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
Read more about the health benefits of sourdough here.
How: Make your own whole-wheat sourdough starter with a recipe such as this then make your bread with a whole-wheat recipe such as this.
I wanted to make this for ages before I finally mustered up the courage to try. It seemed scary, but is so easy!
As I mentioned above, there is some research that sourdough can potentially be a bread that gluten-sensitive can eat, but the results are fairly inconclusive. I did find this gluten-free sourdough starter on Amazon that may be worth trying!
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!
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 celebrates the Sacred Mundane over at KariPatterson.com.
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Charlene Heil says
Is the water kefir grain the same as the milk grain? If I get ahold of a grain used for milk, can I rinse it and start using it with water?
Kate from Frugal Living NW says
No a milk grain is different than a water kefir grain. You need to get water kefir grains.
1)With the sprouted beans and your reference to cook as normal…if I have been following your bean cooking guide would that work for the as normal? Just soak and boil and all?
2)If I receive a sourdough starter from a friend (in their family since 1907) kept with white bread flour and my boyfriend decided he like wheat better so just started feeding it whole wheat flour, is it now a wheat sourdough starter?
Hi Damarie, Yes–except the sprouting “counts” as the soaking. So just boil them after they’ve sprouted. Hm..I suppose the sourdough starter would now be a soughdough whole-wheat starter. It’ll work, either way!
Kate from Frugal Living NW says
Alright, I may have to try the sprouted beans. You said ‘no gas’. I might be willing to give it another try 😉 Do you do that with your garbanzo beans too?
Yes! I just did garbanzos today. Garbanzos seem to get stinky though if you let them go too long. I’d say 2 days max, and be sure to do the rinse, otherwise they’ll stink. Good luck! 🙂