Author Topic: Reducing expense of dairy, DIY?  (Read 11316 times)

seattleite

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Reducing expense of dairy, DIY?
« on: April 10, 2016, 11:22:52 AM »
Food is the single largest expense variable our family of four has. It consistently dwarfs everything else. And when I do the receipt analysis I see that dairy is by far the largest contributor to that. We go through a lot of vitamin D milk, cheese, yogurt, cream cheese, and ice cream. I've done the obvious things like move from organic milk to regular which halved the cost of the milk, and once every two months we go to Costco and can get milk even cheaper.

I'm wondering if any of you wonderful folk have any other ideas for reducing the costs.

I know that yogurt can be easily made ourselves, and we happen to like the runny european full fat variety so we should be able to have a little production line of continuous yogurt making going on.

We'll probably start making ice cream just to involve the kids in something fun.

But I think all of this DIY dairy stuff will need a cheaper (and larger) supply of vitamin d milk.

What do you DIYers do about this?

vhalros

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Re: Reducing expense of dairy, DIY?
« Reply #1 on: April 10, 2016, 11:32:28 AM »
I make my own yogurt. You are right; it is pretty easy. You do need to buy milk to make it, but the cost of milk is typically much lower than the cost of yogurt, usually by a factor of three or four. Cheese can be bought in bulk and frozen (I usually shred it it first); the works best for harder cheeses.

If there is an Aldi closer to you than the Costco they usually have pretty good prices on milk.

The other thing to do is just eat less of it, and more of other, less expensive things.

bobechs

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Re: Reducing expense of dairy, DIY?
« Reply #2 on: April 10, 2016, 11:35:32 AM »
Well, if you are truly set on d-i-y to the max, it is possible to stimulate human lactation, but only in females.

I know because the dairy duty can't be equally shared this somewhat transgresses the standards of strict gender neutrality preferred by many of the posters here, and I can't speak to the economics of the practice -- I'm not at all sure it will save any money in the end.

http://cherylsbreasttalk.myfastforum.org/archive/how-to-induce-lactation-info-__o_t__t_627.html

http://ansci.illinois.edu/static/ansc438/Lactation/humans.html

SailorGirl

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tobitonic

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Re: Reducing expense of dairy, DIY?
« Reply #4 on: April 10, 2016, 11:43:18 AM »
Are you sure this isn't an issue of being penny-wise and pound foolish? How much are your monthly expenses, what percentage of those expenses are food-related, and what percentage of those are dairy-specific?

It might be worth making sure this isn't the equivalent of driving around to find gas that's $.10 cheaper / gallon while you're buying lunch 5x a week at work.

PhysicianOnFIRE

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Re: Reducing expense of dairy, DIY?
« Reply #5 on: April 10, 2016, 11:54:06 AM »
I think going DIY with dairy would be time and equipment intensive.  If you want to do it as a hobby, have at it, but if you're looking to cut costs, look elsewhere.

I homebrew beer and I can make 4.5 gallons of delicious IIPA for about $30 worth of ingredients.  But if you factor in the equipment and time, I'm probably not coming out ahead.  But the time is fun time, not work, and the local homebrewing club is a good social outlet. 

So if you make yogurt and cheese for fun, pick up the starter kit.  If you want to save money, shop around.

vhalros

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Re: Reducing expense of dairy, DIY?
« Reply #6 on: April 10, 2016, 12:04:09 PM »
Guys, I don't know about cheese, but making yogurt is really easy, requires basically no equipment (pots, mason jars), and saves significantly over buying it.

teen persuasion

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Re: Reducing expense of dairy, DIY?
« Reply #7 on: April 10, 2016, 12:19:04 PM »
The price of milk had dropped, here; I just paid $2.29/gal at Aldi.  Their prices fluctuate a good bit, depending on price matching.

I began making mozzarella and ricotta cheese after reading "Animal, Vegetable, Mineral" by Barbara Kingsolver.  Cheesemaking.com has a kit with the basics to get you started (thermometer, cheesecloth, recipes, rennet, etc.).  One gallon of milk makes roughly a lb of mozzarella, enough for pizza for dinner, and 3+ quarts of leftover whey.  I use the whey in baking: pizza dough, bread dough, to replace milk in pancake/waffle batter or biscuits or Irish soda bread. 

I haven't branched out into the cultured cheeses yet; not sure if the cost of the added cultures on top of the rennet and milk would be worth it, and the Make-it-yourself store where I could purchase things locally has closed.

