Thirsty? The heat of summer increases the need to drink plenty of fluids. But which beverages can we choose to quench our thirst without sinking the grocery budget?

Drinks are one of the easiest places to save money on your food bill. In order to do this, we have to be willing to let go of old, expensive habits and open the door to newer, cheaper ones.

When we’re thirsty, it’s a signal our bodies need water. Nutritious beverages such as milk and fruit juice also play a valuable role in maintaining good health. But, most other beverages besides water, milk and juice are diet and budget luxuries. These include such favorites as soda pop, sports drinks, fruit drinks, lemonade, coffee, tea and almost any other beverage you can imagine. They add calories, caffeine, sugar, fizz and flavor to our diet. They do not add significant nutritive value. When we buy these types of luxury beverages, we are paying for someone to combine water and flavorings and then package them in a container that probably costs more than the beverage itself.

This doesn’t mean we need to give up our favorite drinks. It does mean we need to recognize them for the luxuries they are. Then it’s a lot easier to put them in their proper place in the budget.

One way to approach the beverage budget is to assign a priority ranking for the drinks we might want to buy. Below is one example. Your list might be different, but it gives an idea of how to begin to rethink your drinks with the budget in mind:

• High priority — Tap water, lowfat or fat free milk, fruit juice concentrates.

• Medium priority — Canned and bottled 100-percent juices, nonfat dry milk powder, unsweetened cocoa powder, store brand instant coffee and tea, cheap ground coffee and tea bags.

• Low priority — Whole or 2-percent milk, store brand soda-pop, store brand powdered fruit-flavored drink mixes and lemonade, most bottled fruit-flavored drinks and punches.

• Seldom or never — Fresh and refrigerated juices, chocolate milk, flavored coffee and tea, juice boxes or pouches, bottled water, name brand soda-pop, energy drinks, sports drinks, beer and other alcoholic beverages.

Your list won’t look exactly like this one, but it might be similar. Where there is room in the budget for a luxury beverage, by all means, indulge a little. Occasional treats make sticking to a tight budget a lot easier. Just be sure the important things are purchased first. For example, buying your favorite soda pop on sale is no bargain if you don’t have enough milk or juice to last until the next paycheck.

For more information on eating well on a budget, check out the K-State Research and Extension human nutrition website at

You also can find helpful tips for healthy beverages at

Linda K. Beech is Ellis County Extension agent for family and consumer sciences.