Knit your own Yogurt
My kids learnt long ago to tell where we are in the month by the presence or absence of yogurt in our fridge!
In the first two weeks of the month there would be plenty, then there would be a few days when the flavours that no-one particularly likes hung around until someone desperate ate them, then we became a yogurt-free zone for the last two weeks while I battled to get the food budget back under control...
Yet yogurt, like fruit and vegetables, is one of the foods nearly all of us could do with eating more of, providing calcium, B vitamins, protein, energy and beneficial intestinal bacteria in easily digestible form. I know you can make your own, by heating and cooling ordinary milk to specific temperatures, mixing in some "starter culture" which can simply be a spoonful of live supermarket yogurt, then keeping it warm (but not too warm!) while the bacteria get to work and "yog" it. But I had grave problems reaching and maintaining the proper temperatures even when I only had two children and generally ended up throwing out a curdled mess and feeling an abject failure.
You can make it more easily by using condensed milk, as the heating and cooling has already been done for you, and some people love the taste of this, but it hardly works out any cheaper than buying the stuff in the supermarket... but supermarket yogurt isn't always "live", and even if it is it may not be very fresh, so the bacteria may have died off.
I tried using an electric "yogger" that a friend was throwing out, and achieved success about half of the time, but alas! it only made 6 tiny pots of the stuff and there are 7 of us...
So it was with great delight that I discovered the EasiYo&tm; system from New Zealand. One of my friends was raving about the yogurt it made, and when I looked into it I realised that this thing produced a litre of yogurt at a time, enough for us all and cooking too, at about half the price our local supermarket charges for the stuff. All you have to do is mix the sachets of "base & culture" with cold water in the inner flask and fill the insulated outer flask with boiling water, then pop the inner flask into the outer flask and leave for 6-8 hours or overnight... I felt even I could master this! You can buy lovely flavourings to add, but adding a spooful of sugar & jam (especially homemade) works just as well, or in the case of my youngest, about 6 teaspoons of sugar and a drop of vanilla! Or just add fresh fruit, chopped or puréd. Or nuts, and/or chocolate sauce... They even do different "styles" of yogurt, including Greek, my husband's favourite.
In the noble cause of researching this article, I bought one locally although I have now discovered that Lakeland Plastics actually sell them slightly cheaper (if you spend more than £45, thus avoiding P&P charges - this is remarkably easy to do!) and have to say we are all delighted with it! The family with the delicious, creamy yogurt and with the fact that the supply doesn't fluctuate any more, and myself with the ease of production and the "savings" - although of course we are now eating twice as much of it... There may well be ways to cut the cost still further but I've yet to find one that works reliably.
I don't often run free "plugs" for things but I do feel that this item is particularly suitable for bigger families in that it makes enough for us all at one time, is inexpensive (we will recoup the initial outlay within one month), doesn't use vast quantities of energy and benefits everyone's health - what more could I ask of modern technology?!
Lakeland Limited - Lakeland Plastics' excellent online shop.
EasiYo - all the facts from New Zealand - but why can't we get the Orange Chocolate flavouring over here???
FeelHealthy.com - an interesting American article about the benefits of live yogurt.
There is a list of UK stockists on the Easiyo site - click here to find it.