I recently took the daring step of making yogurt at home, which my husband claimed might make me sick or worse, kill me.
“You’re eating spoiled milk,” he said as I heaved a scoop of it onto a bowl of granola. He had a point — to make a batch of my homemade yogurt, I had left a half-gallon of milk in a warm oven overnight.
Although, people have been making yogurt for hundreds of years and if the process were that dangerous, we would have quit a long time ago, right?
Bacteria: good vs. bad
Case in point: my friend Katherine, who passed her yogurt recipe onto me, which had been passed onto her from her Armenian grandmother.
Interesting yogurt fact (yes, yogurt can actually be interesting): there are two strains of yogurt, including one from Bulgaria, which is where Katherine’s family lived before coming to the United States. So it’s safe to say she has yogurt in her blood.
Katherine has been making yogurt once a week for the past five years, which makes her an expert in my book, so I asked her, “Is it possible my kitchen science experiment will kill me?”
“If it smells bad, like spoiled milk, then you shouldn’t eat it,” Katherine said. “Old yogurt – homemade or not – turns pink when it’s bad. Those are the obvious signs.”
Even if I ate spoiled food, it would likely not kill me, she also added.
The most reassuring information I learned from her is that not all bacteria are bad. To make yogurt, you first boil the milk, which kills all the bacteria — good and bad. Then you introduce a scoop of yogurt with live cultures (aka: good bacteria) into the milk and let them thrive.
Another interesting yogurt fact: the presence of live cultures is why yogurt stays edible longer than milk.
So, encouraging healthy bacterial growth in milk is good but as your resident Bargain Babe, I have to ask: Does making homemade yogurt actually save you money?
Let’s compare the cost of store-bought and homemade (both organic and non-organic) yogurt.
But first: here’s the full yogurt recipe from Katherine. The ingredients include a ½ gallon milk and ½ cup yogurt.
(Helpful tip: if you buy a small cup of yogurt, which contains six ounces, you’ll only have two ounces leftover.)
Regular homemade yogurt
$2.69 ½ gallon milk
$.79 6-ounce plain yogurt cup
$3.48 total cost of yogurt
Organic homemade yogurt
$4.19 ½ gallon organic milk
$.99 6-ounce plain organic yogurt cup
$5.18 total cost of yogurt
The big tubs of store-bought yogurt contain 32 ounces, or a quarter of a gallon. At my local grocer, regular yogurt costs $1.89 (versus $3.48 homemade). Organic yogurt is $4.39 (versus $5.18 homemade).
Where the savings lie
But remember: a batch of homemade yogurt yields more than twice as much – 68 ounces compared to 32 ounces. If we crunch the numbers to compare the price of a full gallon of yogurt, the savings become much more apparent.
$6.55 per gallon regular homemade yogurt
$7.56 per gallon regular store-bought yogurt
$9.75 per gallon organic homemade yogurt
$17.56 per gallon organic store-bought yogurt
The obvious winners in this money-saving endeavor are the folks who make organic yogurt at home. They stand to save a lot more than those who eat regular yogurt, homemade or store-bought.
Julia Scott writes a whole lot about food for an everyday finance blogger. She founded BargainBabe.com.