I've made yogurt, it's pretty easy - just let it incubate in our gas oven overnight with the warmth from the pilot light.

mozar

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Re: Reducing expense of dairy, DIY?
« Reply #8 on: April 10, 2016, 12:40:26 PM »
Cow Milk: not good for humans. Just google "why milk is bad for you." Are you using it for cereal? Cereal isn't good for you either. It's just cardboard cut into squares. If you like the texture you can make your own soymilk pretty easily if you have a blender. If you don't have time, make the kids do it!
Cheese: not good for you either. I agree it's a fun food so just let the kids eat it.
Yogurt: make your own
Cream cheese: why are you eating this? Lox and bagels all the time? No bake desserts? Fun treats but shouldn't be eaten regularly. Try switching to Neufchatel. It's lower fat and more easily spreadable. Once or twice a year I make my own lox (super easy, just cover a pound of store bought salmon  with one cup of sugar and one cup of salt mixed together, stick in the fridge for 5 days, rinse it off and slice it) and I'll buy Neufchatel.
Ice cream: an icecream maker is a worthwhile investment. Get a small carton of heavy whipping cream and mash some raspberries with sugar. Combine in the machine. Delicious! Your kids will never want to eat the ice cream junk from the store again.

To me it sounds like dairy is a really big part of your daily caloric ingestion. Shifting your calories to healthier foods is a good idea. Full disclosure: I'm lactose intolerant (as are most humans in the world). Your body doesn't want that much dairy. It will take some deep thought to shift away and change your habits, but you can do it! You're on this forum after all.

prognastat

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Re: Reducing expense of dairy, DIY?
« Reply #9 on: April 10, 2016, 01:26:47 PM »
Cow Milk: not good for humans. Just google "why milk is bad for you." Are you using it for cereal? Cereal isn't good for you either. It's just cardboard cut into squares. If you like the texture you can make your own soymilk pretty easily if you have a blender. If you don't have time, make the kids do it!
Cheese: not good for you either. I agree it's a fun food so just let the kids eat it.
Yogurt: make your own
Cream cheese: why are you eating this? Lox and bagels all the time? No bake desserts? Fun treats but shouldn't be eaten regularly. Try switching to Neufchatel. It's lower fat and more easily spreadable. Once or twice a year I make my own lox (super easy, just cover a pound of store bought salmon  with one cup of sugar and one cup of salt mixed together, stick in the fridge for 5 days, rinse it off and slice it) and I'll buy Neufchatel.
Ice cream: an icecream maker is a worthwhile investment. Get a small carton of heavy whipping cream and mash some raspberries with sugar. Combine in the machine. Delicious! Your kids will never want to eat the ice cream junk from the store again.

To me it sounds like dairy is a really big part of your daily caloric ingestion. Shifting your calories to healthier foods is a good idea. Full disclosure: I'm lactose intolerant (as are most humans in the world). Your body doesn't want that much dairy. It will take some deep thought to shift away and change your habits, but you can do it! You're on this forum after all.

I would agree depending on how much of a % in calories they are getting from milk they might be unbalancing their nutrition which can be bad, but milk itself in balanced amounts is unlikely to be.

So chances are that for a large portion of readers of the MMM blog and forums milk is not bad for them and no they aren't intolerant.

Yes most people all over the world are lactose intolerant, about 75%. However when you only look at western countries it drops to 25%. If you are caucasian this number drops to various amounts below 20% depending on where your ancestors came from. In some cases like mine I was born in the Netherlands where lactose intolerance is is only 1%, they also have well above life expectancy despite one of the highest per capita milk product consumption.

So chances are if you are reading the MMM blog and forums you are probably not lactose intolerant and thus milk products are not bad for you.
« Last Edit: April 10, 2016, 01:35:48 PM by prognastat »

seattleite

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Re: Reducing expense of dairy, DIY?
« Reply #10 on: April 10, 2016, 03:51:12 PM »
Are you sure this isn't an issue of being penny-wise and pound foolish? How much are your monthly expenses, what percentage of those expenses are food-related, and what percentage of those are dairy-specific?

It might be worth making sure this isn't the equivalent of driving around to find gas that's $.10 cheaper / gallon while you're buying lunch 5x a week at work.

Breakfast and lunch are free for me at work (and pretty tasty I might add!). :-) If dairy is 25% of our food costs of $10,000/year then cutting it in half is saves us $1250/year, which I would say is significant. I've already taken care of the obvious expense reductions, now I'm looking at smaller optimizations like this. And I'm lazy so I'm not going to do anything that is particularly labor intensive.

seattleite

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Re: Reducing expense of dairy, DIY?
« Reply #11 on: April 10, 2016, 04:01:21 PM »
Cow Milk: not good for humans. Just google "why milk is bad for you." Are you using it for cereal? Cereal isn't good for you either. It's just cardboard cut into squares. If you like the texture you can make your own soymilk pretty easily if you have a blender. If you don't have time, make the kids do it!
Cheese: not good for you either. I agree it's a fun food so just let the kids eat it.
Yogurt: make your own
Cream cheese: why are you eating this? Lox and bagels all the time? No bake desserts? Fun treats but shouldn't be eaten regularly. Try switching to Neufchatel. It's lower fat and more easily spreadable. Once or twice a year I make my own lox (super easy, just cover a pound of store bought salmon  with one cup of sugar and one cup of salt mixed together, stick in the fridge for 5 days, rinse it off and slice it) and I'll buy Neufchatel.
Ice cream: an icecream maker is a worthwhile investment. Get a small carton of heavy whipping cream and mash some raspberries with sugar. Combine in the machine. Delicious! Your kids will never want to eat the ice cream junk from the store again.

