Splurging on Stevia Extract While Staying on Budget

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SteviaExtractI like to use liquid stevia in my morning smoothies and in my tea and Greek yogurt. I go through it fast. Stevia extract is quite pricey, and paying for those little bottles can cut into my budget.

Once I discovered how easy it was to make extracts, I determined to make my own Stevia extract as economically as I could. Here is what I did:

Stevia requires very little maintenance to grow. While it can be grown in the ground, I like to garden in containers. Planters can be expensive, but a 5-gallon plastic painter’s bucket will run you less than $3. No electric drill for putting drainage holes in the bottom of the bucket? No problem. A scratch awl is a great tool to use, and will cost you very little. Get it at Amazon here for $3.34.

At first I thought I would have to heat the awl in order for it to pierce the bottom of the bucket, but that wasn’t the case. It took a little pressure, but if I can do it, pretty much anyone can. The holes were a little small, so after I made the holes I wanted I simply used a screwdriver I had on hand and made them bigger.

Untitled-1Next, I set up some old bricks in a triangle shape to hold the bucket up off the cement, and filled it with potting soil and a few eggshells for calcium. Just wash off the shells as you use them in the kitchen and store the dry shells until you need them. I “crushed” mine in the blender.

SteviaPlantFinally, I added the 3 stevia plants I bought at the local nursery for $8.00, and right away I have enough to make my first batch of extract.

Things to note about growing stevia –
it likes full sun and well-drained soil. Keep the plant pruned from the top, like you would basil, and use the young leaves for your tea, cooking and extracts. If you want you can let one of the branches go to flower – simply do not prune it – and then save the seeds for growing more plants. Stevia can be harvested all summer, but it is actually sweetest in the fall when the temperatures drop.

Here is breakdown on costs for this project:

  • Bucket:  $2.78
  • Scratch Awl:  About $4.00, unless you already have one. In any case, you will reuse this tool for years.
  • Potting Soil:  About $2.00 for the amount to fill the bucket, but you can use soil from your yard, or plant the stevia in the ground for that matter
  • Bricks: No added cost
  • Eggshells: No added cost
  • 3 Plants: Around $8.00

You will have plenty of stevia leaves to use in your tea, to dry and powder if you wish, and to make your own extract. To powder the dried leaves simply use a coffee grinder or food processor. I have found that a coffee grinder will make the finest powders. Homegrown stevia powder is not as sweet as the storebought version. To cook with it replace 1 cup of sugar with 3-4 teaspoons of your homemade powder.

While homemade powdered stevia will be green instead of white, it will be just as sweet and it will not be processed like the store-bought versions. This means it will not have that bitter after-taste!

Now for the Extract:

Fortunately, Jill Winger over at Prairie Homestead just published an excellent tutorial on making your own homemade stevia extract. I was so pleased to know that you only have to let it set for about 36 hours, not the 6 weeks for other extracts. Simmering it afterwards cooks out the alcohol, so it is safe for children too. And for those of you out there who are gluten free, remember to use Smirnoff vodka for the extract if you are going to use alcohol.

DropperBottleOnce you have made your extract, keep it in a dark, dropper bottle. I like the 4 oz. bottles, which you can get here. Kept in the refrigerator, your extract should last about 3 months.

Vodka is cheap, and now you have a free source of stevia leaves, so it takes very little effort to make a pint or even a quart of stevia extract. Can you imagine how much you would pay for a pint of this at the store? And by making it yourself you will avoid the bitter aftertaste in the bleached store versions! This is the major reason many people avoid stevia!

I’m seeing lots of homemade gifts for my friends in the future. Of course lots for me too. And I won’t feel like I’m overspending on this item ever again. In fact, it feels like I’m getting it practically for free. And I am! I may be living with less these days, but I’m living abundantly with a little effort, a little problem solving, and a lot of joy.

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