Save Money by Culturing Foods with DIY Starters (and Cultures for Health Giveaway!)

pile of boxes of starters on counter

Many of us know the health benefits of eating cultured and fermented foods, but buying pre-made yogurt, kefir, sourdough breads, kombucha and the like can cost a pretty penny.

Did you know that these health-boosting cultured foods can be easily and cheaply prepared at home using starter cultures?

I cringe when I go to buy a $3.99 or $4.99 tub of organic, whole milk yogurt, a mere 750 ml (or about 3 cups). Not even enough for one breakfast in our home. Yet I can buy a gallon of certified raw milk for $8-$10 and make my own yogurt, a whopping 5x that amount (15 cups /4 quarts worth or the equivalent of 5 large yogurt containers). Less than half the price, for higher quality yogurt in which I know every single ingredient (no additives, no sugar, no thickener, no dried milk powder, etc.).

Same goes for kombucha, a fermented drink full of beneficial bacteria and helpful for detoxifying. During my recent cleanse, I wanted to drink a few cups each day but was without a starter culture at that point. I had to fork out almost $4 per bottle at my health food store! Now that I’ve got a starter culture again, I’ve brewed up a batch that is the equivalent of about 4 bottles ($15 worth) for a total cost of less than $1.

 

kombucha mushroom rehydrating

Rehydrating a new kombucha starter and brewing a batch in a mason jar

The beauty of make-it-yourself cultured foods

Not only are cultured and fermented foods extremely nourishing and excellent for the digestive system, but when you learn to do it yourself, they can be among the cheapest of the truly healthful foods that you eat.

Additionally, when you buy these foods it is much harder to know the quality that you are getting. For example, finding pickles or sauerkraut that are truly raw and fermented is extremely challenging, but why would I buy an organic, pasteurized version from the health food store when for us the main purpose is getting those lacto-fermented foods into our diet? Some things simply can’t be bought, but should be homemade with care.

Easier than you think

I used to be daunted by the thought of preparing my own cultured foods. Happily, it’s a far simpler process to make most foods than you might think!

The first thing I conquered was yogurt making, something that I think really anybody can learn to do. Next was brewing kombucha, which takes a little bit of patience but not a whole lot of skill. Kefir was about as easy as it gets. Sourdough had a slightly bigger learning curve, but with a bit of practice it just became part of my routine. Then on to lacto-fermented veggies and condiments, creme fraiche, water kefir and more…

Can you pour some milk into a jar? Strain it out, put it back in the jar and stick it in the fridge? Then you can make kefir. And even some varieties of yogurt!

rehydrating kefir grains in milk

A jar of kefir, culturing away on the counter.

Where do I get my starter cultures?

The absolutely cheapest way to get your starter cultures is from a friend, a neighbor, a family member or some kindly real foodie off of Craigslist or Facebook who lives in your area. If you know someone else who does this, ask if they wouldn’t mind sharing. Chances are, they’ll say yes.

Sometimes you can also buy then inexpensively from local people that you might learn about through your local Weston Price chapter, through Craigslist, a health food store or the like.

Why I love Cultures for Health

For those who don’t know anyone who will share their starter wealth or can’t find a place to buy them locally, allow me to introduce you to Cultures for Health.

This online shop carries almost any starter you can think of… kefir (milk and water), yogurt (multiple varieties), sourdough (again, multiple varieties including gluten-free), kombucha, buttermilk, sour cream, cultured veggie starter, coconut kefir starter (as per the Body Ecology Diet), as well as cheese making supplies and starters. I personally use or have used their sourdough, brown rice sourdough, dairy and water kefir, kombucha and Villi yogurt starters.

Their prices are reasonable and they have a lot of different culture varieties to choose from that are just wonderful. Shipping is only $3.99, which might even be less than the cost of gas to go get a starter, depending how far you have to go.

Another reason to consider buying from a site like Cultures for Health rather than getting them from someone you don’t really know is the quality of the starters. Cultures are simple to use, and yet they can be a bit finicky at the same time. If someone hasn’t cared for their culture well, or has used it with less-than-ideal ingredients, or with the wrong utensils (metal spoons instead of wooden or plastic, etc.), it may not work as well for you.

