Tag Archives: Budget

Homemade Yogurt!

8 Dec

One of my favorite things to eat is yogurt with honey and granola.  There’s just something about the crunchiness of the granola against the smoothness of the yogurt that is so satisfying to me.  Of course, Greek yogurt is the best, but it’s very expensive.  We can go through a quart of yogurt in no time, and at $3.99 per, that really adds up quickly.  I have found it much more economical (not to mention easy, satisfying and even a little bit fun) to make my own yogurt.  And the best part is, you don’t need any special equipment or gadgets.  You just need milk, starter, a pot and thermometer, jars and a controlled low temperature to allow the milk to culture.

Google “how to make yogurt” and you’ll get many different options: using a yogurt maker (duh), a crock pot, the oven, an ice chest, but my favorite is using a heating pad.  Yep, the same one you pull out when you strain your back.  It takes about 8 hours for the milk to culture, and the heating pad is the easiest and gives me the most consistent results.

It takes about an hour to make the yogurt, plus another 8-1/2 hours of culturing time, so start it in the morning.  It’s a good “set it up and go” activity as once it is culturing, it doesn’t need any babysitting.

Here is what you will need:

Pot (preferably stainless steel) to hold milk

Thermometer (I use a candy thermometer that hangs on the side of the pot, but anything that will give you an accurate temp is all you need)

Stirring spoon (preferably stainless steel)

Glass jars (any type – I use quart sized mason jars, but any glass jar is fine)

Milk (1/2 gallon is a good amount to start with.  Get good milk, but if you use organic milk, make sure it is not ultra-pasteurized.  That stuff won’t culture.  I get the best results with 2%, did not like the results with 1% and never tried nonfat.)

Plain yogurt (for your starter – make sure it is “real” yogurt with live cultures.  I like Brown Cow cream-top plain) You will need 2 tablespoons for each quart of milk, or 1/4 cup per 1/2 gallon of milk.

Heating pad, two bath towels and a tray or cookie sheet

Cleanliness is important as you don’t want any nasties getting into your good yogurt!  Start by filling your pot with water and bring it to a boil.  Put your stirring spoon in the pot and place lid on.  Let it boil for a few minutes to sterilize.  Rinse your glass jars with hot water and place in sink.  Pour the boiling water into the jars, filling them and letting water run down sides.  Let sit for a minute or two, then drain and let dry on a clean dishtowel.

Heating the milk

Pour milk into pan and place over medium heat.  You want to heat the milk gradually or it will burn.  Hang your thermometer in the pot (or check temperature often using your thermometer).  Stir occasionally until the milk reaches 205°.  This takes about 30 – 40 minutes on my stove.

While milk is heating, get the heating pad ready.  Find a place on your counter free of drafts.  Put a towel in the tray or cookie sheet, and lay the heating pad on top.  Turn it to medium.

Next, fill your sink with enough cold water to reach about halfway up the outsides of your pot.  You need to cool the milk before putting the yogurt starter in.

Cooling the milk to 110 degrees

When the milk has reached 205°, place pot in cold water in sink – make sure water doesn’t slosh into the milk!  It just takes a few minutes to reduce the temperature.  Once the thermometer says 110°, introduce the yogurt to the milk (“milk, this is yogurt; yogurt, this is milk”) and stir well to combine.

Ready to culture

Pour into the clean jars and nestle them onto the heating pad.  Don’t put lids on them yet, just cover with a clean dishtowel, then fold the bath towel around the jars and tuck your babies in.  Cover with the second bath towel.  The temperature needs to stay as close to 110° throughout the culturing process.  You can check temp to be sure it’s not too hot or too cool.

Let the yogurt culture for 8-1/2 hours, then put lids on and put in the fridge overnight.  (Some recipes say just 8 hours, but I find that the texture and thickness of the yogurt is much better with that extra half-hour).  You may notice some greenish liquid on top – that is whey and is perfectly fine.  Tomorrow morning you will have delicious, creamy yogurt for the price of the milk and your time.  Not a bad trade off, in my opinion.

Stir the yogurt in the jar before serving.  If you want a thicker yogurt, strain the yogurt through a coffee filter for a few hours.  Save the whey – you can use it to bake bread, or lacto-ferment vegetables.




Ice is Nice (or how to make small steps towards cutting the budget)

8 Sep

I love ice. I am an ice chewer, ice cruncher, ice connoisseur. I will fill a glass with ice, then pour enough iced tea over it to just melt it a little bit. Drink the tea, then crunch the ice (yes, my dentist tells me how foolish this is).

My favorite ice is the good, crunchy kind that comes in the 20 pound bag at the grocery store. For $3.99.  For frozen water. It never bothered me to shell out four bucks, plus tax, for frozen water until recently.  Faced with only one income and little money left over for luxuries and indulgences, I had to rethink my ice habit.

Not ready to give it up cold turkey (groan), I chose instead to do it the old-fashioned way: I would make it myself.  Silly?  Perhaps, but it is taking one small step in the right direction.  And that is what this journey is – small steps in the right direction.

Next step is to work on cutting the coffee budget, but hey, we’re not savages here.  We needs our coffee!  I will gladly give up basic cable if I can get my Peet’s fix regularly.  That being said, we have significantly cut the eating out/entertainment budget.  We are definitely making progress.

The funny thing about progress is, we tend not to miss those “must-haves” as much as we thought we would.  I like to cook and will gladly whip up something delish for dinner if it means saving money.  When you both work busy jobs, plus have school, exercise, chores and what not, that is when eating out becomes a “must-have”.  But by careful planning ( and by counting down the days until I no longer work a 40-hour week) and doing major cooking on the weekends, weeknight dinners are mostly reheatable and easy.

What small steps can you make to move towards independence?  Packing your lunch?  Making your own ice?  It all adds up and I encourage you to start small and think big.