The Fresh Loaf

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ways to save money

PinceNez's picture

ways to save money

Hey there.
I've made sourdough a couple times and love everything about it. But I've had to give up on my starter because it's too expensive for me to manage at the moment. I've got it at room temperature and feed it every day (I'm following Joshua Weissman's recipe), but the four different flours I buy for it as recommended (unbleached) each cost $4 a kilo in Melbourne, and the starter keeps eating through it. It costs me $10 a week just to keep the starter alive, and an extra $4 for bread flour any time I want to bake (That makes 2 loaves).
Are there ways to keep my starter healthy with out having to feed it so often, or ways to cut down the costs? I understand you can refrigerate it and only have to feed it once a week, but I'm not sure what that does to the quality of the bread.

I know that doesn't sound like a lot of money, but we already only buy sustainable and seasonal produce, so every little counts.

Thanks for the help!

Petek's picture

How much starter do you keep between bakes? I don't use mine all that often and keep only about a quarter of a cup (refrigerated). Doing that greatly reduces the amount of flour used for feeding. The only downside is that it takes a day or so longer to build the starter back up when you wish to bake.

BaniJP's picture

Your starter is receiving some true gourmet diet if it's a mix of organic, unbleached flours. 

You can cut down costs tremendously. I feed my starter every day and it costs maybe 0.50 to max. 1.00$ a week, depending on flour type and how often I bake.

1. One flour is totally enough to feed it. Just use a good, unbleached wheat flour (doesn't even need to be organic or whole wheat) that doesn't cost incredibly much, especially if you feed it every day. You can use multiple flours when baking, but for sustenance one or a WW-AP- mix is enough.

2. Feed it, then put to the fridge and feed it only once a week (time varies of course). Feed it once or twice the day before baking so it becomes active and super bubbly.  You can even use it straight from the fridge, but then bulk fermentation will take longer.

3. Small feeding ratios. I scrape everything out of the box except for maybe a teaspoon. Then feed it 50 g flour and 50 g water and it takes maybe 16 h until it has reached peak maturity. 24 h if I use less water.

Bonus: if you don't want to discard leftover starter, make a quick sourdough pancake. Just dump it straight into a medium hot pan with a little oil, sprinkle a little salt and what ever you want on it et voilá! Especially if you use it a peak maturity, it is just as good as freshly baked bread.

alfanso's picture

I'm referring to mature long-standing starters.  A refresh will bring them back to vitality.  My 100% hydration AP starter lives in the back of my refrigerator for as long as 5 weeks without a refresh.  That is atypical.  My 75% hydration mixed flour levain has gone as long as about 3 months without a refresh.

I've never noticed a downside to the baking outcomes when using these, and I wouldn't recommend that anyone else do this just because I've done it.  But they can be fed quite intermittently and still be robust within just one or two consecutive feeds.

barryvabeach's picture

As Petek asked,  how much starter do you keep at a time?  I usually keep around 15 grams,  and assuming half is flour, that is 7 grams of flour.   If I did my math right, at $4 a kilo,  a refresh would cost just under 3 cents. I normally refresh, then put in the fridge where it stays for 4 or 5 days, then comes out for a refresh or two before I start baking.  You just need to refresh a few cycles to build what you will need for a bake, and a little extra to go back into the fridge.

clazar123's picture

Thre are many ways to minimize the cost of maintaining a healthy starter.

1. If you want to do a countertop starter and feed multiple times daily-just maintain a very small amount. Adapt your recipes to build a levain prior to a bake.

2. Just use unbleached AP flour. It is generally the cheapest and any loaf you make with it will work well-rye,WW,etc. It really is an all purpose starter. A few feedings with a specialty flour will generally work well, if you don't want much AP flour in your levain.

3. Dry some active starter. Take a very active starter and smear it very thinly on a piece of parchment paper. Dehydrate it at room temp. When it is COMPLETELY dry, then crumble it up and put n a plastic bag in the freezer. Any time you want to use it, it will require a few days to build it into an active starter. It is a good backup, though.

Take some of your current, active starter and experiment a bit. Natural levain is remarkably hardy!

Amara's picture

The others are correct! Joshua Weissman, while I enjoy his videos, is kind of a fancyboy who does not worry about waste in his sourdough instructions, and thus provides very wasteful instructions. Keeping a small amount of starter and giving it small feedings of normal, non-gourmet flour works just fine.