More and more mason jars are lining my countertops. Between the sprouting beans, the bubbling sourdough, and fermenting kefir, it’s starting to look like a little like a laboratory. But it’s worth it—frugal fermented food for my family!
Cultured and fermented foods are becoming wildly popular. Kombucha is no longer just for hippies, and I’ve noticed Nourishing Traditions mentioned around the internet a lot. (Nourishing Traditions is a weird cookbook full of culturing and fermenting and sprouting … and recipes for beef-liver smoothies, but I’m not advocating those.)
In short, I’ve learned this: Probiotics are powerhouses for building health, and companies like GoodBelly are making a fortune off these delicious fruity-fizzy beverages. A single-serving bottle of kombucha runs about $4, and a 3 lb. bag of sprouted beans can go for $25.
But it’s really simple, and really inexpensive to make these things at home. Here are three ways to incorporate frugally fermented foods into your family’s diet:
Beans are a frugalista’s best friend. For less than $1 per pound you can get dried beans of every variety, providing a great gluten-free protein and fiber source in soups, dips, and casseroles. My kids and I love eating sprouted garbanzo beans by the bowlful as a snack. They’re delicious on salads, and we burn through homemade hummus like nobody’s business.
Why: “Sprouting is a technique that boosts the nutritional profile – increasing vitamins and micronutrients. The process results in pre-digestion of complex proteins, starches and lipids, converting them into simple and essential components that make these beans much easier to digest” (from TruRoots sprouted bean packaging). In other words, sprouting enables your body to more easily assimilate nutrients. (And sprouted beans don’t give you gas! What more reason do you need?)
How: Fill a quart mason jar 1/3 full of beans (any kind), fill with water, let soak overnight. Drain water and rinse. Let sit on the counter (drained), and rinse 3-4 times a day. After 2-3 days they will have quarter inch “tails” on the beans. Cook and eat as usual.
I always avoided sourdough bread because I only saw white varieties, and we’re a whole-wheat household. But I recently discovered whole-wheat sourdough—yum!
Good quality store-bought bread is ridiculously expensive, but making it at home is super easy and costs pennies!
Why: Sourdough bread has pre-digested starches, making the bread more easily digestible:
- Lowering insulin response/improving glucose tolerance
- Protecting Vitamin B1 from the damage of the heat of baking
- Breaking down gluten, which may result in a bread that gluten-sensitive people can eat
- Activating phytase to hydrolyze (dissolve) the phytates, thus freeing up minerals such as zinc, iron, magnesium, copper, phosphorus
I wanted to make this for ages before I finally mustered up the courage to try. It seemed scary, but is so easy!
Why: Water kefir is a probiotic beverage made from kefir “grains” which grow from a symbiotic relationship between good bacteria and yeast. Most people are familiar with milk kefir, but water kefir is less concentrated, and very versatile for drinking straight, adding to smoothies, juices, or anywhere you want to add a probiotic punch. I make our morning smoothies with water kefir and my husband and kids love it!
How: Start with water kefir grains, available here or from a friend who may have extra grains. They multiply, so if you know someone who makes water kefir there’s a good chance she has grains to share! If not, a $17 start-up cost is worth it considering that these grains will last indefinitely. Then, follow the simple directions here. I make a half gallon batch every 3-4 days, and that provides enough for us to have a little kefir every morning in our smoothies.
There are lots of simple, frugal ways to incorporate fermented, cultured, sprouted foods into your diet. There’s virtually no added cost but tremendous health benefits!
Now, I’d love to hear from you. What sprouted, fermented foods have you made from scratch? What are your favorites? We’d love to learn from you!
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Kari Patterson is a frugal-living enthusiast who juggles the hats of pastor’s wife, homeschool mom, conference and retreat speaker, writer, friend, daughter -– occasionally dropping them all on her crumb-covered floor. She’s the author of several e-books including Faithfully Frugal: Spend less, give more, live more (Amazon link). She celebrates the Sacred Mundane over at KariPatterson.com.
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