These issues may not make or break the efficacy of a starter, but over time they can weaken it. Knowing how your starter was cared for helps to ensure more predictable results for you. Plus, the instruction and support that you receive when you buy your cultures is just so helpful, especially if you’re unsure of what you’re doing!

closeup brown rice sourdough box

Would you like to win a starter pack to get going?

Cultures for Health has generously offered one winner their choice of 3 different prize packages.

Option 1- Yogurt Making Package

Euro Cuisine Yogurt Maker, Cotton Bag for Making Yogurt Cheese and two varieties of Yogurt Starter (winner’s choice) (retail value: $68+ including shipping)

Option 2- Cheese Making Package

30 Minute Mozzarella and Ricotta Kit, Hard Cheese Kit and Home Cheese Making Book (retail value: $76 including shipping)

Option 3- Sourdough Package

Sourdough Starter (winner’s choice), Wild Bread Sourdough Book, Wood Handled Dough Scraper, Pastry Brush, Bread Keeper Bag, Basic Thermometer, Digital Scale (retail value: $78 including shipping)

Note- you can’t enter by leaving a comment (although you are still welcome to comment for any other reason, including to say which package you think you’d most want to win!)

Giveaway has now ended.

Disclaimer: I received starter cultures for the purpose of review from Cultures for Health. All opinions stated in this post are mine, and I have happily purchased and used their cultures in my own kitchen. I am also a proud affiliate for Cultures for Health, and I earn a small kickback when you make a purchase through my links. You aren’t obligated to use these links in any way, but when you do so, it helps to support this site, so thank you!

About Stephanie Langford

Stephanie Langford has a passion for sharing ideas and information for homemakers who want to make healthy changes in their homes, and carefully steward all that they've been given. She has written three books geared to helping families live more naturally and eat real, whole foods, without being overwhelmed, without going broke and with simple meal planning. She is the creator of Keeper of the Home.

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Comments

  1. I would love to win the yogurt package to get started. Also, I’m wondering where you find raw milk for that price(?) I can find it for$8 a *half* gallon. Or goat milk raw for $5 per quart!

  2. I would love to try the yogurt starter out!

  3. I love making my own yogurt & buttermilk & I actually started researching cheese just yesterday! I would be absolutely overjoyed to win the Cheese Making Kit. This is such a wonderful giveaway & blessing. Thank You!!!!!

  4. What a great giveaway! I would love any of the options, but the Yogurt starter pack is what I’m interested in the most. I have made sourdough before, and I hope to make cheese in the future. Thank you for your wonderful website. I look forward to my email every day!!!

    Lorrie

  5. This is really great information! I have also been on the bench also when it has come down to making yogurt and homemade sourdoughs. I agree the store bought kind can be expensive and when you have four small little boys like I do, things cost.

    Great info, thanks for sharing!!

    I would love to try the sourdough package of cultures, yummy:)

  6. i started making homemade yogurt and kefir about a year ago and it has saved us SO much money! thanks for this post, i really hope that i win!

  7. I recently purchased the Kombucha starter. I have loved how easy it was to get started. I’ve been through the initial stage of rehydrating the culture and now have 2 quarts that should be ready in the next day or so. I’m going to try tackling the sour dough next. I’ve had mixed results in the past trying to start one from scratch so I’m hoping this works better for me!

    On making yogurt, does the ounces of milk used = the ounces of yogurt that will be created?

    • @Linda, yes, it comes out equal, which is great (unlike cheese… a gallon of milk only makes about two cups of cheese, plus or minus!). its really interesting when you make yogurt… when you start it, its is all liquidy and it seems like there is no way it will become yogurt, but after a few hours it has firmed up, the same volume as when you started! its not like you have to pour off any liquid or anything.

    • @Linda,
      I failed dehydrating my kombucha starter. I put it in the cupboard and forgot about it so it didn’t turn out. This time around I’m going to mark it on the calendar ;o)

  8. This giveaway could not be at a more perfect time for me. It’s hard for me to decide which I would choose, but I think I would take the sourdough starter. It’s so hard to pick though because they all sound wonderful. Thanks!

