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Making Yogurt

30 Apr

I mentioned in my post Saving Money on Groceries: Part 1 that I make yogurt each week.  There are lots of places online that will share with you how to make yogurt, including in your crock pot (this post has some good advice).  I’m going to share this recipe because it has always worked for me.  Most of the others only worked sometimes.  Also, this recipe makes a nice thick yogurt, very similar to the consistency of store yogurt.  I like thick yogurt.

Making this yogurt requires about an hour of in kitchen time and then overnight to set up.  Most of your time in the kitchen is waiting for the milk to heat up and then cool back down, so you can clean the kitchen, play with play dough with your kids, or call your friend on the phone at the same time!

First, you will need a little equipment:

1 dairy or meat thermometer  (a candy thermometer will not work)  if you are extra lucky, you will have one of those programmable thermometers that beeps when it reaches a set temperature.

2 stock pots.  I use an 8 quart stock pot and one the next size up.

long handled stirring spoon, preferably stainless steel

insulated cooler *optional

4-8 wide mouth glass quart jars with lids *optional

Ingredients:

1-2 gallons milk (raw or from the store, whole, skim, goat, cow, whatever)

1-2 cups plain yogurt with live cultures (this can be Dannon Plain yogurt from the store, or yogurt left over from the last time you made yogurt)

Directions:

1.  I create a double boiler with the 2 stock pots.  I run 2 to 2 1/2 inches of water in the larger stock pot.  Then I set the smaller stock pot inside and pour the milk into it.

Yes that is a clothespin holding my thermometer in place.  I’m high tech.

Hmm. Maybe I shouldn’t have filled that pot so full.

2.  Turn your stove burner onto high and let it heat the milk up to 180*F.  This is important because the heat breaks down the proteins in the milk so they can recombine into yogurt.  Even if you are using pasteurized milk from the store, don’t skip this step.

3.  When the milk reaches 180*F, turn off the burner and lift the pot out of the boiler.  I like to cool the milk quickly so I can get on with other things.  So I plug my sink and fill it half full with cold water and however much ice is in the ice tray in my freezer.  Then I set the pan of hot milk into the sink with the thermometer and check it occasionally until the milk temperature is down to somewhere between 105*F and 115*F.  It helps to stir the milk occasionally to even out the temperature and get a true reading.  Usually if my thermometer reads 115*F, I stir the pot and the actual temperature turns out to be 108-110*F.  110*F is the optimal temperature for yogurt culture.

Yep, shouldn’t have filled that pot quite so full.  The water looks cloudy because I spilled a little milk setting it into the water.

4.  Now remove the milk from the ice water and stir in 1 cup of yogurt for every 1 gallon of milk you used.  As I noted above, this can be yogurt from the store, or yogurt left over from last time you made yogurt.  I find I can “reuse” my yogurt about 4-5 times before I need to buy a new yogurt from the store.  So I just buy a pint of plain yogurt once a month to use as yogurt start and rarely have any problems.

**I like to scoop out about 2 cups of warm milk and stir the yogurt into it and then stir all that back into the big pot.  It’s not actually necessary, but I feel like it is less of a shock to the cold yogurt culture and that it helps me get the yogurt stirred evenly into the big pot.

5.  Now I pour the hot water from my double boiler stock pot into my cooler to warm it up.  In colder months I may even leave the hot water in the cooler to keep the yogurt warm while it cultures.  But in summer, I usually pour the water out.

6.  You can leave the milk in your big stock pot to culture, it works fine that way.  But I think quart jars are easer to handle for me and the kids.  So I pour the milk/yogurt mix into quart jars and put on lids.  If you are just going to leave the milk in your stock pot to culture, you can put it in your oven (turned off) and wrap a towel or blanket around the pot to help it keep it’s heat.  I’ve done that before successfully.  I just like using jars better.  (mostly because I also use this pot for boiling spaghetti and so having it in the fridge full of yogurt can be inconvenient.  Also because the side of the pot starts to get crusty after a few days and that’s yucky.)

7.  Set your pot or jars into the warmed cooler and put the lid on. Let sit 8 hours or overnight until the milk thickens into yogurt.  If I made the yogurt before lunch, then I check it before I go to bed to see if it has set up.  If it hasn’t, I let it continue to sit overnight.

