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What not to drink

We all have some level of hypocrisy in our lives. Yes, you too. And while I will happily pay double for a gallon of organic skim milk and we wake up at dawn’s first light to trek down to the farmer’s market to buy locavore produce from people we know and trust, I have a shameful addiction that is counter to everything I hold dear.

We’re addicted to sugar-free Kool-Aid.

Long-time blog readers might remember how I fought with my addiction to Diet Coke in the early OO’s (oh, we were so naive back then, were we not?) and how I almost went into withdrawals craving the sparkly bubbly tingly fake substance with just one calorie not even one calorie per can. Well, let me tell you: I have about one Diet Coke a month at this point, and usually only when we are at a restaurant where their water tastes weird and their iced tea is pre-sweetened. However, between Esteban and myself, we drink about a gallon of sugar-free Kool-Aid per day.

YES. I know! You have no idea how much chagrin I have over this fact. I, who buys special eggs from the farmer’s market and sings praises to the chickens’ all natural diet and technicolor yolks rich with Omega-3, am basically a walking, talking bundle of artificial colors and sweeteners.

Look, I do enjoy iced tea a great deal, and there’s nothing wrong with straight water, but somehow I can hydrate better if my water is filled with chemicals that make it taste like the color red. It’s also a big face off to my hippy dippy childhood where we weren’t allowed anything that was mass produced, which of course makes me want it all the more. And I know that it’s garbage. I fully acknowledge that. The only marginal quality that this stuff has is that it’s filled with Vitamin C, and like, every other fake thing in the world. I get it, and yet, let me make another pitcher. I don’t smoke, but I get my chemical fix in the form of a giant smiling red pitcher who likes to break through brick walls. Ohhhhhhh yeah!

Also, I have a mental sickness. It’s ridiculous, but I won’t pay more than $X for certain things. It’s like my fragile little brain can only keep track of the price fluctuations on a certain number of consumer goods, so I won’t buy Special K for more than $1.50 a box and I won’t buy toothpaste unless it’s under a buck but if you asked me how much mozzarella cheese costs, I have no idea. A quarter? Fourteen dollars? I don’t know — I just need some cheese.

Yes, I am a sad and pathetic adult. I recognize this.

And I’m bringing this up because Kool-Aid is one of those things. I won’t pay more than $2.50 for a canister of 6 2-qt envelopes of sugar-free Kool-Aid. Mostly, that threshhold got stuck in my brain because in early 2010 Amazon had a deal where you could get 6 canisters of sugar-free Kool-Aid (or 36 2-qt envelopes) for $10. Yeah, I bought $30 of each flavor and we basically didn’t need to replenish our Kool-Aid stash for 8 months (which led to the unfortunate six week stretch in 2010 which I call “the days of purple” while we worked our way through the grapes).

Honestly, I don’t think I’m unreasonable. You can buy unsweetened packets of Kool-Aid in crazy flavors for like ten cents a packet. I recognize that whatever poison they use to sweeten the sugar-free Kool-Aid packets costs more than ten cents, and I’m willing to pay for some convenience, but seriously, it’s not worth five times the price of an unsweetened packet. It’s just not.

Because I’m insane frugal, I tend to demand our Kool-Aid purchases be made at the pain-in-the-ass warehouse-esque grocery store (the one with the ookie meat) where it’s only $2.29 per canister, and that’s cheaper than Mal-Wart. Since we only go to the pain-in-the-ass grocery store for a few items (our preferred brand of chopped garlic, salt and vinegar Dirty Chips, True North pistachio crackers) once every few months, we basically buy all the canisters they have of Kool-Aid (or whatever feels like a not-embarrassing amount. This is usually about 15-18 canisters, for the record, but varies on whether Esteban is feeling self-conscious about our other purchases that day.) The last trip, however, we didn’t have our usual friendly disagreement about which of the three sugar-free Kool-Aid flavors was supreme (Esteban falls soundly into the Grape camp, which I feel is an aberration of nature that will not be tolerated and also, it angries up my flutter tummy), because they only had my preferred flavor of Tropical Punch on the shelf. I puzzled over the missing other flavors, but Esteban pointed out that it was a mistake in my favor, so what did I care?

Did you hear that? In the background, John Williams is tapping his conductor’s wand and telling the brass section to flip to their “Foreboding music of doom” scores.

This month, both Esteban and I have been trading off trips: we both went to Indiana for my Writer Camp and an meeting of the Southern Ohio/Northern Kentucky Weetacon contingent (whut whut!), then he went off to Orlando and then I went off to San Francisco, both for Very Important work doings. When I got back from SF, we went grocery shopping and Esteban pointed out the sugar-free Kool-Aid, priced at an egregious $3.49 per canister. I turned up my nose and said that I’d trek out to the pain-in-the-ass grocery store on a Kool-Aid run. Which I did, only to find that all the Kool-Aid had been replaced by the far-inferior Crystal Light.

That’s when I learned that Kraft Foods has discontinued all sugar-free Kool-Aid from now until the end of time. No more sugar-free Kool-Aid singles. No more sugar-free Kool-Aid Knox blocks. No more sugar-free Kool-Aid happiness.

That’s it. Summer’s cancelled. Thanks a lot, Kraft Foods.

The good news is that you can still buy sugar-free Kool-Aid for the princely sum of $44 for 6 canisters on Amazon, or by the 2 qt. envelope over on eBay.  Or you could make your own sugar-free versions by taking the unsweetened packets and adding the fake sweetener of your choice to it, like you’re some kind of Martha Stewart or something. Or you could go the natural route and make unsweetened iced tea, giving up fakey fake chemicals for natural antioxidants and flavonoids. Like some kind of Whole Foods-loving punk or something.

