Smoothie Packs: Empty Hype or Savvy Hack?

This article on smoothie packs is the second post in a series of make-ahead morning recipes, batch breakfasts designed to save you time. Also in this series: breakfast panna cotta.

green smoothie packs

They’re tasty, healthy and an easy way to get your greens–but, let’s face it, even smoothies are a chore when you’re tired, stressed or in a rush. Who can’t relate to blogger and cookbook author Kathryne Taylor, who said in Women’s Health Magazine, “I need my breakfasts to be easy enough to fumble together in the morning, because I don’t have the energy to pull out a variety of smoothie ingredients before I’ve had coffee”?

Her solution and the solution of countless others today? Make-ahead smoothie packs.

Smoothie Pack Benefits

  • Speed. “You can easily prep [smoothie packs] ahead of time with all your other meal prep stuff, ” blogger Lindsay Ostrum writes at Pinch of Yum.
  • Convenience.  “Make-ahead smoothies are my ultimate answer to the famous question, ‘Mom/Honey, what do we have to eat around here?’” writes Kristin Marr at Live Simply.
  • Mental Break. Smoothie packs are also one step simpler than pulling out ingredients and blending them to drink. You don’t even have to think about breakast–just pull out a bag and add what it says.

So are make-ahead smoothies worth the hype?

Do smoothie packs actually save time?

Does taking a little time to prep smoothie packs improve your week, or does it just waste plastic bags?

This past week, I decide to find out.

green smoothies

Two Green Smoothies for Make-Ahead Smoothie Packs

For the purposes of this experiment, I use two basic green smoothie recipes. The first goes green from spirulina powder, an add-in option that lends protein, antioxidants and other nutrients to the drink. This recipe requires the addition of milk, vanilla and spirulina in the morning when it’s time to blend.

The second incorporates frozen kale, a cheap and easy component that can be frozen, into the packs. To make this option, all I add in the morning is liquid–a cup each of kefir and water.

Green Smoothie Recipe #1: Vanilla Mango
Makes two 16-ounce servings

To freeze ahead of time:
2.5 cups frozen mango
1 banana

To combine with in the blender:
2 cups of your preferred milk
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon spirulina

Green Smoothie Recipe #2: Peaches and Greens
Makes a little more than two 16-ounce servings

To freeze ahead of time:
1 1/3 cups frozen peaches
1 1/3 cups frozen strawberries
4 handfuls of frozen kale
1 banana

To combine with in the blender:
1 cup kefir
1 cup water

green smoothie packs

Five Days of Smoothies

Sunday afternoon, for the first time in my life, I prep four days of smoothies for two people, using the two recipes above. I put frozen ingredients in plastic bags and use a marker to note what should get added in the morning. Then, on Friday, I make a smoothie off the cuff, no recipe and no bags, to compare. I time each experience, make note of observations and record everything on Instastories.

Here’s what happens.

Monday Morning: Green Smoothie #1
Our under-renovation kitchen is a mess of dropcloths at the moment, but that doesn’t stop me from reaching for a smoothie bag and dumping its contents into the Vitamix on the counter. Next, I add in two cups of almond milk, a teaspoon of spirulina powder and a half teaspoon of vanilla extract. Right away, this leads me to revelation #1: if you measure your liquids into the blender on top of frozen ingredients, you’ll undermeasure. I have to add extra milk, grab the Vitamix tamper and work the mixture before it becomes a thick, green drink.

Still, the entire process takes three-and-a-half minutes.

Tuesday Morning: Green Smoothie #2
I wake up Tuesday morning to a winter wonderland, so if there weren’t already smoothie packs in the freezer, I’d probably say no to a cold drink. Today’s pack calls for a cup each of kefir and water, no other add-ins, so it’s faster than the last. I still use the tamper to blend it. Total tally: two-and-a-half minutes.

Wednesday Morning: Green Smoothie #1
Another two-and-a-half-minute breakfast, even though I eyeball the add-ins to save time.

Thursday Morning: Green Smoothie #2
The beginning of a sore throat and a little overnight congestion would probably keep me in bed, except I know I have a smoothie pack waiting for me. When today’s routine takes the same two-and-a-half minutes, again with the tamper, I realize something. Smoothies that would normally have some frozen and some fresh fruit are, with smoothie packs, all frozen fruit. Note to self: when you make smoothie packs, you make breakfasts thick enough to scoop with a spoon.

Friday Morning: Random Smoothie
On this morning, I’m not following any recipe and not using prepped bags, so I wonder if the process will take much more time. Total tally: three minutes, 45 seconds. Not even two minutes longer than when I prepped ahead of time.

green smoothie

Takeaways from a Trial Week

  • Yes! Smoothie packs save mental energy. If you’re one of the many people who finds choosing what to put in your smoothie the hardest part of morning routines, packs help. You still have to pick your recipes, but because you do it ahead of time, mornings are mindless.
  • No! You don’t have to use disposable plastic bags. For anyone who likes the idea of smoothie packs, but hates the waste of more plastic bags, there are other options. Freeze smoothie packs in mason jars, and you can just dump and blend each day. Use your favorite tupperware. Alternatively, consider reusable baggies if you want the convenience of bags, without the waste.
  • Wow, these drinks are thick. Freezing all your fruit ahead of time equals thick, scoopable smoothies, whereas using fresh fruit–even just the banana–can make for an easier blend. Plan to pull out the Vitamix tamper or, if you’re using another blender, to pause a few times to stir.
  • Honestly, it saves the most time when you’re using fresh fruit. While organizing frozen fruit and veggies into packs is helpful, there’s a lot more time to be saved if you’re using fresh fruit and greens. Want an orange-heavy smoothie this week? Smoothie packs can simplify your morning. Come into a bevvy of organic berries from a Saturday spent picking or a good sale in July? Prepping smoothie packs is a great way to go. The biggest perk of smoothie packs is how you get all the work of peeling, chopping and storing done ahead of time.

The Verdict

Ultimately, smoothie packs are fun, they can be useful and they’re not a crazy idea. Would I make them again? Maybe. If I had a busy week ahead and the few minutes of time saving was a selling point. If we’d just gone berry picking and I wanted to make good use of the fruit. Smoothie packs would also be useful if I had kids old enough to make smoothies on their own or a housemate who didn’t already feel confident about what to throw in the blender. Generally speaking, though, I think I’ll stick to making them up as I go. There’s a target audience for smoothie packs, but, turns out, it’s not me.