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3 Reasons Sourdough is Frugal and Fabulous

by Tara Kuczykowski on March 8, 2011 · 12 comments

homemade sourdough

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?

sourdough starter

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.

corn-fritters

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?

sourdough tomato basil crackers

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!

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Carrie March 8, 2011 at 11:56 am

I have been getting over the baking my own bread thing lately, too. But, I've been too intimidated to start a sourdough starter. Maybe I need to buck up and do it! The kneading is what gets me-so for my breads, I put them in my KitchenAid with the dough hook and it kneads it for me. Would that work with sourdough?

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2 Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship March 9, 2011 at 11:23 am

Carrie,
I'm a machine girl too! My honey whole wheat sourdough, which is one of the video lessons in the course but also here: http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/2010/03/12/sourdough-recipes-galore-honey-whole-wheat-sourdough-bread/
is a KitchenAid recipe all the way! ;) Sourdough is so versatile; it's pretty awesome. :) Katie

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3 Shannon March 8, 2011 at 12:42 pm

Thanks so much for this article! I have tried making my own started but it takes a LONG time to get that great sourdough flavor... I'm not willing to wait 5+ years! So... I ordered one from King Arthur Flour... $6.95 shipped! http://www.kingarthurflour.com/shop/items/classic-fresh-sourdough-starter-1-oz?go=DetailDefault&ref=ti&utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=ingredients&utm_content=sourdoughstarter&utm_term=sourdough+starter&gcl

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4 Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship March 9, 2011 at 11:25 am

Shannon,
So true, it's great to have a little help with the flavor! What have you made with your starter? I continue to be amazed at how MANY things my fellow teachers at the course make with theirs! The chocolate cake is definitely my favorite. :) Katie

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5 Paula March 8, 2011 at 2:50 pm

Interesting article. We make our own bread in a machine for several months but the savings didn't seem to be there. Didn't think about the nutrition or using sour dough to cut yeast cost. I may have to rethink that plan.

Something we started doing is making our own Laundry Detergent. Doesn't take very long at all once you get it down and detergent can be expensive if you can't find a good coupon deal.

Thanks for all you do and good luck !

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6 Melissa March 8, 2011 at 3:40 pm

How do you make the starter?

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7 Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship March 9, 2011 at 11:29 am

Melissa,
Believe it or not, a sourdough starter is just mixing flour and water, letting it sit on the counter, and feeding it flour and water 2x/day. You can see more complete instructions here: How to Make a Whole Wheat Sourdough Starter or from someone even more accomplished than me in the eCourse with videos. Hope that helps! :) Katie

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8 RateMonster March 8, 2011 at 6:35 pm

Congrats on conquering sourdough bread making Katie! It would be great if you shared some links on where you learned to do it.

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9 Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship March 9, 2011 at 11:31 am

RM, I used a number of different sources including the sourdough eCourse (http://www.gnowfglins.com/ecourse/246-11-1-96.html), but my method is posted on my own blog as well (see the comment above for the link). It was easier than I thought, but I'm still sort of a novice at it! :) Katie

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10 Food on the Table March 9, 2011 at 12:20 am

Job well done on making sourdough from scratch successfully! It's an admirable feat, especially to those of us who can barely make dough rise. I have found it helpful though to put a mug of boiling water in the oven, stick the stubborn dough in there with it, and close the oven door to speed up the rising process.
Thanks for sharing the link to sourdough chocolate cake! Looks phenomenal!

-Food on the Table, http://www.foodonthetable.com/blog

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11 Sarah Butcher March 11, 2012 at 6:16 pm

Can gluten free grains like sorghum or buckwheat be used to make a sourdough? I'm Celiac and I miss sourdough so much its unbelievable!

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12 Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship March 12, 2012 at 3:41 pm

Sarah,
Yes! We're actually a "low-gluten" family now, moving more and more toward totally gluten-free, and I let my starter die 8 months ago. I keep waffling on whether I'll make a new wheat starter or GF. The ecourse I mentioned in the post will be my guide when I give it a go, as there's a GF track for each recipe. http://www.gnowfglins.com/ecourse/246-11-1-96.html

I sure hope you can figure it out, because on missing bread, I hear ya!!
:) Katie

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