The following is a new weekly feature brought to us by my friend Charlotte Lee. She has been a wealth of information both here on The Frugal Find and personally when it comes to eating healthful organic foods on a budget. I’ve asked her to share tips and how-to’s that show us ways to replace the quick and processed foods we’d typically buy at the grocery store with organic and all natural options. Our goal is show you that you CAN EAT WELL for LESS! Take it away Charlotte…
I am really excited to share this tidbit with you all today! This one has been one of my major budget helpers along the way! If you have a dairy allergy or intolerance then you’ve seen how terribly expensive the alternatives are! There are huge varieties of alternative milks but they’re usually all boxed, ultra pasteurized so that the nutritional value is gone and they typically will run you about $8 per gallon on sale!!! Learning how to make my own milk alternatives like coconut milk, almond milk, rice milk and oat milk makes it so much more cost effective to get the best milk alternatives AND you get the added bonus of also getting the flours that are a byproduct of the process.
These alternative flours are fantastic for those of you who use low carb diets, or gluten free diets. They are also very expensive when you buy them already processed. If you consider the cost of the milk and the cost of the flours together, you would pay 2-4 times as much buying them separately at the store. Making your own in this instance is so easy and simple and the cost savings is enough to make me shout for joy!
Not only is making your own milk alternatives cheaper, but making your own kefir is as well! Kefir is a strong probiotic that helps build the good bacteria in the gut and keep the body’s immune system and digestive system balanced. Organic kefir can run $3-5 for 32 ounces. For that price, you can make a full gallon of kefir! And flavor it any way you like!
All of these popular health options are some of the most expensive ounce for ounce and next to meat will be the one place in the budget that will feel the impact the most. So if you’re ready to get creative and start making your own kefir and alternative milks, then I am thrilled to share the details below!
The beauty of kefir is that the price is purely reliant upon the cost of your milk! You’re already getting great prices on dairy and now it can do double duty for you. What you’ll need to get are kefir grains. These grains are not actually grains at all but a symbiotic culture of yeast and bacteria. Try saying that ten times fast! All you really need to know is what it does which is ferments milk and infuses it with the beneficial bacteria that your gut thrives on. I got my grains for free from my co-op as well! They grow and multiply so if you know anyone who makes their own, they’ll have enough to supply the entire PTA in approximately 4 weeks.
It is truly as simple as placing the grains in milk and letting it sit at room temperature for 24 hours. After that time you strain it out through a plastic strainer (do not use metal utensils when dealing with fermented foods) and you have kefir! We like to add some homemade berry jam and stir it in for some sweetness and added flavor.
The uses for kefir are endless starting with bread making, waffles, pancakes, smoothies, salad dressing and more! If you drink this regularly, making it yourself will provide so many more nutrients and you’ll save bundles! It’s a great stand in for buttermilk which never gets completely used up!
Starting with my favorite: coconut milk! If you cook with canned coconut milk, then this will also replace that store bought purchase! The key here is buying bulk shredded and dried coconut. Just be sure it’s unsweetened. It’s truly as easy as throwing it in the blender! With a ratio of 1:1 shredded coconut to warm, filtered water you place them both in the blender and blend on high for one minute. You can then strain the mixture into a jar through a tight strainer or strainer with a coffee filter. When you strain it, you’ll have leftover pulp that can then be dried in the oven at 200 degrees for four hours or until dry. This will be your replacement for canned coconut milk.
If you want it to be more like drinking milk, then a ratio of 1:3-4 coconut to warm water and sweetener or vanilla if you’d like will get you that consistency. I enjoy this milk just as is without sweeteners! It’s so delicious and no store bought version can compare!!! At the store, 1 lb. of coconut flour costs $7 and 1 gallon of coconut milk costs $8. For one pound of shredded coconut at $6 you can get that pound of coconut flour and gallon of coconut milk! Getting my coconut from the co-op makes it even better at $4.45 per pound!
Almond milk is another favorite of mine and these two top my list because of the flours that you get as a result. This is where the cost savings are compounded.
Almond milk is also very simple! Starting with one cup of raw almonds and 3 cups of water and one tablespoon of celtic sea salt, let the almonds soak overnight. Then you drain and rinse and add to the blender along with 3-4 cups of water. Blend on high for one minute and you can strain through a coffee filter, cheese cloth, strainer, etc. Again, the leftover pulp is almond flour and it’s like gold! At nearly $8 per pound this is clearly the cheapest way to get it and you also get the glorious milk.
For rice or oat milk it’s basically the same with one variance: 1 cup of grains to 4 cups of water. With rice, you cook the rice then blend (an immersion blender works great in this case) then strain. The oats can soak overnight then blend and strain.
These milk alternatives should cover a great deal of the ones that you would typically buy from the stores for which there may have originally seemed to be no way to save! But there is!! Rice and oat milk will be the cheapest by far!