Three Reasons Why Homemade Hot Cocoa Saves Time, Money and the Planet (Recipe Included)

We cranked up the woodstove for the first time this season last night at Inn Serendipity. The cool, fall nighttime breezes have arrived here in Wisconsin, and that means just one thing: time for hot cocoa. But not just any hot cocoa. When my husband, John Ivanko, and I moved from Chicago apartments to our Wisconsin farm, we traded convenience for countryside. No more quick runs to the mini mart store at the end of the urban block for a missing ingredient. . With civilization now a fifteen-minute drive away, I’ve learned the art of self-sufficiency by creatively making store bought mixes with pantry ingredients.

Hot cocoa serves up a good example of how making your own mixes from pantry staples deliver benefits on multiple fronts:

1. Increase Ingredient Quality
By making my own hot cocoa mix, I can prioritize organic and Fair Trade ingredients, from my dry milk powder from Organic Valley Family of Farms to cocoa from Equal Exchange to sugar from Wholesome Sweeteners. Plus all the various additives and preservatives are avoided. By selecting companies like Equal Exchange, we know that the growers who produced the coffee or cacao beans were paid a fair wage—far above the market—and treated respectfully, not exploited as “cheap labor.”

2. Save Money
Cup for cup, the cost of this homemade cocoa comes in significantly less than the store bought variety. Plus, because I mix up a big batch in bulk, it is one less thing I need to pick up at the grocery store, saving the resource cost of transport.

3. Save Packaging
Between those individual, non-recyclable packets to the boxes, processed hot cocoa mix can be a packaging hot. By storing the mix in recycled glass jars, you can avoid all that waste.

Here’s our farm favorite recipe, which makes a big batch that will warm you through many a cool and crisp fall night. Feel free to cut the quantities in half or to taste.

Homemade Organic Hot Cocoa
From Edible Earth: Savoring the Good Life with Vegetarian Recipes from Inn Serendipity

5 ½ c. dry milk powder from Organic Valley
1 c. plus 2 T. sugar
¾ c. unsweetened cocoa from Equal Exchange

* Combine all ingredients. Stir well.
* Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

To make one serving:
1/3 c. hot chocolate mix
¾ c. water
¼ t. vanilla extract

Directions to make one serving:
* Bring water to a boil.
* Add mix and blend well. Add vanilla.

Photo Credit: SallyRye under Creative Commons

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About the Author

Lisa Kivirist embodies the growing “ecopreneuring” movement: innovative entrepreneurs who successfully blend business with making the world a better place. Lisa is co-author, with her husband, John Ivanko, of Rural Renaissance: Renewing the Quest for the Good Life, capturing the American dream of farm living for contemporary times. Her latest release, ECOpreneuring: Putting Purpose and the Planet Before Profits is a compact, dynamic tool kit for a fresh approach to entrepreneurial thinking, blending passion for protecting and preserving the planet with small business pragmatics. As a W.K. Kellogg Food & Society Policy Fellow and Director of the Rural Women's Project, Lisa champions a voice for women farmers and rural ecopreneurs through media, speaking and advocacy work. Lisa runs the award-winning Inn Serendipity Bed and Breakfast in southwest Wisconsin, completely powered by renewable energy and considered amongst the “Top Ten Eco-Destinations in North America.” Her culinary focus on local and seasonal cuisine – with most ingredients traveling less than 100 feet from her organic gardens to B&B plates – earned recognition in publications from Vegetarian Times to Country Woman and inspired her cookbook, Edible Earth: Savoring the Good Life with Vegetarian Recipes from Inn Serendipity. In addition to feature writing for publications such as Hobby Farm Home, Mother Earth News and Wisconsin Trails, Lisa is the lead writer for Renewing the Countryside, a non-profit organization showcasing rural entrepreneurial and agricultural success stories. Lisa also penned Kiss Off Corporate America: A Young Professional’s Guide to Independence. Lisa shares her farm with her husband, their young son, a 10kw wind turbine and a colony of honeybees.
  • That is really is incredibly simple. It’s amazing that it’s cheaper than Swiss Miss but made with Fair Trade ingredients!

    So many prepackaged foods are an incredible ripoff. But the convenience is a siren song for many people. Just today I bought bagged croutons and premade caesar dressing at my local co-op. I know I could have made it myself for a lot cheaper, but I was in a hurry. :(

  • I really love Hot Cocoa, it’s a lovely drink to warm up during the cold winters or a nice drink during the office hours. Seeing that it is good for the planet as well makes me even happier.

    More environmentally friendly foods can be found on this Green News as well.

  • Megan K.

    Wow – this is great! I can’t tell you how happy I was to read this. My husband and I both add chocolate mix to our coffee in the morning (yeah – bad habit). I always buy the Swiss Miss chocolate mix, complete will all kinds of ingredients I can’t pronounce.I’ve been looking for a alternative now for a while, but never thought to just make my own. Wow again, thanks!

  • Dave

    even simpler, how about:
    a couple tablespoons plain cocoa
    a couple pinches salt
    in local, fresh, creamy, unhomogenized milk.

  • Delightful! I’m thinking it could be interesting for homemade Christmas gifts later on in the year too. Nice jar with instructions… could work well.

  • I love that you make a case for homemade hot cocao as one way to help save the planet. What you forgot to say is that homemade hot cocoa tastes far better than storebought!

    I don’t make it as a mix though, I use milk (can substitute almond or coconut milk for part of the dairy if you want a little different flavor) Whisk in Equal exhange baking cocoa and a sweetener of your choice (I use agave nectar most of the time.) Continue whisking while it heats. Before it boils, but when it is hot, remove from heat and add vanilla extract.

    This way you get to control the sweet and chocolate amounts. I like mine on the edge of dark semi-sweet.