  9. What a wonderful giveaway, especially for those of us new to eating truly nourishing foods! I would love to win the sourdough kit since I don’t have a source for raw milk yet!

  10. I love Cultures For Health. I have been enjoying my Kefir using their Kefir grains.
    I accidently sent off my entry without my email address so I am entering twice.

  11. Rock on!!! She is based here in my hometown! Love her variety! Hoping to win either the yogurt package or the cheese kit!

  12. I would love/need to start making my own yogurt. I spend up to $15 a week on yogurt and it’s not organic. It’d great to win the yogurt kit. C for H sound like a great means to begin making fermented foos. Thanks for the post.

  13. Decisions decisions! What an awesome giveaway! I’d probably go the sourdough route since I don’t have access to raw milk (just yet).

  14. I have been wondering how your cleanse went…will you write about that experience?
    Sarah M

    • @Sarah M, I hadn’t planned on writing a formal post about how it went, but I was really glad that I did it. I ended up doing about 8 days in total, with 3 1/2 of those on the full cleanse and the other days used for transitioning in and out of it.

      I had a lot more energy once I got past the first couple days, and I think that I did a fair bit of detoxifying, although I didn’t to that place of a real “healing crisis” that I hoped to reach. Perhaps I would need to do something more intense (like a juice fast, not eating any solid foods) or just do it for longer? I’m not sure, but I’m considering how I might do it differently next time. Regardless, I know that I still detoxified quite a bit and that was the main point. My body felt refreshed and overall I have continued to have a bit more energy since I did it.

  15. Thanks for this info- I’ve been wanting to try making yogurt and kefir. I was wondering where you get your raw milk- I live in Saskatchewan and as far as I know raw milk is illegal in Canada? Thanks.

  16. christine says:

    I’d love to make my own cheese, so that kit would be a blessing to win. I already make my own yogurt and am very interested in making water/milk kefir and kombocha but was weary at where I should by the starters for this. I too buy komocha at the store and pay $5 for a very small bottle. I will look into buying them at cultures for health. Are they safe to drink when one is pregnant? If anyone could give me some insight I’d greatly appreciate it.

    • @christine, For drinking kombucha while pregnant, I would say to just keep it moderate. If you haven’t previously been drinking it or aren’t used to it, then it will cause you to detoxify somewhat. This is ok if it’s really mild, but if you begin to notice detoxification symptoms (flushed cheeks, mild nausea, headache, etc.) then I would stop or really decrease how much you’re having. The kombucha itself isn’t harmful, it’s just the detox reaction that it may cause, so if you can drink small amounts without any reaction, then I personally think it’s fine.

  17. I enjoy reading your posts and have been getting so much helpful information from them. I have been wanting to make my own sourdough for some time now, but wasn’t quite sure how I would get my starter – so winning this would be the perfect opportunity to get it going. Thanks for this great give away opportunity!

  18. How exciting! I would love to win this! THe problem would be choosing between the yogurt and the cheese… hmm….

  19. I would love to try any one of their products, I can wait to try the buttermilk culture! Great give away and great post! Now if only I could find a raw milk source!

  20. This is a great giveaway! I love to make yogurt and have made kefir and kombucha before. My Mom is going to give me a kefir grain when she comes for her next visit. I want to try making cheese this summer with the abundance of goat’s milk I am going to be getting after we butcher the bucks who are getting all the milk now. ;)

  21. Just went to Cultures for Health website for the first time. Looks great! I would love to win the yogurt making kit. Thanks for your website. I really enjoy it.

  22. Great giveway! I currenlty have a kombucha culture rehydrated and brewing my first batch.
    I would love to try cheesemaking so should I be blessed to win that is what I’d get!
    blessings!

  23. I was recently introduced to Cultures for Health and am very impressed with the online videos they offer. If I ever needed a starter, they would be the first place I would go.

  24. I would really like the sourdough starter kit! I bake my own bread every week, but have never tried using sourdough instead of yeast. That would be great! Thanks for the giveaway!

  25. This is an awesome giveaway! I’m already subscribed to their newsletter and we currently have water kefir and kombucha. Looking for the sourdough starter and the yogurt starter personally.

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