Have you ever tried making yogurt at home? What about in your Instant Pot? That’s how I’ve been making yogurt for months now, and I’m obsessed! Based solely on the price of Greek yogurt, I’m pretty sure it’s cheaper to make your own at home… But recently I started wondering: How much cheaper? What if you also include the cost of your time making the Greek yogurt? So I did a little research and did my own price comparison to figure it out. Store Bought vs. Homemade Greek Yogurt: Which is Cheaper?
Welcome to the second edition of ‘Store Bought vs Homemade: Which is Cheaper?’! I haven’t done one of these posts in a long time, which is silly because I love comparing prices and making food at home to save money. About a year and a half ago, I researched and wrote an article called Store Bought vs Homemade Pesto: Which is Cheaper? I also have a few ideas in mind for future Which is Cheaper? posts, and I can’t wait to find out the exact results of my research!
Today, I’m talking about making your own Greek yogurt at home. Store Bought vs. Homemade Greek Yogurt: Which is Cheaper? Let’s find out.
I started making my own yogurt a few months ago.
My mom got me an Instant Pot for Christmas. I started using it immediately for dinner recipes, but quickly decided I had to try yogurt. I was interested and had previously tried the idea, but I wasn’t able to get it right with all the temperature changes. I just never jived with homemade yogurt.
Until I started making it in the Instant pot! With just whole milk and live yogurt cultures, I created literally the best plain yogurt I’ve ever had. IN MY KITCHEN. Overnight. With no added sugar.
Fact about me: I don’t really like regular thin yogurt… I’ve always been more of a Greek yogurt fan. We’ve been buying it from the store for years! Plain for baking and cooking; strawberry or honey flavored for snacking on with granola. I didn’t particularly like the taste of the plain yogurt, so we didn’t really eat that one straight up (just cooked with it). But bring on the flavors and sugar and of course I’d eat any kind from the store.
So I knew it: I had to make my homemade yogurt Greek. That’s the only way we would eat it and therefore actually save money on something we usually buy from the store.
After a little research, I found the an excellent recipe, got cooking, and was straining my yogurt in cheesecloth and mesh strainers. It was awesome. Soon I invested in a Greek yogurt strainer so I didn’t have to keep buying cheesecloth – more on that later.
We use our homemade Greek yogurt for everything! Obviously you can use store bought Greek yogurt for the same purposes, but I just want to give you an example of all the uses (that aren’t just eating plain yogurt!).
Things I use plain Greek yogurt for:
- yogurt parfaits with granola and fruit (I don’t even mix any sweetener into the homemade yogurt anymore!)
- use in casseroles for creaminess like the Veggie Loaded Rotisserie Chicken Casserole
- use in smoothies like the PB2 Peanut Butter Powder Blueberry Cinnamon Smoothie
- baked goods like muffins and cakes
- dips like homemade ranch (just tried this!)
We are loving this new era of always having homemade Greek yogurt around. But maybe you’re still a little skeptical about WHY you actually would want to make your own. Who am I to say it tastes better? Obviously I think you should try it and see for yourself, but here are a few more reasons.
Why should I make Greek Yogurt at home?
- My husband and I both think it tastes better. You can’t argue with the fact that it’s way fresher. You can literally be eating a bowl of yogurt right after it’s done incubating (and chills for a bit). Doesn’t get much fresher than that.
- You’re using less plastic yogurt containers. Particularly if you like the little single serving yogurt cups. I totally support portion control, but it’s a lot of plastic to go through for single use purposes. If you make your own yogurt at home, you only have the plastic/cardboard/glass from the milk container.
- It’s better for you, when compared to some store brand varieties. With the exception of a few brands like Fage (that are just milk and live cultures), most store varieties of Greek yogurt have added sugar, or other additions to make the yogurt thicker and more shelf stable. Homemade Greek yogurt is just milk and yogurt cultures. And you know that because YOU MADE IT.
- Making yogurt at home is not complicated to do, it just takes some time and an instant read thermometer. Making Greek yogurt at home just requires ONE more step. Straining. That’s the only difference between regular and Greek yogurt.
- The most convincing reason to make yogurt at home: IT’S CHEAPER. Greek yogurt is even more expensive at the store than regular plain old yogurt, because there’s another step involved. But with a little energy at home, you can do the same thing without paying more for it. How much cheaper you ask? I want to know too. Let’s find out.
How do you make Greek yogurt at home?
Before we start comparing prices, I want to cover my Greek yogurt making methods so we have an idea of not only the monetary costs, but the labor and supply costs of making yogurt at home too.
Like I described above, I make my yogurt in my Instant Pot Duo Plus 6 Qt (affiliate link!). There are other ways to do it without an Instant Pot, but I’m not going to get into that since I’ve never successfully done it that way (here’s a recipe for making yogurt without an Instant Pot).
Making yogurt in the Instant Pot requires three main steps:
- heating the milk to kill any bad bacteria and fully denature the whey proteins
- cooling the milk back down so the yogurt starter can be added
- incubation for at least 8 hours
Making your yogurt Greek requires one final step:
- strain yogurt for 1-24 hours to thicken
It’s not very hard, it just takes some patience!
