Smoothies are a great invention. They're a tasty and easy way to get some fruit into your diet and, since the industry has taken off over the past few years, there's an endless choice of concoctions. But they can be an expensive habit. A 250ml bottle can set you back nearly £2 – making them a prime candidate to be dropped from your shopping list in the current tough economic climate.
But there's no need to spend £2 every time you fancy a smoothie. Buy a blender and you can make your own for around half the cost. And it will come in handy for plenty of other jobs around the kitchen as well. Alternatively, for the smoothie purists – you could buy a smoothie-maker, which is much the same as a blender, but also comes with a tap to pour out your drink once you've finished mixing it.
"Blenders are a great way to whip up smoothies, shakes, soups and sauces quickly and easily, and if you buy a lot of bottled smoothies or shakes you could even save yourself some money by making your own," says Victoria Pearson, a principal researcher at the consumer group Which?. "Smoothie makers are often shinier and sleeker, but they're usually more expensive and involve more washing-up."
The good news is that the quality is fairly high among most of the blender models out there. When Which? recently tested 20 blenders and eight smoothie-makers, none of them scored less than 60 per cent. Nevertheless, there's a big difference in price, so it's worth knowing what to look out for.
The main things to think about are how easy they are to use and to clean, and you may also want to spare a thought for how many speed settings they have, and whether the jug is glass or plastic. In Which?'s survey, the Breville BL33 Blender (pictured) got the highest score – receiving praise for its unusual design and high number of speed settings. It's also fairly reasonably priced at around £65. Among the smoothie-makers, it was the Russell Hobbs illuminating smoothie-maker 1365 that came out top. At the bottom of the blenders was the Prestige Deco 50673, which was noisy, not very easy to use and had a lengthy blending time.
Where to buy
It's worth using the likes of pricerunner.co.uk, kelkoo.co.uk and froogle.co.uk to see which retailers are offering the blender you're after, at the cheapest price. Alternatively, Argos offers more than 40 different types, starting from as little as £7.47, or you could pick up a cheap deal at one of the larger supermarket stores, such as Tesco Extra. Tesco has its own value blender, priced at just £10, which scored 70 per cent in Which?'s product review. Its best buy – the Breville BL33 – can be found on Amazon.co.uk for £65.
What to look out for: Questions to ask yourself
How much does it weigh?
If you're pulling your blender in and out of a cupboard each day, then weight might be important. The lightest blenders are just 2kg, while the heaviest are 5.5kg!
Glass or plastic?
Some blenders have plastic jugs, which can be better for the accident-prone among us. It's also worth checking whether the jug is dishwasher-safe.
If you're using your blender for more than the odd smoothie, it may be important to pick up one with multiple speed settings. Some offer no more than "fast" and "slow".
Is it noisy?
Some blenders make an awful racket. But the best ones of the market are more discrete.
How much juice?
It's worth checking what the capacity of a blender's jug is. The most expensive blender tested by Which? had a capacity of less than one litre. But other models have jugs that are more than twice this size.
The Insider is written in conjunction with the consumer group Which?. For more information on the best blenders or smoothie-makers – or to read other product reports – visit their website www.which.co.uk. To get three issues of 'Which?' magazine for £3, call 01992 822800 and quote INADVICE.