To me it sounds like dairy is a really big part of your daily caloric ingestion. Shifting your calories to healthier foods is a good idea. Full disclosure: I'm lactose intolerant (as are most humans in the world). Your body doesn't want that much dairy. It will take some deep thought to shift away and change your habits, but you can do it! You're on this forum after all.

Yeah so I totally don't care about switching "heathy" foods in order to do slight optimizations. Dairy is a big part of my young kids diet. They really like veggies and they'd only eat veggies if we cut out dairy. They don't really like meat or beans much, so dairy is how I get them to get their protein and fat. One of my boys has been below first percentile in weight so the doctor wants him to keep up the high protein, high fat diet. Full fat milk is great for that!

What, so people only eat cream cheese on bagels? :-) My kids eat it on all kinds of things, again, it's another way to get the fat and protein that their bodies need to grow. And I agree about lox, super easy to make, we do it ourselves. Mmmm, gravlax. :-)

I also once thought I was lactose intolerant, the problem was that I was eating waaaay too much ice cream at once (this was back in high school and college) and I never ate yogurt. Once I added yogurt to my diet my intolerance went away. Maybe you should try eating yogurt more often?

jac941

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Re: Reducing expense of dairy, DIY?
« Reply #12 on: April 10, 2016, 04:30:58 PM »
I'm just going to put another plug in for making yogurt. My kids aren't big milk drinkers, but they can put away some yogurt. To the tune of 1 gallon some weeks -- yes gallon. So we make an entire gallon of yogurt at a time which makes it pretty time efficient. We do buy organic dairy and the price difference is $7/ gal for mik (oddly makes 4.5 quarts of yogurt), or $20 for yogurt ($5/ quart).

It's very easy.

1. Heat milk to 180-185F
2. Cool to 100F -- You can use an ice bath if you want to speed this up -- or you can heat the milk while you're making dinner, and let it sit until you put your kids to bed like we do :-)
3. Add 2 tbsp yogurt per quart milk (we do this in mason jars for easy storage)
4. Put incubated milk in a cooler with a jar of hot water and leave overnight. The next morning you have yogurt.

There are all kinds of recipes out there that get super finicky about temps and times and straining the milk, but we've found that we get good results as long as the milk is between 95-110f when adding the yogurt and as long as the incubation time is between 8-16 hours.

Also, you mention making ice cream. We do this too. And it's wayyyy more expensive to make your own ice cream than it is to buy ice cream. It's also tastier and fun for the kids, but there's no cost savings to be had there. Organic or not, cream is expensive!

That applies to making butter too. Super fun for the kids, but much more expensive than buying it.

SeanMC

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Re: Reducing expense of dairy, DIY?
« Reply #13 on: April 10, 2016, 04:36:30 PM »
I started making my own yogurt to save money too. In the Instant Pot, it is super easy.

For things like cheese and ice cream, if you don't care about the sourcing of it, you can do well at Costco or by tracking sales at regular supermarket.

Use less milk and cheese in your cooking. A recipe that calls for 2 cups of milk could probably take 1.5 cups milk, .5 cup water. You use less cheese by shredding your own than buying packets of (flavorless) shredded cheese.

Also - avoid single-serve items unless you've done the math to know it is the same price. With kids, it's easy to get into the habit of buying single packet/cup yogurts, cheese sticks, ice cream pops, etc. You are paying for the packaging. 

prognastat

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Re: Reducing expense of dairy, DIY?
« Reply #14 on: April 10, 2016, 05:01:43 PM »
Another thing to consider if you don't already is upgrading to whole milk and potentially mixing in part water if it makes things too high calorie. Whole milk costs me the same as they charge for 2% or fat free etc so the per calorie cost is far lower. Up to 50% difference depending on which type of milk you are comparing too so on a per calorie base this could be an up to 50% savings. On top of that whole milk tastes far richer if you are not watering it down and costs nothing extra.

mountains_o_mustaches

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Re: Reducing expense of dairy, DIY?
« Reply #15 on: April 10, 2016, 06:02:12 PM »
Dairy is a big part of my young kids diet. They really like veggies and they'd only eat veggies if we cut out dairy. They don't really like meat or beans much, so dairy is how I get them to get their protein and fat.

