I was really excited to see the enthusiasm with the “Real Food” food budget series. It seems like many of us are living on a budget and could learn from one another on how to save money, yet, keep good wholesome food on the table.
I wanted to start the series off with my favorite kitchen appliance, and most used, that saves my family real money in our grocery bill.
Owning a grain mill.
I have never actually spent time documenting exactly how much I save, so starting this month I’m going to keep real records on my end and hopefully share that with you in a month. That will show me how much I’m spending and saving by owning a grain mill.
For now, I’m going to show you exactly what a grain mill does, the different kind of wheat berries that I use, with an estimate of what I’m spending a month on baked goods.
What is a Grain Mill?
A grain mill is a home mill that grinds wheat berries into homemade flour. If you’d like information on wheat berries, check out my post on sprouting wheat berries.
Not only are we saving money by grinding our own flour, but we’re also getting the benefits of a flour rich in all of its nutrients.
Within 72 hours of the wheat berry being ground, most of its nutrients will be lost and the wheat germ will begin to go rancid. Often, whole wheat flour you buy at the grocery store has been sitting in a warehouse for some time and can be void of any nutrients at all.
When you grind your own at home, you are able to use the flour immediately retaining all of it’s minerals and vitamins in your baked goods or store your leftover flour for up to 3 days in the refrigerator, or longer in your freezer.
How Does a Grain Mill Work?
There are many different kinds of grain mills on the market. I own a Nutrimill and absolutely love it. It grinds my wheat berries into a fine powder just like you’d find at the supermarket.
Below is a video which will show you how my Nutrimill grinds wheat berries into a fine flour.
What Kind of Wheat Berries Should I Use?
There are different kinds of wheat berries that you can use. Myself, I stick to two types of wheat berries that work beautifully in my baking.
I could experiment with other kinds of grains, but when it comes to baking, I’m in my zone. I like to use what my family loves and works.
I use a combination of organic soft white wheat berries (left) and hard red winter wheat (right).
I use two different types because they each contain a different amount of gluten and protein.
Soft White Wheat
The soft white wheat berry is a lighter wheat with less gluten and protein. I compare it to white flour.
I use it for…
- pie crusts
- any other low rising baked good
When you need to make a high rising baked good, you’ll need to use a “hard” wheat berry for the gluten which will allow your baked good to rise.
Hard Red Winter Wheat
The hard red winter wheat is high in gluten and protein.
I use it for…
- whole wheat bread loaf
- hamburger/hot dog buns
- english muffins
- pizza dough
- any other high rising baked good
For most of my high rising breads, I use a combination of both flours. More hard red than soft white.
For myself, the best thing about grinding your own whole wheat flour is the taste. It taste nothing like the whole wheat flour you buy at the store.
It’s soft, sweet, and it’s flavor is comparable to a white flour. It’s not the dense and gritty type of end product you get with store bought whole wheat flour.
No one will be left saying, “you used whole wheat, huh?” Really… it’s amazing!
How Do You Use it in Recipes?
When I find whole wheat recipes online, they usually are a combination of whole wheat and white flour.
I substitute it one for one. So if a recipe calls for 2 cups whole wheat flour and 1 cup white flour, I use 2 cups hard red wheat and 1 cup soft white wheat.
Now, since it is freshly milled and lighter for every cup of flour I add an additional 2 heaping “big” spoons of flour. You know, the big spoon, not the little spoon 😉
That’s really it. Every recipe turns out great. I never have any problems.
The Nutrimill cost around $230. I was able to buy mine over two years ago on Craigslist for $190. It was pretty much brand new and still works like the first day I used it.
It is expensive but worth it.
Organic wheat berries cost around $30 per 50lb bag.
Two, 50lb bags of wheat berries last my family about four – five months, depending on the season. I bake more during the winter.
Even if it lasts 4 months, that means I’m spending $15 per month on baked goods. (Well, without adding in honey and whatever fat I’m using to add in.)
Per Month I bake (approximately)…
- 8 loaves of bread
- 16 hamburger buns
- 24 tortillas
- 8 batches of pancakes
- 4 batches of pizza dough
All of that for $15 per month.
If I were to buy all of that at the grocery store it would cost over $50 and that is on the low end. If I were to buy organic, the price would be higher.
Now remember, this is an estimate. I’m going to start keeping records to find out approximate costs.
What this doesn’t add in though, is time.
I do own a kitchen aid stand mixer which does all of my kneading for me, so really, the time is cut down that way.
But what if you work full time, outside of the home, and don’t have the time?
I’m going to start sharing my recipes to give you an idea of how much time it takes to make these things. Things like pizza, tortillas, and pancakes are quick to make.
Bread and buns can be made on a weekend or if you don’t want to spend your free weekend baking (which I understand) just buy the longer rising breads at places like Trader Joes or Whole Foods that offer great varieties on sprouted, whole wheat, and organic breads.
You gotta do what works for you family 😉
But for those of us budgeting on mostly a one income family, a grain mill is a great investment to save on our groceries.
Do you own a grain mill? What kind? Please share any advice with us in the comments below.