Frugal Flexing: Save $100+/year on Groceries Without Selling a Kidney

Hey everyone!  Today I’m going to show you how I save over $150 a year on a single grocery item.  And no, this doesn’t involve shoplifting or selling a kidney for a discount at Trader Joes.  It’ yogurt.  And not just any yogurt; it’s protein-packed, reasonable calorie greek yogurt.  Also, it’s not just money saved, it’s hundred of calories, unnecessary sweeteners, and artificial ingredients that you don’t have to put in your body (or work off in the gym!).  And all it takes is a yogurt maker, a gallon of milk, and some culture (not like the I-went-backpacking-in-Europe-and-understand-that-not-everyone-speaks-English type of culture, actual yogurt culture).  So get your frugal muscles ready for some flexing!

Cost
Winner.  As I mentioned, I’ve been doing this for awhile and save a significant amount of money.  This does involve some upfront costs for the yogurt maker; however, you can easily make those up if you eat enough of this amazing goodness.  And you’ll definitely want to do just that.  Here is a breakdown:

1 cup Dannon greek yogurt $1.37 per individual serving
OR
1 gallon milk $2.30 (makes 4 cups)
Also, here are the upfront costs:
Yogurt Maker (you can also use a very high quality thermos, so long as it will keep it at 110 degrees) - $50
Strainer (you can use coffee filters for a cheaper option) – $25
Cultures- $12 (for a pack of 5)

As you can tell, the upfront costs are well worth it if you’re like me and enjoy yogurt as an almost-daily snack.  If it’s not your favorite, than you probably want to skip this flex session.

Time
This one depends.  From gallon to delicious greek yogurt in your belly, it’s about 2 days.  However, active time is 20 minutes, tops.  So for me, it’s a winner.  But if you’re the instant gratification type of person, this may not be your cup of tea.  However, if you reeeallllyyy like tea, with this option, you could have tea flavored yogurt.  So think about it.

Efficiency
This is super tasty, high-quality greek yogurt.  I haven’t had better from a store.  Not to mention that food manufacturers are onto this greek yogurt bandwagon and, as a cost cutting measure, are selling knock-offs with gelatin to get the thick texture rather than using just milk and culture.

Ok, so here’s the step-by-step:

Pour half a gallon of milk into a pot and heat until 110 degrees.  Awesome souvenir Niagara Falls spoon-rest is optional, eh. 

heating milkMix the culture with a cup of heated milk (pictured: milk is in the bowl, culture is in the tupperware).  This step is important, you do not want to put the culture straight into the pot.  Bad things will happen if you do that.  I don’t know what exactly, so just don’t do it.

20130915-172734.jpgPour the rest of the milk into the yogurt maker (large, white container pictured).  Then add the culture/milk mixture into the yogurt maker.

pouring culture

 Put the container into the yogurt maker and then wait for 12 hours.  You can use this time to work on your Bill Cosby impression.  Pudding Pop.

yogurt machineYou now have yogurt!!  However, it isn’t greek style yet, so we’ll keep going.

Pour the yogurt into the strainer.  You’ll notice that it immediately starts draining.  This is the whey coming out, and it’s what makes greek yogurt have such a higher protein-to-calorie ratio than the regular stuff.  If you don’t want to buy this fancy strainer, feel free to use coffee filters in a regular strainer.

20130918-075002.jpgYou may want to empty this out once and let it strain more.  Totally personal preference.  Once it’s strained (about a day), you have greek yogurt!

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This is the whey.  We just throw this away.  Not sure what else you could use it for.

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Then you just have to scoop the yogurt out of the strainer and put in tupperware.

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Only down side is it’s not the sweeter-than-cupid-on-Valentine’s-Day that we are used to (thanks US food industry).  And here is where you can get creative.  Honey.  Caramel.  Molasses.  Vanilla bean.  Use it in cooking or replace sour cream/mayo with it.  There are plenty of options!

And for those of us looking for ways to eat more protein than Arnold Swarznegger (circa. 1980s Terminator version), you can use protein powder!  I am in love with the one pictured below, but anything that tastes good should work.  Just mix a scoop into a cup of yogurt and you’ve got a fancy new post-workout snack.  Enjoy!

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Have you ever tried making yogurt at home?  Any other typically store-bought items that you’ve found a way to save money by making yourself?

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