If this is true then it's possible that dairy costs more for you because you're not spending money on meat (which probably puts you ahead since dairy is cheaper than meat).  You could try the DIY yogurt operation to see if it's cost effective / feasible with your schedule - but I wouldn't stress too much about this. 

Ceridwen

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Re: Reducing expense of dairy, DIY?
« Reply #16 on: April 11, 2016, 07:04:40 AM »
We don't buy ice cream, but we make our own frozen yogurt.  I know for many people it is ridiculous to compare the two treats, but I honestly hardly taste a difference.  This is based on a Jamie Oliver recipe.

Put 1 large container of full-fat plain yogurt in a food processor or blender.  Add an equal amount of frozen fruit (whatever kind you like), and a few tablespoons of honey or maple syrup.  Blend until smooth, and freeze it. 

Great taste and texture! My kids love it.

garion

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Re: Reducing expense of dairy, DIY?
« Reply #17 on: April 11, 2016, 07:16:08 AM »
I've made my own yogurt and ice cream. I found yogurt to be cost-effective but I also lost a couple of batches while working out the kinks, so be aware of this possibility. I think the ice cream we make is actually more expensive than cheaper store bought ice cream, but we don't eat ice cream often and make it for taste and ingredient control.

Éowynd

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Re: Reducing expense of dairy, DIY?
« Reply #18 on: April 11, 2016, 07:43:26 AM »
I'm just going to put another plug in for making yogurt. My kids aren't big milk drinkers, but they can put away some yogurt. To the tune of 1 gallon some weeks -- yes gallon. So we make an entire gallon of yogurt at a time which makes it pretty time efficient. We do buy organic dairy and the price difference is $7/ gal for mik (oddly makes 4.5 quarts of yogurt), or $20 for yogurt ($5/ quart).

It's very easy.

1. Heat milk to 180-185F
2. Cool to 100F -- You can use an ice bath if you want to speed this up -- or you can heat the milk while you're making dinner, and let it sit until you put your kids to bed like we do :-)
3. Add 2 tbsp yogurt per quart milk (we do this in mason jars for easy storage)
4. Put incubated milk in a cooler with a jar of hot water and leave overnight. The next morning you have yogurt.

There are all kinds of recipes out there that get super finicky about temps and times and straining the milk, but we've found that we get good results as long as the milk is between 95-110f when adding the yogurt and as long as the incubation time is between 8-16 hours.

If you are using pasteurized milk, you can skip step 1.  I've made yogurt with good results just by heating milk up to ~110F, adding the starter yogurt and incubating.

KCM5

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Re: Reducing expense of dairy, DIY?
« Reply #19 on: April 11, 2016, 07:57:21 AM »
I'm just going to put another plug in for making yogurt. My kids aren't big milk drinkers, but they can put away some yogurt. To the tune of 1 gallon some weeks -- yes gallon. So we make an entire gallon of yogurt at a time which makes it pretty time efficient. We do buy organic dairy and the price difference is $7/ gal for mik (oddly makes 4.5 quarts of yogurt), or $20 for yogurt ($5/ quart).

It's very easy.

1. Heat milk to 180-185F
2. Cool to 100F -- You can use an ice bath if you want to speed this up -- or you can heat the milk while you're making dinner, and let it sit until you put your kids to bed like we do :-)
3. Add 2 tbsp yogurt per quart milk (we do this in mason jars for easy storage)
4. Put incubated milk in a cooler with a jar of hot water and leave overnight. The next morning you have yogurt.

There are all kinds of recipes out there that get super finicky about temps and times and straining the milk, but we've found that we get good results as long as the milk is between 95-110f when adding the yogurt and as long as the incubation time is between 8-16 hours.

If you are using pasteurized milk, you can skip step 1.  I've made yogurt with good results just by heating milk up to ~110F, adding the starter yogurt and incubating.

This is probably personal preference, but even with pasteurized milk, I find that heating it to 180 before inoculating give the yogurt a better texture. For some reason, the yogurt I make when skipping this step is a little slimier and stringier - still smells/tastes/looks good and is edible, etc

For the OP, I think making yogurt is the lowest hanging fruit and not even remotely difficult. It's just one of those things that takes a bit of time at first, but once you get used to it it'll be practically on autopilot.

If you don't have an oven with a pilot light, a yogurt maker could be a good purchase. Or just a heating pad. Or, like a previous poster said, a cooler.

mskyle

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Re: Reducing expense of dairy, DIY?
« Reply #20 on: April 11, 2016, 08:14:58 AM »
Am I going to be the first one to suggest dry/powdered milk? It can be significantly cheaper (although it isn't always, so make sure you do the math; the good news, though, is that you can stock up on it because it lasts and isn't bulky). You could try cutting your milk with half reconstituted dry milk. Either drink that or make yogurt with it.