For more detailed Instant Pot Yogurt recipe information, please visit Instant Pot Greek Yogurt from This Old Gal or Instant Pot Greek Yogurt #12 from Amy + Jacky PressureCookRecipes.com. I’ve always followed this method of Instant Pot yogurt making, though there are other methods you can try.
My personal Instant Pot Greek yogurt making experience & tips (following the methods in the pages linked above):
- Freezing yogurt starter: I did not have a good experience using frozen yogurt starter. I was sure to let the starter thaw before introducing it to the 110F degree milk, but it gave me very liquidy yogurt that never settled. Perhaps it was some other problem, but I’ve always had much better results when I use fresh yogurt starter.
- Whole gallon vs half gallon: Most recipes call for using a half gallon of milk. I’ve done this, but we went through the yogurt super fast and I just ended up making more yogurt sooner, so it was more time consuming. The recipes work just as well with a whole gallon of milk – it just might take longer to heat the entire pot up to at least 180F.
- Heating after the boil setting has finished: If you’re making yogurt with a whole gallon of milk like I do, I can guarantee the boil function will not get the milk over 180F. It usually gets mine to about 165-170F. To reach 180F, I recommend using the ‘Slow Cook’ function on LOW. This will add an additional 30-40 minutes to this stage, but the milk will not scorch on the bottom of the insert. I’ve also used the Sauté LOW and Sauté Normal, but I usually end up with a scorched Instant Pot bottom when the yogurt is done. However, this method is slightly quicker.
- Straining: I used to use cheesecloth, but now I use this Euro Cuisine Greek Yogurt Maker (affiliate link!). It’s made specifically for straining Greek yogurt, and I don’t have to keep buying new cheese cloth every other batch. Regular yogurt goes in, Greek yogurt comes out!
How much time does it take to make Greek yogurt at home?
Before we get to the price breakdown, I wanted to share a quick time breakdown for how long it actually takes me to make Greek yogurt at home. Buying pre-made items at the store is all about paying for convenience, so I think it’s important to include my own labor and time costs in the final “price” of homemade Greek yogurt.
I described the steps of Greek yogurt above, so let me breakdown the active and total time for each step.
1. Heating the milk to kill any bad bacteria
This step starts out pretty hands-off, but then once it gets close to 180F and the boil setting is finished, I like to stand near the Instant Pot to stir and check the temperature every 5-10 minutes. This part takes the longest and has the most active work (especially because I use a whole gallon of milk instead of just a half gallon – more milk takes more time to heat).
Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes – 2 hours
2. Cooling the milk back down + adding the yogurt starter
This step can happen pretty quick, but it’s important to keep a close eye on the temperature so it doesn’t get too low. Adding the yogurt starter and mixing it back into the main pot just takes a couple minutes.
Active Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
3. Incubation for at least 8 hours
The down time of this step varies depending on how tangy you like your yogurt. Anywhere from 8-12 hours is normal. We like to do 8 hours 30 minutes.
Active Time: 1 minute
Total Time: 8 hours 30 minutes
4. Strain yogurt for 1-24 hours to thicken
This step involves taking the freshly made yogurt and moving it into a strainer to let the liquid whey drain off in the fridge. Again, this step can vary depending on your preference of yogurt thickness, but I like to let it strain for at least 6 hours (sometimes I let it strain overnight!). Since I use a whole gallon of milk, I have to strain half at a time, so I must repeat this process twice.
Active Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 12 hours
Here’s what the leftover whey looks like from the yogurt:
5. Clean-up of equipment
This involves hand washing the yogurt strainer so the fine mesh isn’t damaged, hand washing the Instant Pot insert, utensils and the entire work area.
Active Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Approximate Time it takes for me to make Homemade Greek Yogurt:
Active Time: 1 hour 21 minutes
Total Time: 23 hours 10 minutes
Remember that this is just an estimate, but it definitely outlines the difference between how long you’re actually doing work to make the yogurt, and how long it’s just sitting there doing it’s own thing.
It does take some active work, but rarely more than an hour and a half. Plus, half of that active time is just keeping your eyes on the temperature!
Approximate Time it takes for me to buy Greek Yogurt at the store:
> 1 minute
So How Much Greek Yogurt Does a Gallon of Milk Make?
Great question! I want to first make clear that your final amount of Greek yogurt will HIGHLY depend on how long you have strained the yogurt and how much whey has been removed. The more whey is removed, the thicker the final product will be, but less volume of yogurt will remain.
As noted earlier, I always start with a gallon of whole milk, 128 fluid ounces. I’m sure a bit is lost due to evaporation during the boiling process, but theoretically when I lift the lid off the Instant Pot, I should have turned my 128 ounces of milk into 128 ounces of yogurt. Then when I strain the yogurt, I will be removing volume in the form of whey.
As an example, here is how I believe this should work: If I strain 40 ounces of whey from the 128 ounces of yogurt, I should end up with 88 ounces of yogurt remaining. So let’s see if it actually works that way! This calculation is based on my most recent time making yogurt.
