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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Value and Cost, DIY, and Grocery Store Compromises

For the past five years or so, I have moved more and more towards the natural and homemade end of the spectrum. It is partly because of cost- while Tide, Downy, and Clorox are conveniently ready to use, they are expensive. I make my own laundry detergent for much less (without the harmful ingredients), and the work involved is easy and quick enough that I feel it is worth it. Stacy's Pita Chips, while quite tasty, are pricey. I find it easy enough to rip up pita, toss them in olive oil and spices and pop them in the oven to crisp up.

It also has to do with safety. Making my own baby wipe solution and washing the cloth wipes is kind of a hassle, but I know exactly what goes into that solution and exactly how I wash the wipes.

Sometimes it has to do with pollution and waste. While we still occasionally use paper towels we usually opt for really absorbent rags (these ones.) We never buy paper napkins- I wash cloth ones and keep them in a napkin holder on the table. We compromised on diapers- we have a diaper service instead of washing our own, but they are still cloth. Bonus- Jim no longer uses chlorine bleach to whiten and disinfect the diapers.

While I have baked in the past, we normally buy our bread. I just could never get the crust and crumb texture quite right. But the bread we buy is up to 5 dollars a loaf sometimes. For bread! (What can I say, a good crust is imperative to me. I only partake occasionally, but I won't compromise when I do.) AND the list is slightly longer than "flour, water, yeast, salt." So this week at the grocery store I got a high gluten bread flour and found some guidelines for foolproof crusty Italian bread. Stay tuned. 

Also this past week we ran out of almond milk, as happens often. Aurelia drinks 16 oz of it a day, along with her 4 oz of breast milk. I dutifully went to the grocery store to pick up a few gallons with the rest of the groceries. When I was putting it away, I noticed it was labeled 30 calories a glass, instead of the normal 35. I thought this odd, and compared ingredients. Everything was listed exactly the same (a list that is longer than I like anyway), so the only thing I could come up with was that the company started making it thinner- less almonds, more water. While I feel like I could accept a slightly higher price (after all, it IS a tough season for many crops, maybe almonds are included), I thought not noting the change more prominently was deceptive. What am I paying for, a glorified vitamin water?

So, I finally bit the bullet and tried my hand at homemade almond milk. It is simple- soak almonds, rinse and drain. Then blend the almonds with fresh water. Blend well- a high speed blender is best, but it is worth a try with any blender. Then strain the almond pulp out with a fine mesh strainer or a nutmilk bag. You can also sweeten the milk with a natural sweetener like dates, honey, etc.

While I have a nutmilk bag, I did not strain the pulp out. I didn't want to have to find a way to use it up, and I thought it would be wasteful to throw it out. So I left it in and I just shake the milk really well before using it. Even if you do strain the pulp out, there will probably be some very fine residue, so the milk should be shaken regardless.

The verdict- it was good! I have been using it in my smoothies and Aurelia likes it too. The problem with not straining it though is that it clogs up in Aurelia's sippy cup. So she hasn't transitioned to the homemade stuff completely. But she often has some of my smoothie, or I let her sip the milk out of a regular cup with a straw.

Soon I want to make raw breads and crackers, and I think the almond pulp would make a good base for that, so I will eventually strain it out.

What (if anything) do you make yourself instead of buying? What are your reasons?


  1. Wow, I am loving the idea of making my own almond milk. I just bought some for the first time tonight(!)

    1. Yay! I have been trying it with other tree nuts too- I think cashew milk might be my favorite! They blend up better and it seems creamier.