Frugal Lizard

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Re: Reducing expense of dairy, DIY?
« Reply #21 on: April 11, 2016, 08:22:33 AM »
Our dairy budget was really high when my guys were little but now they are 14 and 12 the consumption of milk straight up has dropped off substantially.  They don't drink milk for filling up or to quench thirst anymore.  They eat cheese on toast for a filling snack or eat large tubs of yogurt. I buy plain 3.5% yogurt with no thickeners in it.  My neighbour thanks me for watering her plants every winter with a large bottle of pure vanilla extract from Mexico and a little of our home made maple syrup to take of the edge and my kids are happy.  Now that they are older they eat nuts for an additional protein source.  So 3 tubs of yogurt will last a week and three litres of milk will last two and half weeks.
My kids were very picky eaters and both were very small.  My son stopped gaining weight at about 15 months for about 7 months but we weren't under the care of a regular doctor so I didn't really worry about it.  My daughter was sick a lot so we were at the doctors all the time and she stopped gaining weight at about 13 months.  That got her seeing a specialist monthly with the words "failure to thrive" on the file.  The pediatrician had me feeding her full fat yogurt, eggs, ice cream (full fat) and any and all meat she would try.  She got back on track with weight gain and met all her milestones for abilities, as did my son. They now eat well and a greater variety of foods.  They are very lean but muscular athletic kids. 
I focus my economizing on foods that aren't high food value.  So a container of yogurt with three ingredients but the same volume and price as one with more ingredients is better value to me.  We only have ice cream for special occasions.  We eat tons of cheese and I don't scrimp on the cheese we eat straight up but buy the cheapest kind for cooking.  We eat tons of nuts and apples now.  My shopping profile has changed a lot in ten years so maybe yours will as well.  I tried making yogurt but found this delicious full fat local yogurt and was able to split a case with my neighbor so that never developed into a habit.  So pleasures in life are worth the expense.

SailorGirl

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Re: Reducing expense of dairy, DIY?
« Reply #22 on: April 11, 2016, 01:14:33 PM »
I'm just going to put another plug in for making yogurt. My kids aren't big milk drinkers, but they can put away some yogurt. To the tune of 1 gallon some weeks -- yes gallon. So we make an entire gallon of yogurt at a time which makes it pretty time efficient. We do buy organic dairy and the price difference is $7/ gal for mik (oddly makes 4.5 quarts of yogurt), or $20 for yogurt ($5/ quart).

It's very easy.

1. Heat milk to 180-185F
2. Cool to 100F -- You can use an ice bath if you want to speed this up -- or you can heat the milk while you're making dinner, and let it sit until you put your kids to bed like we do :-)
3. Add 2 tbsp yogurt per quart milk (we do this in mason jars for easy storage)
4. Put incubated milk in a cooler with a jar of hot water and leave overnight. The next morning you have yogurt.

There are all kinds of recipes out there that get super finicky about temps and times and straining the milk, but we've found that we get good results as long as the milk is between 95-110f when adding the yogurt and as long as the incubation time is between 8-16 hours.

If you are using pasteurized milk, you can skip step 1.  I've made yogurt with good results just by heating milk up to ~110F, adding the starter yogurt and incubating.

This is probably personal preference, but even with pasteurized milk, I find that heating it to 180 before inoculating give the yogurt a better texture. For some reason, the yogurt I make when skipping this step is a little slimier and stringier - still smells/tastes/looks good and is edible, etc

For the OP, I think making yogurt is the lowest hanging fruit and not even remotely difficult. It's just one of those things that takes a bit of time at first, but once you get used to it it'll be practically on autopilot.

If you don't have an oven with a pilot light, a yogurt maker could be a good purchase. Or just a heating pad. Or, like a previous poster said, a cooler.

I also prefer the texture when the milk is brought to a high temp before letting it cool down to incubating temps.  Something about making the protein easier for the bacteria to break down.

I would leave mine in the pot I heated it in, drape a towel over the pot and put a lid over the towel before sticking it in the oven with the light left on.  Stays the perfect temp all night and the towel prevents the skin from forming on top.  I've also seen it made by wrapping the warm pot in several towels and leaving it on the counter.

mozar

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Re: Reducing expense of dairy, DIY?
« Reply #23 on: April 11, 2016, 06:09:02 PM »
Quote
In some cases like mine I was born in the Netherlands where lactose intolerance is is only 1%, they also have well above life expectancy despite one of the highest per capita milk product consumption.

