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The following is part of an Organic Journey Guest Post Series, written by Amy a long time helper behind the scenes of Southern Savers.
The past few weeks my head has been spinning as I have tried to research and process all of this data on dairy. Now it comes back to doing the best you can with what you have. If you can’t afford organic milk, butter, or cheese, I get it. I’m not sure if I can either, but here are some tips that might make it a little less expensive!
There are companies that are vying for your dollars and organic companies want your business too. Shop around. Once you’ve figured out what is important to you, look for the brands in your area and shop sales. If the milk you buy doesn’t go on sale, don’t forget to check the coupon database for coupons!
If you want organic yogurt, here are some ideas. First, buy the big 32 oz containers. The price per ounce is a significant savings. Second, look for coupons! Stonyfield often has great coupons on their website (and a loyalty program) making organic much more doable. If all else fails, you can always make your own. If your gallon of organic milk is $6, then you can get 64 oz of organic yogurt for $3. Not a bad price at all!
If you happen to purchase non-homogenized milk, you can make your own butter from the cream off the top. The first thing that you need is a container with a large enough mouth to be able to scrape out the cream. Some people buy huge pickle jars to hold their gallon of milk, or Uline carries a gallon glass jar reasonably priced. Pour the milk into the jar and allow the cream to separate (which should take 12-24 hours). Now, you can scrape off your cream. Another option is just to buy cream from the store and start there. Then, you are essentially going to shake or blend the cream past the stage of whipped cream until it solidifies into butter. Your butter will yield half the amount of cream that you start with, and you’ll also have some buttermilk that strains off too. If you are like me and you go through copious amounts of butter (or making your own is not the baby step you are going to choose right now), you might want to check into Costco where you can get 2 lbs of organic butter for $7.49.
One way that I have found to make my butter go further is to turn it into spreadable butter. You can sit your butter out until it reaches room temperature and then beat or mix in olive oil or canola oil until you reach the consistency that you want. The first time I tried this, I used way too much olive oil. This last time, I didn’t use enough. It is a work in progress, but we use this spreadable butter often and it does help to stretch those precious dairy dollars!
Well, we all know now that buying shredded cheese vs. chunk doesn’t make a difference for our wallets, but out of sheer curiosity, I contacted Organic Valley to find out what exactly it is that they put on shredded cheese to keep it from sticking together. This was their response, “The cellulose used in our shredded cheeses is derived from plant material, specifically, trees.” Nice. So, I’ll keep shredding my block cheese for now.
Because my family consumes well over a pound of cheese a week and raw cheese is about $5.50/lb and raw organic cheese was nearly $10/lb where I live, I had to find another option. We order our cheese in bulk from Minerva Dairy. They collect milk from 90 small, family farms in Ohio (a third of which are Amish) and then make their cheeses and butters. I went in with several other families and placed a huge order to cut down on shipping costs, but we were able to get some amazing prices on cheddar cheese. You have to order once the weather cools down, so we order in the early spring and late fall. While this isn’t organic, it is better than the cheese I was purchasing before, and I feel like it is a step in the right direction for our family.
Stock Up and Freeze
Most dairy products can be frozen for varying lengths of time. So if you find a good sale or markdown, don’t be afraid to stock-up. You can freeze what you find to use later. Yes, there might be some texture changes, so do your research ahead of time to figure out what will work for you. For instance, I don’t like the texture of cheese after it has been frozen unless I am cooking with it. Then, it doesn’t bother me in the least.
You can also make your own sour cream or ricotta cheese as well, but honestly, I don’t have that much cream to begin with and I’m not sure that I would be saving that much to buy organic cream and then make my own when you factor in that our time is worth something, right? I hope that this series on dairy has been helpful for you. I know that I have definitely learned a ton.
Was there anything that was particularly surprising to you? What tricks have you found to cut costs on your dairy purchases? I’d love to learn from you all!