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The mere mention of owning a Keurig coffee brewer makes hard-core frugalists hiss and invoke the holy grail of owning a French press.

However, there are several reasons why I prefer my little red Keurig Mini over a traditional coffee maker. First of all, it's red, so it matches the kitchen decor. Secondly, it's little, and will fit under the low-hung cabinets in our kitchen without taking up much space on the scanty amount of counter top we have. And lastly, I drink only two cups of coffee a day and cannot find a coffee maker, not even a 4-cup Mr. Coffee Junior, that makes that small of a pot taste good. Also, I do not like French press coffee, as I've yet to have a cup of it that didn't have sludge in the bottom.

Plus, the kitchen has granite counter tops and a slate floor. A glass coffee carafe lasts about two months tops in my kitchen before I drop it and it shatters to kingdom come. So a Keurig it is for me.

At the risk of having my membership in the frugal living club revoked, here's how to make owning a Keurig or other single-cup brewer more economical and less environmentally horrible. See the photo below for the reusable coffee pod production line that cranks up in my kitchen every two weeks:

 photo homemade K cup production line.jpg
My family refers to this ritual as 'loading the muskets,' since I must have coffee to enter into the fray of work life. I think that's pretty funny!

There are some start up costs involved with reusable coffee pods. I bought 30 generic Solo Pod Filters for $49.58 on Amazon* and a year's supply of paper filters, also sold on Amazon*, to go inside the cups for $28.78. It is possible to do without the paper filters, but using them means there's no sediment at all in the coffee cup.

(There was a little early experimentation in which I discovered that any reusable cups with little handle bumps on the side do not fit well in the Mini, despite there being similar-sized dents molded into the spot where cups are loaded into the Mini. The generic Solo Pod Filters fit fine.)

So my one-year cost for supplies for the reusable cups is: $78.86. I also spend about $8 a month on coffee by shopping sales with coupons. So with coffee, that's $174.86 a year, or $14.57 a month for 60 cups of coffee.

Now, let's look at the cost of buying ready-made, single use coffee pods: Eight O'Clock coffee in the K cup form is 72 for $38.97. Doing the math for 60 cups per month works out to $32.47. Eight O'Clock is one of the less expensive options and it's a nice coffee, so that's why I chose it. If we picked Green Mountain coffee, the cost for a month would be $43.15.

Obviously, homemade is the clear winner in terms of budget, because once the first year is up, the cost of reusable cups drops to $10.39 a month: just the cost of paper filters and coffee.

In terms of time, it takes me about 15 minutes to prepare 30 homemade coffee pods, which includes clean-up and opening a new bag of coffee as needed. Once they're "loaded," they're stored in a tall Rubbermaid canister in the fridge so that they stay fresh.

In addition, the paper filters and the used coffee from the homemade pods can be composted. With some effort, you can take apart a ready-made K cup and empty out the used coffee grounds, but the rest of it cannot be recycled, so it becomes trash. Supposedly enough of the ready-made variety have been sold that they'd circle the earth 12 times at this point. That's a whole freaking lot of trash!

Reusable coffee pod maintenance is pretty easy. They go through the dishwasher fine or wash up quickly by hand. So far I've been using them for more than six months and everything's working fine.

*Not to have this sound like an ad for Amazon, but we happen to live in a town that has no discount retailers whatsoever. If you can't get it at the grocery store or Ace Hardware, you don't buy it here.


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