Totally not a fair comparison. The dutch diet is a totally different animal (sorry not sorry). You're comparing a USA diet to a country that has one of lowest obesity rates in the world (maybe the lowest at 12%, USA is 35%). People speculate that it's all that rye bread and fish. As well as a lifestyle that is less stressful than ours. I doubt it's about the milk they drink (and I hear they prefer it raw, maybe we should all be drinking raw milk).
https://traditionally.wordpress.com/2012/10/13/the-dutch-diet-and-lifestyle/

I also put the fact that I am lactose intolerant as a caveat. I understand that people have different body situations (I'm not Caucasian). I am saying that I am lactose intolerant to say that it is easier for me to give up dairy because I can't tolerate it well anyway. I can eat aged cheese if I really wanted but I don't have a taste for it. And frankly the idea of drinking something made for baby cows is bizarre. But I can understand being at wits end if your kids won't eat meat or fish.
Here's a list of vegan protein sources.
http://www.onegreenplanet.org/natural-health/vegan-sources-of-protein/
« Last Edit: April 11, 2016, 06:23:48 PM by mozar »

Dicey

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Re: Reducing expense of dairy, DIY?
« Reply #24 on: April 11, 2016, 10:19:05 PM »
+1 on the powdered milk. I get mine in bulk at Winco or from the Mormon's Bishop's Storehouse, conveniently located behind my Costco. I buy only whole, non-rbst milk, usually at said Costco. I buy 2 gallons and freeze one. When the open gallon gets to about half, I dump in powdered milk and ice cold filtered water. I shake like hell and chill it promptly. This stretches each gallon and no one's the wiser. I only do it once per gallon so no spoilage. I have also been known to obliterate expiration dates with a Sharpie. If I've frozen milk, it can look out of date when it's not.

I occasionally make yogurt. It's easy, but I can also source the big vat (64 oz.)  of Mountain High plain yogurt for 3.99 at Costco. I can also find it at Grocery Outlet and occasionally at the 99 Only Stores. I hate anything with pectin or stabilizers, and also avoid highly sweetened stuff. I NEVER pay attention to expiration dates. Yogurt lasts way longer than the date stamped on it, so I never hesitate to stock up when I find a deal.

Next, I make yogurt cheese weekly. Line a colander with unbleached coffee filters and dump in yogurt. Set it into a bowl and cover. Once the whey drains off (save it for cooking), you will be left with yogurt that has a cream cheese-like texture. Eat it plain, lightly sweetened with jam or honey, or season with herbs to make an all-purpose dip. Life changing: cheaper and healthier.

Finally, I buy a LOT of cheese, but only at Grocery Outlet or 99 Only. I only buy brands I know and stock up like crazy when I find a good deal. Yeah, I pretty much ignore expiration dates on cheese, too. Once I open something, I make sure to use it up quickly. If I can't,  I grate it and flash-freeze.

jac941

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Re: Reducing expense of dairy, DIY?
« Reply #25 on: April 11, 2016, 11:10:43 PM »
I'm just going to put another plug in for making yogurt. My kids aren't big milk drinkers, but they can put away some yogurt. To the tune of 1 gallon some weeks -- yes gallon. So we make an entire gallon of yogurt at a time which makes it pretty time efficient. We do buy organic dairy and the price difference is $7/ gal for mik (oddly makes 4.5 quarts of yogurt), or $20 for yogurt ($5/ quart).

It's very easy.

1. Heat milk to 180-185F
2. Cool to 100F -- You can use an ice bath if you want to speed this up -- or you can heat the milk while you're making dinner, and let it sit until you put your kids to bed like we do :-)
3. Add 2 tbsp yogurt per quart milk (we do this in mason jars for easy storage)
4. Put incubated milk in a cooler with a jar of hot water and leave overnight. The next morning you have yogurt.

There are all kinds of recipes out there that get super finicky about temps and times and straining the milk, but we've found that we get good results as long as the milk is between 95-110f when adding the yogurt and as long as the incubation time is between 8-16 hours.

If you are using pasteurized milk, you can skip step 1.  I've made yogurt with good results just by heating milk up to ~110F, adding the starter yogurt and incubating.

This is probably personal preference, but even with pasteurized milk, I find that heating it to 180 before inoculating give the yogurt a better texture. For some reason, the yogurt I make when skipping this step is a little slimier and stringier - still smells/tastes/looks good and is edible, etc

For the OP, I think making yogurt is the lowest hanging fruit and not even remotely difficult. It's just one of those things that takes a bit of time at first, but once you get used to it it'll be practically on autopilot.

If you don't have an oven with a pilot light, a yogurt maker could be a good purchase. Or just a heating pad. Or, like a previous poster said, a cooler.

I also prefer the texture when the milk is brought to a high temp before letting it cool down to incubating temps.  Something about making the protein easier for the bacteria to break down.