Now it’s up to you. Hit me in the comments with your favorite hydration secrets. Share with me your low- and no-calorie summer beverages. Bonus points will go to people who suggest things with the least amount of work involved.

Triple bonus points will go to the person who sends me a giant box of sugar-free Kool-Aid in Tropical Punch flavor.

*The above photo has nothing to do with anything but I searched my computer for “punch” and apparently had tagged this photo from Weetacon 8 with “Punch and Janey Show” and it made me laugh. That’s Plain Jane and in reality I tower over her. Also, we’re just funning here, because I know she’d totally kick my ass in an actual fight.



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  1. Kevin wrote:

    Kraft Foods is owned by the Altria Group, aka Philip Morris. Thus explains the evil.

    Friday, June 29, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Permalink
  2. editrix wrote:

    I also love the sugar free grape. Our local store brand tastes just like Kool Aid. I will send you a package.

    Friday, June 29, 2012 at 12:25 pm | Permalink
  3. Crystal wrote:

    The Vitamin Water Zero drinks are pretty delicious – I’m fond of the Lemonade. You can buy them in mass quantities at Sam’s Club, but they still end up being a little spendy.

    Friday, June 29, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Permalink
  4. Jane wrote:

    I would totally punch you for drinking all that terrible artificially sweetened stuff. THAT STUFF WILL KILL YOU. Also, my finger is positively crone-esque. Damn.

    Friday, June 29, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Permalink
  5. Jennifer wrote:

    Propel Zero is my evil drink of choice. I drink almost nothing else these days.

    Tuesday, July 3, 2012 at 7:36 pm | Permalink
  6. Kelly wrote:

    I would totally judge you, greenmarket-loving shopper as I am as well, but for my unhealthy fixation on Diet Sunkist (I dunno, what’s in it, I dunno what makes it day-glo orange, I dunno why it has a gritty residue in the glass(!!), but I know I love it and it is my vice). So, here’s my suggestion:
    Crystal Light. Wait, wait, hear me out.

    The flavor my friends all lovingly refer to as “that raspberry shit” is really fanastic, and mixes well with lemonade or tea, if you want to feel more virtuous. The raspberry lemonade is also excellent. Amazon has good deals on these as well. I’m also a fan of flavor mixing or using less water for potency. Not that I’ve thought about any of this, of course.

    Sunday, July 8, 2012 at 11:02 am | Permalink
  7. Justine wrote:

    My summer mix with water flavoured drink of choice is one of these Usually Lemon, Lime and Bitters flavour because, seriously, Lemon, Lime and Bitters!! Peach Iced Tea flavour is also pretty good.

    Sunday, July 8, 2012 at 8:33 pm | Permalink
  8. Suzy Smith wrote:

    No more sugar free KoolAid in the singles makes me very sad. I love KoolAid and drink it a lot, (but do the whole Martha Stewart mix my own thing.)

    That explains why I haven’t been able to find the KoolAid singles, I just figured they were selling them quickly due to the massive heat.

    Tuesday, July 10, 2012 at 4:01 am | Permalink
  9. KD wrote:

    I’m still trying to wean myself off the Diet Coke, but if you’re in Team Sour, sparkling water+half a lemon is decent. Lime would work, too!

    Sunday, July 15, 2012 at 5:22 pm | Permalink
  10. goingloopy wrote:

    I am a weirdo who loves plain water. But my boyfriend is not. He swears by this stuff, in all the flavors. He also said the Wal-mart brand is just as good. (I was trying to link it but the internet isn’t cooperating.)

    The Powerade Zero isn’t bad…their Lemon-Lime is better than the Gatorade low-calorie version.

    Wednesday, July 18, 2012 at 7:39 pm | Permalink
  11. Linda wrote:

    No shame in your game–when you consider the huge amount of chemicals we are exposed to because of foul-smelling fumes (paint, carpets, shower curtains, for Christ’s sake), you may as well ingest a few tasty chemicals. My addiction is Lipton’s Diet Citrus Green Tea, BTW. I can go to the Dollar General a couple of blocks away and buy a big honking jug for $3. Not even any mixing involved.

    Sunday, August 5, 2012 at 6:29 am | Permalink
  12. Stacey wrote:

    Hi Wendy – I’m 26 and I started reading your blog over a decade ago now, when I was about 16. You dropped off my radar for a little while and in the last couple of years I’ve started blogging and become part of a beautiful blogging community and coordinate blogging meets in my city. I had a dream about you and your blog last night (sorry) and checked for it this morning – and it’s still here. I don’t think I’d put the two things together until now but I realize that you’ve always been what I’ve thought of as an inspirational blogger. YAY.

    Saturday, August 11, 2012 at 10:56 pm | Permalink
  13. Daisy wrote:

    I love fruit infused water. Mostly I just cut up some orange/lemons/lime (and any mixture of the three) and float them in a jug of water and keep in the fridge for yummy goodness… Here are some more ideas you might like

    Monday, September 24, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Permalink
  14. Kim wrote:

    I too have somehow managed to overcome my Diet Coke addiction, which still amazes me. Overcoming opiates? No problem (well, problems, but that’s too long a story). Overcoming the Secret Crack Ingredient in Diet Coke? A freaking miracle. These days, if I’m not drinking straight water (with a lemon slice if I’m feeling fancy), I’m content with the Crystal Light mix-in thingies. It’s not an exciting life, but it’s a good one.

    Sunday, December 2, 2012 at 11:01 am | Permalink

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