The following guest post is from Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship:
Baking my own bread was on the list of “things I'll never do” until about a year and a half ago. I had plenty of reasons bread baking was a bad idea for me:
1. My two attempts at baking bread were so dense, I could barely make toast.
2. No matter how I kneaded, it seemed like the dough was the monster from the deep, trying to suck my wedding ring off. If I added the amount of flour I thought I needed to, the loaves became doorstops (see no. 1).
3. I had figured out the discount bread store, the half price days there, and how to shop on the way to my friend's house and buy enough for a few weeks. I wasn't spending much on bread, so why bother spending time to save a few pennies?
That all changed as I researched the health benefits of sourdough. I pondered making a starter for an entire year, completely intimidated by the thought of trying to capture yeast from my air.
Eventually, the thrill of the challenge and the yen for healthy food overruled my nerves.
When I finally saw tiny bubbles in my starter, I did a happy dance in my kitchen and bellowed, “Look what I have created! I have captured yeast!” (Channel the image of Tom Hanks in Castaway when he finally made fire, and you've got the picture.)
It was pretty exciting.
Now that I have a healthy starter going, I've learned that the sky's the limit for what I can make. Sourdough is so much more than just bread (think pizza, crackers, English muffins, even chocolate cake!), and it's become one of my favorite kitchen gizmos. It also ends up saving me a ton of money in the long run. Here's how:
1. Free Yeast: When I made those first loaves, I was shocked to spend 25-50 cents per packet of yeast for just one loaf. I started to wonder if there was any monetary savings at all with baking bread! Sourdough captures yeast from the air, for free, so I never have to buy yeast for any of my bread or pizza baking. Free is the best deal going.
2. Fewer Trips to the Store for Bread: I'm always amazed when I see neighbors driving off around 5:00, knowing they're making an extra run for something for dinner. Running out of bread can be an expensive mistake if you have to make an extra trip, and even getting to the bread store takes time and gas money. I always have the ingredients for our family's stand-by bread on hand, and if I run out of bread, I can use the sourdough starter to make quick crepes in 15 minutes. Voila! Ham and cheese wrap, coming right up!
3. A Great Conversation Starter: Even after 18 months of sourdough goodness, my husband still shakes his head sometimes and says, “I still can't quite believe that there are things in our kitchen that need to be fed.” It's really quite fun to explain what the funny-looking jar on my counter is, and I can even get friend points by sharing my starter to save others the trouble of starting their own.
I know couponing can be a source of socialization, and believe me, so can sourdough! Does free entertainment count as frugal?
Making foods from scratch is a really individual choice, because although it often saves money and nearly always improves your nutrition, there's always that investment of time.
Even though Tara and I might not see eye to eye on everything nutritional, like white flour vs. whole wheat, I love that she's making a focused effort on cooking staples from scratch this year over at Unsophisticook. Plus, I saw her own bubbly sourdough starter and was quite impressed!
I choose baking my own bread with sourdough methods because it's the ultimate in healthy grains. I love when the added bonus of trying something new and healthy is a money-saving one!
If you're interested in sourdough and would like to learn more, I'm honored to be a guest teacher with GNOWFGLINS eCourses, where members can access 24 weeks of sourdough goodness plus a new course on cultured dairy and cheesemaking. The eCourses are a multimedia approach to great cooking, including videos, print materials, and an interactive forum where teachers are on hand to answer questions (plus, there's a frugal membership level!).
Katie Kimball, a mom of two with one coming in August, blogs at Kitchen Stewardship about real food and natural living and is the author of Healthy Snacks to Go and The Everything Beans Book. If she didn't get so many things right from the farm, she'd still be a die-hard couponer. Her grocery budget remains low, and her clothing and decorating budget much lower!