I would leave mine in the pot I heated it in, drape a towel over the pot and put a lid over the towel before sticking it in the oven with the light left on.  Stays the perfect temp all night and the towel prevents the skin from forming on top.  I've also seen it made by wrapping the warm pot in several towels and leaving it on the counter.

I do use pasteurized milk but like a couple of the other commenters find that the texture is thicker / smoother / better if I heat to at least 180 F first. I think that temp changes the protein structure in the milk.

That said, by all means try making it by just heating to 110F. If you like it just as well, you're saving the most irritating step in the whole process.

As far as keeping it warm overnight - we've tried blankets, the oven, and the cooler and have found the cooler to be the least finicky. Could have to do with the fact that our house is often under 65F at night. In the winter it can easily dip into the 50s. Yogurt doesn't yougurtify well at low temps.

Cyaphas

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Re: Reducing expense of dairy, DIY?
« Reply #26 on: April 11, 2016, 11:52:31 PM »
Depending on where you are in the greater Seattle area and your access to outlying areas, buying milk from a dairy farmer would heavily reduce your costs. As for making cheese and other different types of dairy products; it's a lot of fun, but also a lot of work. You'd need a pretty good amount of space devoted to it and would need a lot of time mastering making the different kinds of dairy products and keeping cultures for said products.

If you have enough space for a single dairy cow, that'll get you into a whole different ball of fun. Keeping up the pregnancy/dry out cycle isn't too difficult but I could definitely see how many mustachians might shy away from the animal treatment and general 'ickiness' of it. If you choose this path, you're going to have more milk than you know what to do with and if done right you'll have a hard time drinking the store bought 'milk' ever again.

You'd need at least 1 acre of land and a small lean-to if you went this route. You'd also need a good source of hay. This route would also get you a lot of beef in your freezer. In the Seattle area, given the rainfall and growth of the vegetation, I'd be willing to wager 6-8 acres of cleared land could produce enough food for one animal.

There are some really good tax write offs and access to some pretty huge subsidized loans for being a 'farmer.'

If being a small farmer does interest you, specifically the dairy side of things, there has been a big move towards people using goats to do dairy farming. I haven't looked too much into it, but it definitely would require less land.

I have and still am, heavily considering starting up an organic dairy farm in the DFW area. I've worked on dairy farms, including some with their own small cheese factories. It truly is a rewarding and fun lifestyle.
« Last Edit: April 12, 2016, 03:21:57 AM by Cyaphas »

Éowynd

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Re: Reducing expense of dairy, DIY?
« Reply #27 on: April 12, 2016, 04:31:50 AM »
I'm just going to put another plug in for making yogurt. My kids aren't big milk drinkers, but they can put away some yogurt. To the tune of 1 gallon some weeks -- yes gallon. So we make an entire gallon of yogurt at a time which makes it pretty time efficient. We do buy organic dairy and the price difference is $7/ gal for mik (oddly makes 4.5 quarts of yogurt), or $20 for yogurt ($5/ quart).

It's very easy.

1. Heat milk to 180-185F
2. Cool to 100F -- You can use an ice bath if you want to speed this up -- or you can heat the milk while you're making dinner, and let it sit until you put your kids to bed like we do :-)
3. Add 2 tbsp yogurt per quart milk (we do this in mason jars for easy storage)
4. Put incubated milk in a cooler with a jar of hot water and leave overnight. The next morning you have yogurt.

There are all kinds of recipes out there that get super finicky about temps and times and straining the milk, but we've found that we get good results as long as the milk is between 95-110f when adding the yogurt and as long as the incubation time is between 8-16 hours.

If you are using pasteurized milk, you can skip step 1.  I've made yogurt with good results just by heating milk up to ~110F, adding the starter yogurt and incubating.

This is probably personal preference, but even with pasteurized milk, I find that heating it to 180 before inoculating give the yogurt a better texture. For some reason, the yogurt I make when skipping this step is a little slimier and stringier - still smells/tastes/looks good and is edible, etc

For the OP, I think making yogurt is the lowest hanging fruit and not even remotely difficult. It's just one of those things that takes a bit of time at first, but once you get used to it it'll be practically on autopilot.

If you don't have an oven with a pilot light, a yogurt maker could be a good purchase. Or just a heating pad. Or, like a previous poster said, a cooler.

I also prefer the texture when the milk is brought to a high temp before letting it cool down to incubating temps.  Something about making the protein easier for the bacteria to break down.

I would leave mine in the pot I heated it in, drape a towel over the pot and put a lid over the towel before sticking it in the oven with the light left on.  Stays the perfect temp all night and the towel prevents the skin from forming on top.  I've also seen it made by wrapping the warm pot in several towels and leaving it on the counter.