Volume Before and After
Milk = 128 ounces
Yogurt = 72.6 ounces
Whey = 34.7 ounces
Total = 107.3 ounces
This means that with one gallon of whole milk, I made 72.6 ounces of Greek yogurt, which is around 9 cups.
This also means that about 20.7 ounces of milk was lost during the yogurt making process. I think this is due to several factors including:
- losing small amounts of yogurt in containers during container transfers
- loss of water due to evaporation during the boiling process (whole milk is 87% water so this makes sense)
- perhaps a little human measuring error or spoon licking.
Now that we know how much yogurt is actually made from one gallon and how long it takes to make, let’s get to the main reason you’re here!
Cost of Store Bought Greek Yogurt
For the purposes of this calculation, I’m going to be using the price of Fage All-Natural Greek Yogurt brand without any club, member, or coupon discounts. These prices are from Seattle, WA in May 2018. I’ve also used Lucerne whole milk to make the yogurt. The price would increase if you use organic milk.
Store Bought Greek Yogurt Cost by Container Size
7 ounce container: $1.69 total; 24.1 cents per ounce
17.6 ounce container: $4.29 total; 24.4 cents per ounce
35.3 ounce container: $6.99 total; 19.8 cents per ounce
Immediately we know that if you’re going to buy Greek yogurt from the store, it’s the most economical to buy the large container. Just make sure you use it all!
Cost of Homemade Greek Yogurt
The only thing I have to purchase each time I make a batch of yogurt is the milk. I’m not planning to include the cost of my Instant Pot. Electricity is negligible, since the fridge is already running and the Instant Pot uses very little energy. It’s totally fine to use yogurt from the last batch as starter for the next, so I won’t include that cost either.
I will include the strainer since some kind of cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer is required to make Greek yogurt. I use the Euro Cuisine Greek Yogurt Maker (affiliate link!) strainer. The mesh on the strainer is very fine, so I’m not sure it will last more than a couple years. Let’s say I make up to 2 batches of yogurt per month (sometimes less), so I’ll estimate that I make 20 batches per year. If the strainer lasts two years, that’s 40 batches of yogurt. I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt and say it lasts for 50 batches of yogurt.
Though it’s not monetary, I’m going to include the cost of my time and labor that goes into making the Greek yogurt at home. You pay for convenience and having all that work done for you when you buy pre-made items at the store, so I think it’s important to consider during a final ‘cost’ evaluation when considering Store Bought vs. Homemade Greek Yogurt: Which is Cheaper?
Cost of Store Bought Milk (1 gallon): $3.29 total; 2.6 cents per ounce of milk
1 Gallon makes 72.6 ounces Greek yogurt
$3.29 gallon of milk / 72.6 ounces Greek yogurt = 4.5 cents per ounce of yogurt
Euro Cuisine Greek Yogurt Maker (affiliate link!): $25.00 total; 50 cents per batch (if it’s used for 50 batches); .69 cents per ounce yogurt
4.5 cents per ounce for the cost of yogurt + .69 cents per ounces for the cost of the strainer
= 5.19 cents per ounce = monetary cost of homemade Greek yogurt
Active Time to make Greek yogurt: 1 hour 21 minutes / 72.6 ounces = 1.11 minutes per ounce
= personal time cost of homemade Greek yogurt
Store Bought vs. Homemade Greek Yogurt: Which is Cheaper?
When buying the 35.3 ounce container of Fage Greek Yogurt, it costs 19.8 cents per ounce.
When making Greek yogurt at home with a gallon of milk, it takes me about 1 hour 21 minutes of active time, and I make about 72.6 ounces of Greek yogurt. I’m paying 5.19 cents per ounce, and 1.11 minutes of my time per ounce.
This means it’s about 14.61 cents CHEAPER PER OUNCE to make your own Greek yogurt at home.
At the store, a 35.3 ounce container of Fage Greek yogurt costs $6.99 before tax. Making the same amount of yogurt at home costs $1.83. It’s SO MUCH CHEAPER to make your own Greek yogurt at home!!
Okay, I knew it was cheaper, but I’m loving these results. I now have data to back up all my crazy yogurt making! Anyone else? Just me? Cool.
More homemade yogurt notes:
- The leftover whey I keep referencing can also be used for more homemade goodies. I always make a batch of this Dutch Oven Whey Bread from This Old Gal. Everything I’ve read suggests it contains a lot of nutrients and it has a wide variety of uses beyond bread making.
- We’ve never had any of our homemade yogurt go bad before. It’s lasted as long as 10 days and was still perfectly fine to eat. There are two of us and it takes just over a week to go through the yogurt made from one gallon of milk.
- I usually start my yogurt making process around 9pm, and finish by 10:30pm. It finishes incubating by around 7am. I stick it in the fridge for an hour or so to cool, then I start the straining process. It’s easy to fit around your schedule!
- Remember, for more detailed Instant Pot Yogurt recipe information, please visit Instant Pot Greek Yogurt from This Old Gal or Instant Pot Greek Yogurt #12 from Amy + Jacky PressureCookRecipes.com. I did not include the exact recipes here because they are not my original recipes.
Hope this price comparison info is useful to you! I’d love to hear about your experiences making yogurt at home. Do you use an Instant Pot? Let me know in the comments!