My Journey (So Far) in Refined Sugar-Free Eating

I received the following comment from Debbie @ a while back:

“I read your blog and enjoy your recipes. I am trying to find a balance when it comes to cost in eliminating/replacing sugar. In the beginning of this journey, I decided that we would just replace it with maple syrup until I figured out how expensive that would be. Now we are down to the last of our maple syrup that we bought 1 month ago. I am rationing it. Next, I considered honey. Now, I am just not really sure. Where has this journey taken you and how did you get to where you are now?”

I didn’t answer that comment right away because I knew it would take me more than a few seconds to answer…but rather than take all that time to just tell Debbie about it, I thought you, my wonderful readers, might be interested to. So I decided to answer via post. 🙂 lol

Ok, so…….here goes nothing! 🙂

I started eating sugar-free way back in 2008 🙂 … actually not that long ago. It just feels like it! I started to eat this way because I was having a lot of health problems and someone suggested (or maybe I read about it?) that I try sugar-free.

I started with using brown rice syrup and evaporated cane juice. Eventually, I was introduced to agave ,and I almost used exclusively agave nectar for quite a while. But that got quite expensive…. and I found myself rationing it too just like Debbie! Around that same time I had started learning about different sweeteners and had used them…and continue to learn and progress.

I don’t use unrefined cane sugar/evaporated cane juice/sucanut/rapunda etc because I found that I react to them more than other sweeteners…if nothing else, I tend to binge more on them and find them less healthy anyways in my opinion.

So what do I do/use now? I love using:

  • Fruit! (Dried fruit, whole fruit, apple sauce, fruit juice, fruit juice concentrate, really ripe bananas, etc) I feel like this is a much more natural way to enjoy things sweet! 🙂
  • Sweet Milk– this is a cheaper option that I recently have begun to experiment with and I love! 🙂 Click on it for more info.
  • Dates! Yum! Ok, so they are technically dried fruit, but I like them in all their forms……as date sugar and whole. I find they taste similar to brown sugar. 🙂
  • Stevia (powdered, flavored, liquid, etc. You name it, as long as it isn’t  too bitter, I like it!)
  • Honey

These 4 are the most frugally rich! I find that by using fruit in it’s more natural states and/or a little stevia and/or honey I can save a lot more money. I also buy more expensive items like stevia and honey in bulk…which also saves me money. And I tend to combine fruit and/or stevia/honey together so I use less of the more expensive and less “fruity” sweeteners.

What about agave? I have heard lots of bad news lately about agave but I’m not sure what to believe. Either way though, it hasn’t made it’s way back into my pantry of late because of the expense! I also found that I could binge just as much with agave (which is supposed to be low glycemic) as with regular sugar……but that might just be because I have a sweet-tooth problem! 🙂 So, perhaps I will use it in the future, we’ll see. The cheapest way I’ve ever gotten it is through Amazon I think and in bulk…but still it was pretty expensive!

And maple syrup? Although I love this guy!! really, really I do!, I find it tougher to get larger quantities of him (which is cheaper than those little over-priced bottles) at the store and that it is as Debbie mentioned expensive. I don’t know how it really compared in price to honey either…I thought about checking that out but that was right before I started the elimination diet……in which I am not eating anything with sweeteners (unless it is fruit, dried fruit, fruit juice). It is difficult but amazingly not as hard as I thought it would be! The reason I am doing this is because I want to see how these “sugars” (for that’s what they are, even if they are much healthier) affect my body whether they cause more binging or other symptoms! I plan on trying cane sugar too eventually on this elimination diet.

Also, another tip that helps me to use refined sugar-free products frugally, is by using less. Liquid ingredients tend to use about half the amount called for in a recipe anyway, but I still like to reduce the amount as much as I can. You tastes do change over time and eventually you are able to use less sugar.

I also have heard a lot about coconut sugar/sap but haven’t had the opportunity to try it and I know it’s more expensive.

I occasionally will use molasses, brown rice syrup, etc in my cooking but not very often. I prefer the other above mentioned sweeteners. 🙂

Anyways, I think that’s about it! If anyone else has any tips or stories to share, feel free! 🙂



This is linked to pennywise platter thursdays 🙂



  1. Thank you for taking the time by answering my question. I found it all very helpful as we embark on this journey of eating healthier. I will try some of the substitutes that you suggested as they seem very frugal. Right now I am all about being as frugal as possible. I really like the new theme on your website. Also my website is different now since I have my own domain name

    • No problem Debbie! Let me know how it goes….and if you ever have any more questions, feel free to ask! You site looks nice and I’m adding it to my reader! 🙂 -Ari

  2. I used to buy my maple syrup at Trader Joe’s (when I went visit my parents in CA). I recently realized that it is actually cheaper to get it at Costco. I do try to use it sparingly and find that it goes a long way. I buy a quart about once every 6 months. Recently my kids got into the pantry and poured out a almost brand new quart of syrup all over the floor, so for the moment we are doing without. Costco also has the best price I have found for agave, but I have been using it less due to the controversy. If you learn more about it please share. Thanks!

  3. Thanks for the info!

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