I do use pasteurized milk but like a couple of the other commenters find that the texture is thicker / smoother / better if I heat to at least 180 F first. I think that temp changes the protein structure in the milk.

That said, by all means try making it by just heating to 110F. If you like it just as well, you're saving the most irritating step in the whole process.

As far as keeping it warm overnight - we've tried blankets, the oven, and the cooler and have found the cooler to be the least finicky. Could have to do with the fact that our house is often under 65F at night. In the winter it can easily dip into the 50s. Yogurt doesn't yougurtify well at low temps.

Now I'm curious to try heating the milk to 180F to see if it is really that much better!  I put the heated milk into quart mason jars.  I have a thick Styrofoam box that will fit four quart jars.  I add warm water (~110F) around the jars to help keep the temperature up.  I make yogurt during the day and only culture for ~8 hrs. 

With This Herring

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Re: Reducing expense of dairy, DIY?
« Reply #28 on: April 12, 2016, 01:10:18 PM »
Your best route for cultured cheese might be to look at sale prices at various stores and decide "We won't pay over $X/lb for cheddar.  When cheddar is at $Y/lb we will fill up the freezer."  Cheddar freezes well, but it's a little crumbly once it defrosts.  And, decide to never buy pre-shredded again.

Am I going to be the first one to suggest dry/powdered milk? It can be significantly cheaper (although it isn't always, so make sure you do the math; the good news, though, is that you can stock up on it because it lasts and isn't bulky). You could try cutting your milk with half reconstituted dry milk. Either drink that or make yogurt with it.

I did a price check on this a couple times.  In my area, dry milk is MORE expensive per quart than fresh milk.  So, be careful with this tip!

...My neighbour thanks me for watering her plants every winter with a large bottle of pure vanilla extract from Mexico and a little of our home made maple syrup to take of the edge and my kids are happy...

I first read this as you using fancy vanilla extract to water the neighbor's plants!

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Re: Reducing expense of dairy, DIY?
« Reply #29 on: April 12, 2016, 08:14:42 PM »
Quote from: mozarl
I doubt it's about the milk they drink

In Europe, over perhaps the last four thousand years, the initially tiny fraction of people with a gene for lactase persistance has come close to making those without it extinct. And among the Dutch, non-LP practically is extinct. This is the Darwinian gold standard.

I can't say whether the average person without lactase persistance should be drinking milk - it's certainly possible that it's good for most LP and non-LP alike, just that the typical LP crowd derive more benefits from it. And, in fact, people vary quite a bit so the answer "is cow's milk good for me?" may have quite a bit of individuality to it. But a blanket statement that milk is bad isn't something I'd be prepared to go along with.
« Last Edit: April 12, 2016, 08:32:09 PM by farmerj »

mozar

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Re: Reducing expense of dairy, DIY?
« Reply #30 on: April 12, 2016, 09:21:26 PM »
Quote
But a blanket statement that milk is bad isn't something I'd be prepared to go along with.

I agree it's not necessarily bad, depending on your body type. I mentioned "milk is bad for you" as something to google. I can see how you would think my statement that milk isn't good for humans could be conflated with milk is bad in my original statement.

prognastat

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Re: Reducing expense of dairy, DIY?
« Reply #31 on: April 13, 2016, 08:22:52 AM »
Quote
In some cases like mine I was born in the Netherlands where lactose intolerance is is only 1%, they also have well above life expectancy despite one of the highest per capita milk product consumption.

Totally not a fair comparison. The dutch diet is a totally different animal (sorry not sorry). You're comparing a USA diet to a country that has one of lowest obesity rates in the world (maybe the lowest at 12%, USA is 35%). People speculate that it's all that rye bread and fish. As well as a lifestyle that is less stressful than ours. I doubt it's about the milk they drink (and I hear they prefer it raw, maybe we should all be drinking raw milk).
https://traditionally.wordpress.com/2012/10/13/the-dutch-diet-and-lifestyle/

I also put the fact that I am lactose intolerant as a caveat. I understand that people have different body situations (I'm not Caucasian). I am saying that I am lactose intolerant to say that it is easier for me to give up dairy because I can't tolerate it well anyway. I can eat aged cheese if I really wanted but I don't have a taste for it. And frankly the idea of drinking something made for baby cows is bizarre. But I can understand being at wits end if your kids won't eat meat or fish.
Here's a list of vegan protein sources.
http://www.onegreenplanet.org/natural-health/vegan-sources-of-protein/

Oh I'm not saying milk is the reason for the longer life span, I am saying that it obviously is at minimum not a significant detriment though given the data I provided. If you aren't lactose intolerant that is.
« Last Edit: April 13, 2016, 08:36:27 AM by prognastat »