Photo: Prostock-studio (Shutterstock)
Everything at the grocery store is more expensive than it was a few months ago, but I was not prepared for protein powder inflation. My favorite powder costs about 30% more than it did last year, and I go through it fast enough that I couldn’t justify the price anymore. As an experiment, I started making my shakes with plain whey powder and coffee creamer—and it works so well that I’m never going back.
The most annoying part of protein powder inflation is that I don’t even buy the fancy stuff; my go-to is the generic Target brand vanilla whey powder. Last summer, my nearest Target sold it for $16.99 for 32 ounces; today, the same store charges $22.99 for the same product. (The gall! It’s not even name-brand!) By comparison, bulk whey powder from WinCo costs $10.98 per pound. It’s not exactly cheap, but plain whey contains more protein per gram than the flavored stuff, so it ends up lasting longer and costing less. Throw in a $2.99 bottle of store-brand coffee creamer and I’ve got everything I need for at least a couple of weeks of shakes.
Saving money is great, but I find these shakes also taste a lot better than the ones I made with pre-flavored powder. My theory is that it’s because coffee creamer has actual sugar in it rather than the sugar alcohols or other non-sugar sweeteners that you often find in flavored protein powders. I just don’t like the way they taste; I usually added a little real sugar to my protein powder shakes specifically to cover up the fake sweetener flavor. Using creamer lets me choose the flavor—hazelnut is my favorite—and adjust the sweetness level to my preference.
Making a shake with coffee creamer is extremely easy and works with any flavor you like. Just add your liquid of choice and plain whey powder to a shaker bottle, blender, or whatever container you usually use, then add a glug of creamer and blend. Taste and adjust as needed.
I find that this method makes even water-based shakes taste good, but if you usually use milk or vegan milk, it would probably be even better. There’s also no reason this wouldn’t work with vegan powders, although you may need to use a bit more creamer to compensate for the stronger flavor many plant-based protein sources bring to the table. Considering that plant-based protein is even more expensive than whey, it’s definitely worth a shot.