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Even though using a sourdough starter for homemade yeast means that you don’t have to buy yeast packets from the store to bake bread, a sourdough starter isn’t free because you still have to buy the flour that you use to feed the starter. So for times when flour is more expensive or harder to find or for times when you really need to save money on the amount of flour that you buy, it’s good to know some tips for how to use less flour for your sourdough starter while still keeping it active and ready to use.
First things first, though, if you’re curious about using a sourdough starter but you’ve never actually made one before, you can find tips for how to make one yourself with just flour and water here: How to Make Homemade Yeast.
3 Tips for How to Use Less Flour For Feeding Your Sourdough Starter
1) Feed Your Starter Less Often
One way to use less flour when feeding your starter is simply to feed it less often. Unless you are planning on baking with your starter daily, there’s really no reason to feed your starter every day. I typically feed my starter 3-4 times a week, and I don’t feed it large amounts of flour each time either. I usually do a larger feeding right before I am about to bake with it and smaller feedings at other times when I am just feeding it to keep it active but not planning to bake with it in the immediate future.
I don’t measure out the amount of flour I’m using when feeding my starter, but if I know I won’t be baking with my starter for a few days then I will give it a small “bare bones” sort of feeding (probably somewhere between 1/8 and 1/4 cup of flour, but that’s just an estimate.) And then the last feeding before I plan to use the starter is a larger feeding (probably somewhere between 1/3 to 1/2 cup of flour.) If you bake more frequently than once or twice a week then you will probably need to feed slightly larger amounts, though, just to make sure you have enough active starter for the recipes that you are using.
There are several different things to consider when it comes to deciding how often you should feed your starter, and I discuss many of those considerations in this post: How Often Should You Feed a Sourdough Starter? Basically, the weather will make a difference and you might not have to feed it as often in colder weather as you would in warmer weather, and the amount of baking you plan to do will affect how often you need to feed it as well.
2) Keep Your Starter in the Fridge When You Aren’t Using It
Another way to save even more money on flour is to store your sourdough starter in the fridge when you aren’t using it. By keeping your starter in the fridge, the cool temperature will slow down the yeast enough that you won’t need to keep feeding it several times a week to keep it alive. I first learned about this method when I was reading The Vintage Remedies Guide to Bread. When storing your starter in the fridge, you just need to plan ahead enough to make sure you take your starter out of the fridge in enough time for it to warm up to room temperature and for you to feed it before baking with it.
So, if you usually bake bread with your starter on Thursday mornings, for example, you would probably want to take it out of the fridge some time on Tuesday to let it start to warm up. And then on Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning you would want to feed the starter to make sure that it is active enough for you to mix up bread dough on Wednesday evening (to rise overnight so that you can bake with it on Thursday morning.) This timeline can be adjusted based on when you plan on baking with your starter, of course, but basically you just want to make sure that you allow enough time for the starter to warm up after being in the cold fridge and for you to be able to feed it and give it time to rise before you use it to mix up dough or batter. How cold or warm your house is will make a difference in this timeline, too.
This method works well if you only plan to bake with your sourdough occasionally. If you are planning on using your starter more than once or twice a week, though, storing it in the fridge might get a bit inconvenient when it comes to trying to figure out when to take it out to warm up and when to feed it, etc. But if you don’t use your starter very frequently, this is a great way to save on the amount of flour you need for feeding your starter.
3) Dehydrate Your Starter
This method is one that I’ve never tried myself personally, but it’s one that would allow you to use less flour overall because you could dehydrate some of your sourdough starter to use for baking in the future and then you could store your starter in the fridge for longer periods of time while you are using some of your dehydrated starter. This way you wouldn’t have to keep feeding your starter while it is in the fridge but you would still be able to do some sourdough baking by using the dehydrated starter.
Having some dehydrated starter on hand could also be a great backup in case something happens to your starter! If you forget to feed your starter and it dies, you could always rehydrate the dried starter and not have to start all the way from scratch again.
I’ve haven’t tried doing this method yet, so I can’t say from personal experience how the process will go, but you can find information on directions for how to dehydrate a sourdough starter in this article from Homestead and Chill: How to Dehydrate or Dry Sourdough Starter to Preserve It. Even though I haven’t tried this method yet, it’s one that I might try in the future, and I think that it could be another good way to help to save less flour by using less of it for feeding the starter.
I hope that these three tips can be helpful to you for using less flour for feeding your sourdough starter, and if you have any other ideas, let us know in the comments!
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The information in this post is not to be taken as medical advice and is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease.