Stay Connected

Friday, June 5, 2015

A new way for me to look at the cost of commercial rice or soy milk compared to making my own rice milk

In trying to get the most bang for my buck with my own drinking milk, here's a new way that I've been looking at it.

(Just to clarify, I'm not supposed to have dairy milk, as I'm lactose-intolerant. Drinking cows' milk or pouring some over oatmeal, or eating a bowl of cream soup will leave me very miserable for about 2 or 3 days. Bummer, right? I can take pills if I really want ice cream. And I seem to be somewhat okay with small amounts of cheese. But, for my personal "milk" consumption, or when I cook something containing milk, for the whole family, I have to use an alternative "milk".)

Here was my question to myself:

Can I approximate some of the nutritional value of purchased soy or rice milk with a combination of homemade rice milk plus supplements?

These alternative milks are expensive in the stores. Even the bargain-basement soy milk that I buy from Dollar Tree is $4 per gallon.

The nutrition that I am most interested in with soy or rice milk is the calcium and Vit. D. (The protein is not significant in the super-duper cheap soy milk that I buy (4 grams in 1 cup). And I believe I get enough protein from other sources in my diet.)

Commercial soy and rice milk do not naturally contain high amounts of calcium, but are fortified. My body doesn't really know the difference between the minerals it receives from a fortified product and me taking a supplement. If you can understand where I'm going here. It's kind of like how eating a bowl of fortified, cold cereal is not much different to my body than eating a bowl of oatmeal and taking a multi-vitamin.

This week, I bought a bottle of calcium citrate plus Vit. D supplements. Each caplet contains roughly the same amount of elemental calcium as 1 glass of dairy milk or 1 glass of commercial, fortified soy or rice milk. and each caplet cost about 3 cents. For calcium/Vit D alone, I get the same amount of these nutrients in 4 caplets (at 12 cents for the 4), as 1 quart of purchased soy milk (at $1 from Dollar Tree).

To make homemade rice milk, my cost is about 30 cents per quart. If I add the 12 cents for 4 calcium/Vit. D caplets, I'm up to 42 cents per 4 servings/1 quart equivalent of my homemade rice milk, supplement combo.

Let's say, for argument sake, I did need that 4 grams of protein that 1 cup of Dollar Tree's soy milk provides per cup. I could also add half of an egg for that amount of protein. My recent price on eggs works out to between 8 and 9 cents per egg, or 4  1/2 cents per 4 grams of protein. If I wanted to add in the cost of 2 eggs for an equivalent amount of protein that 1 quart of soy milk contains, that would add 9 cents to my 42 cents per 4 servings/quart of equivalent homemade rice milk, supplement, and now egg combo, for a total of 51 cents, as compared to $1 at Dollar Tree for 1 quart of purchased soy milk.

What's the hands-on time investment in making rice milk at home? I've now got my formula memorized, and have streamlined the preparation process. It takes me about 15 minutes of hands-on time, to make 1 quart of rice milk. That's only about a $2 savings per hour of work. Not the most lucrative way to save money. But I can do this while I'm already in the kitchen preparing dinner.

Yep, I'll be continuing to make my own rice milk, for the time being. I'll still buy an occasional quart of soy milk, for convenience when I don't have my rice all soaked for rice milk. But will primarily use the homemade rice milk.

In case you didn't guess, I do enjoy these little calculations, for the mental exercise they provide. But also, if the exercises help me save a bit more money towards our financial goals, then they are well-worth the time. I can use this tidbit of information to continue saving money for years to come, only occasionally filling in different numbers as prices of the different components rise and fall.

One last calculation. I will probably save about $1.50 per month by continuing to make rice milk at home. Multiplied out by 12 months in a year, and I'll save $18 in the next year. Over 10 years' time, I could save $180. Not too shabby, I think.

I just love math!


  1. I love these posts where you calculate these savings. Please continue them and continue working towards your goal of saving as much as you can. There are only so many ways you can save large amounts of money but lots of ways to save small amounts that can add up to large amounts, but I am sure you have figured that out.

    1. Hi Sandy,
      That is so true, about the limited number of ways to save large sums, but what seems like endless ways to save small bits, here and there (and they do add up).

      I'm glad my math-geekiness is appreciated, here! :-) Doing the calculations helps me clarify why I make the choices that I do, and keeps me motivated to continue on.

      Have a great weekend!

  2. Lili, I just LOVE the way you think (and calculate;) When I make similar comments on savings to my husband he just chuckles. Like you, I enjoy the mental exercise these calculations provide and the fact that they confirm I'm getting the best "bang for my buck". Carry on fellow numbers cruncher!! :))


    1. Hi DSW,
      Too funny -- about your husband's reactions to your comments on savings/calculations!
      Thank you!

  3. Another great post, Lili. You're staying on your toes, mentally, and bringing us all along, too. :) Love it!

    Special diet considerations CAN potentially be a challenge to both our meal planning and our budgets; but that's not necessarily a bad thing, IMO. I find that having to think carefully about what I buy and what I cook has actually been a blessing, since it keeps me both mindful and mentally-flexible about our food options and priorities.

    It's also made me re-evaluate if some dishes which are too hard or expensive to make diet-friendly might actually just be best jettisoned from my repetoire. Like you, I've found lots of good replications, but also found a few things are not worth the time or money to do [insert your issue(s) here]-free... and actually also not that much missed! :)

    Enjoy that extra $1.50 this month with pride! :) Sara

    1. Hi Sara,
      Isn't that the truth, about specific dietary needs. And you're absolutely right, sometimes it's just more work and expense than I really want to go through to remake a recipe to meet my diet.
      Thank you!

  4. Count me as one of your numbers fan!! In fact, calculating the potential savings is one of the reasons I love being frugal. It creates a "currency" to evaluate time, effort and material use. That is one of the reasons I call the bean patties, bean patty currency, approximately 10c apiece, factoring the expensive egg and olive oil that I add to the mixture. Today, for lunch, husband and I had our packed lunch box of rice, bean pattie with sirrachai ketchup, and side of canned green beans (sometimes Normandy Vegetable). I am very happy that my husband loves the bean pattie, and as preparer of our lunches, he said he is relieved that he doesn't have to think what to make for our box lunches. Also, at the cost of 10c, what is not to like? The lunch is delicious and filling and we are satiated til dinner. But I love pricing everything in this currency....$4 is 40 patties and lunch for husband and me for a month. Lunch out at fast food, even with coupons, will cost us our delicious lunch box everyday for a month. When you do the math, the savings is clear and concrete.

    1. Hi YHF,
      It's a breakthrough when you can quantify the actual expense of so many things. It really puts something into perspective, as how you've figured just how many days of eating bean patties is equivalent to 1 fast food meal. It's not that we never have lunch out, but we are much more careful about how often, and the quality of the restaurant's food, as we can see what it really costs us.

      I totally agree with your husband about knowing exactly what he's got to put in your lunches for the day. So much simpler. When I was in college, I made myself the exact same thing every single day, 2 open-faced cheese sandwiches and a glass of juice. Super simple, never had to think about it, planning for the ingredients was a no-brainer, and I have heard that if you automate 2 of your 3 meals per day (eat the same thing every day), you are less likely to overeat for the day.

      I'm glad there are so many of us numbers crunchers, here!

  5. Another numbers fan here. Did you ever read the Tightwad Gazette? I was a newlywed when the newsletter came out and unaware of it's existence (too bad :( ) but later read the books from the library and eventually purchased my own copy. One of my favorite things about them is the many calculations like this that she would do. These posts of yours remind me of that. :)

    1. Hi Cat,
      I remember seeing the author on Phil Donohue. I was thinking, "gee, here's someone who's actually doing some of the same things I am", which was very validating, as I sure felt like I was a fish out of water at that time. But a year or two later, I stumbled upon her newsletters at the local library. I would go up there once or twice per month and read and take notes. We had just bought our house and were on a squeaky budget, trying to rebuild our savings and pay for all of the things that go along with homeownership that never applied when we were renters.
      The newsletters, and later the books, were extremely helpful to me, in keeping me motivated, as well as giving me that boost of confidence that choosing the lifestyle we had was acceptable, and an avenue to fulfill our goals.

      But I have to admit, I was way to cheap to subscribe to her newsletters, or pay full price for the books. I only bought 2 of the books when I found them at garage sales. I'd still like to get a copy of the book I'm missing. I occasionally check the Complete edition, from the library just to reread that one book's contents.

      Doing these calculations, while fun, also really reinforces our commitment to our goals. When I can see on paper that what I'm doing is making a difference, I am motivated to continue on. And sometimes, I surprise myself and find that doing the "frugal" thing isn't as frugal for my circumstances, and I can abandon that extra task, knowing that it just makes sense not to continue with it.

  6. Cat, (giggling)...I too read the Tightwad Gazettes, cover to cover, from the library, taking copious amounts of notes. Then I decided I HAD to have the books themselves. Finally found them discounted and they are proudly in my library now. I agree, Lili's posts are quite similar. I love the number crunching too, then and now :) DSW

    1. Too funny! I found the 3 volume set in one large book at Sam's Club many years ago now for under $10 and snatched it up. :)

  7. Cat, I got mine at Sam's many years ago too! (Although I got mine one at a time, so you definitely got the better deal:) I bought them when I saw them. I was afraid they'd get gone and I'd be without! DSW


Thank you for joining the discussion today. Here at creative savv, we strive to maintain a respectful community centered around frugal living. Creative savv would like to continue to be a welcoming and safe place for discussion, and as such reserves the right to remove comments that are inappropriate for the conversation.


Be a voice that helps someone else on their frugal living journey

Are you interested in writing for creative savv?
What's your frugal story?

Do you have a favorite frugal recipe, special insight, DIY project, or tips that could make frugal living more do-able for someone else?

Creative savv is seeking new voices.


share this post