Is it cheaper to prepare plant milk at home?

A naturopathic specialist wondered if it would be cheaper to prepare plant milk at home and do everything herself, given the reality that buying it is still more expensive than cow's milk. We share her experience with you.

I often say that I drank plant milk before they were as popular as they are today. I've been allergic to milk my entire life, but it used to be quite difficult to find dairy-free alternatives. The only option for morning cereal was a special brand of soy milk, a thick, slightly sweet gray liquid. It didn't bother me because I've never known anything else.

But how times have changed! The choice of plant milks is now alarmingly wide. Its popularity has generated much controversy, including a ban on naming dairy-like products across Europe.

This popularity is partly due to growing consumer preference for more environmentally friendly food and beverage products. "They are attractive to people who are concerned about climate change and want to reduce the carbon footprint of their diets." says Aviva Musicus, associate professor of nutrition at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.

According to a 2018 study, producing a glass of cow's milk generates almost three times more greenhouse gas emissions than any plant-based milk and requires nine times more land. Despite their explosive popularity, they are still much more expensive than cow's milk.

Coffee shops still typically charge more for dairy-free cappuccinos, and in American supermarkets, plant-based milk costs an average of $7,27 a gallon, compared to $4,21 a gallon for dairy. (This is partly because dairy farms have extremely efficient supply chains simply because they have been in business for so long.)

And just because it doesn't come from a cow doesn't mean plant-based milk has any less of an impact on the environment.
"Not all plant-based diets confer the same health and environmental benefits" says Musicus, who conducted research on the impacts of plant-based diets. Almond milk, America's favorite non-dairy product, has a particularly bad reputation. California produces 80% of the world's almonds and Each almond grown in the state uses 4,6 liters (one gallon) of water. The traditional way of growing almonds is also harmful to bees. There are also problems with rice and coconut milk. Rice is a water-intensive crop, so ethical issues can arise in the coconut supply chain.

So now it's time for oats, hemp and soy, which are more environmentally friendly options.
However, our food choices are influenced in part by cost, and if plant-based milk is more expensive due to processing and packaging, could we solve the problem by producing our own? I set myself a sustainability challenge and was surprised to discover that although making plant milk at home is more expensive than buying it at the store, I really enjoyed it and it was super easy. I want to control where my food comes from and what's in it, and this seems like another step in that direction.

Plant milk at home from hemp

I decided to experiment with the symbol of the hippie community: marijuana. It takes a little more effort to get it (I had to go to a big box store instead of a local store), so when it comes to convenience, hemp is not your friend.

I've always found hemp milk to be watery and have a strange aftertaste, so I was curious if I could get a better flavor by making it at home. The answer was really no. Next time I'll try adding a little vanilla extract and some dates to balance out the earthy and nutty flavor.

But it's easy to make this plant milk at home: unlike most nuts, you don't need to drain it. I added the seeds, water and salt to the blender and blended for a minute.

Price? 32 ounces (950 ml) of hemp milk costs around $6 (£4,73). To produce this amount of hemp milk, you need 4 ounces (113 g) of shelled hemp seeds, which cost $4,50 (3,54 pounds). In this case, it is usually cheaper to prepare yourself, especially if you buy the seeds in bulk.

With almonds, the best flavor

vegetable milk at home

I don't go out and buy almonds (a 280g bag costs about $12) because I feel that using what I have in the pantry respects the spirit of sustainability. They are roasted, which increases the je ne sais quoi. I had to soak the almonds in water for at least six hours so they stayed overnight in the refrigerator. The next day, I blended the soaked seeds with water for a few minutes. Then I had to press very very hard. The recipe called for a bag of nuts, which I didn't have, so I opted for a kitchen towel. I squeezed the mixture out with kitchen paper and it was a mess. Next time I will invest a few dollars to buy it.

Just under 700 ml (23 ounces) of milk are obtained from almonds. Cheap almond milk costs about $4 (3,15 pounds) for 32 ounces (950 ml) and more expensive almond milk costs $7 (5,51 pounds) for 28 ounces (829 ml), so make your Almond milk itself is certainly not cheaper.

It tasted much better than the milk I bought at the store, it was richer and didn't have the strange aftertaste that most almond milks have.

It sure doesn't fail: oat milk

Making this non-dairy milk at home is what I was most looking forward to because my family goes through many gallons of oat milk. And I don't like that some oat milk brands use xanthan gum or oil in their recipes (the idea of ​​pouring oil over cereal baffles me) to give the milk a creamy texture.

I did a lot of research on this topic because I had heard horror stories about sticky mucus. Oats are very sensitive. Use rolled oats, not instant or steel-cut oats.

The key to getting the perfect consistency is ice water: the heat makes the oats hard and sticky. It is not necessary to soak or drain like almonds because otherwise the oats will become slippery and grainy. And don't overdo it! Only 30 seconds are enough. I didn't need a seed bag, I used a strainer and it worked.

The organic oats I bought cost $11 (£8,70) for 16oz (450g). This recipe calls for 4 ounces (113 g) of oats, which makes almost 24 ounces (710 ml) of milk (some is lost in the filtration process). The oat milk I bought costs $6 (4,73 pounds) for 64 ounces (1,8 L), so it would cost me $8,25 (6,5 pounds) to produce the same amount of milk.

Making my own plant-based oat milk at home isn't cheaper, but I like using organic oats and being able to control the ingredients in the milk. I liked the result so much that I even made a second batch, this time with dates, and then another batch with a little salt. My favorite is the sweet and spicy final combination of dates and salt.

I have an ambitious goal: to start making chocolate or vanilla oat milk.
I admit it was a fun experiment and I really enjoyed modifying the flavor by adding a little salt or a few dates here and there. However, I love cooking and since it was an experiment it didn't seem like a difficult task.

It's good to know that by buying in bulk I will save on costs and I'm certainly open to experimenting with other milks. Maybe next time I'll try peas, although I've heard that pea milk tastes quite herbaceous.

But there is a reality, I can't imagine running around in the morning, carefully measuring and mixing because I forgot to prepare the non-dairy milk at home the night before.

Carolyn Dimitri, a food systems economist at New York University, agrees. "I think [plant milk] can be easily prepared at home", said. "Pros and cons: Making milk at home is time-consuming, so the time cost must be considered in addition to the monetary cost of ingredients. People generally value convenience, so I can't imagine that "the average person wants to produce plant milk on a regular basis."".

Dmitry goes on to say that the most compelling reason to make non-dairy milk at home is the one that appeals to me the most: homemade milk does not contain additives such as gums or thickeners. As always, it comes down to whether it's more cost-effective to make your own or simply add a carton of oat milk to your shopping cart. But it is the perfect choice for a quiet Sunday breakfast.

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