In the morning, you have fresh delicious yogurt ready to be eaten!  So healthy and delicious.

Saving Money on Groceries: Part 1

27 Apr

I just found out that I’m doing pretty well on saving money buying food.

For 2 years I’ve been a member of the local MOPS chapter.  (Moms Of PreSchoolers )  It has been a super fun way to meet other moms in my community.  I’ve made lots of new friends and had a rejuvenating and often inspiring morning at each of our meetings.  (Plus there is food.)  Last Friday I was asked to be one of the moms on a panel discussion  on how to save money and grocery shop on a budget.

Now I am always trying to save money on food, and I feel like I do pretty well sometimes, but I often feel like I can do much better.  In fact, I’m often very critical of myself and how much money I waste giving into impulse, poor planning, and convenience food.  I’ve always assumed that I spend about the same as my friends do on food, maybe more than some and a little less than others.

So I wrote down my ideas–things that have helped me.  When it was my turn to share my tips, I began by saying that I always like it when budget and money saving shows share real numbers so I would share mine.

For the past 3 months (because that’s what I have data for)  I fed my family of 10 for $615 each month.

Mouths fell open around the room as all the moms stared at me in shock.  They listened to my tips and had about a hundred questions.

I guess I have more to share on this subject than I thought.  So here are my tips–maybe they can help you as well.  Be sure to share your tips with me too!!

According to Angela Coffman, The Grocery Shrink, (groceryshrink.com) you should be able to feed your family a healthy variety of food according to the following formula:  $100 per male age 12+, $75 per female age 12+, $50 per child age 2-11, and $30 for infants 0-2 (if you are pregnant, count the baby as well). However, the Grocery Shrink regularly attempts to feed her family for $50 per person.    I like to just simplify that to $100 per adult and $50 per child.  You can decide whether your teenagers eat enough to count as adults yet or not.

In my house, I have 3 males (age 12 and up) 2 females (age 12 plus), 4 children (age 2-11) and 3 infants (age 0-2)

So by Angela’s formula, I should be able to feed my family on $740 per month.  It would be nice if I had that much money to spend on groceries.

By my simplified formula, I try to feed the family on $600 a month or less.  I include all fast food and restaurants, but I do not include any non-food items like plastic wrap, dishwasher soap, etc. I have a separate household budget for that stuff.

The last 3 months I’ve averaged $615 per month for food.  You may remember that we eat mostly vegan.  I had hoped that when I stopped buying meat that our grocery bill would go down, but now we eat lots more nuts and veggies and fruit than we used to, so it pretty much evened out.  Except that meat prices have gone up  significantly in the last 2 years and I haven’t felt that worry of how to buy meat that often costs twice as much than it did.

#1 TIP: 

I make as much food from basic ingredients as I can.  It costs less, tastes better, and eliminates all the preservatives and garbage that come in processed food.

I make my own whole wheat bread & rolls, yogurt, rice milk, crackers, granola, salad dressing

***my family eats about 1 ½-2 gallons of yogurt per week, and a gallon of milk costs much less than a gallon of yogurt, so it is much less expensive to make my own.

***my family eats 4-6 loaves of bread per week.   I try to bake bread twice a week, but sometimes I only get around to it once.  In that case, I often make biscuits to go with soup when we’ve run out of bread.

***I buy my brown rice for 50 cents/pound and ½ cup of rice = .12 cents for 2 quarts of rice milk.  At the grocery store, rice milk costs $3-4 per carton (I think a carton is close to 2 Quarts, but it may be less.)

***homemade wheat thins take less than 15 minutes to make and my kids love them.

**Snacks:

Except when I have a baby that is just learning to eat solid food, I avoid buying crackers and other convenient “snack items.”  Instead I make my own.  The snacks my kids love:  Homemade crackers, mini-muffins, Peanut Butter Popcorn, smoothies, bread sticks, Spicy Potato Wedges, fruit or veggies & dip.

**homemade whole-wheat bread & rolls are very nutritious and filling. Bread makes the best snack/ alternate dinner for picky kids.

I will be sharing my recipes for these items in the weeks coming up, as well as sharing more tips for saving money at the grocery store.