.” I’m pretty easy to please when it comes to food (really, I just want to be full), so, provided I get to have different kinds of blended fruit beverages whenever I want, I’m perfectly happy to drink two a day while counting my imaginary money.

I knew "The Incredible Shrinking Woman" was an actual movie, but never realized that  Lily Tomlin starred in it. Onto the to-do list it goes!

I knew “The Incredible Shrinking Woman” was an actual movie, but never realized that Lily Tomlin starred in it. Onto the to-do list it goes!

So there you go folks. A quick and painless way to save at the supermarket and stay healthy at the same time, brought to you by the Incredible Shrinking Scholar. Hit me up in the comments section if you’d like some recipes, or have some of your own that you’d like to share with the rest of the class!

“The Six Million Dollar Scholar” is the personal blog of Andrea Milne, a Ph.D. candidate in modern U.S. History at the University of California, Irvine. To get the story behind the blog’s name, click here.