Plain Yogurt is a Good Cheap Eat

It wasn’t until we found ourselves buried in debt that I really gave plain yogurt a chance. Previously, I bought the more expensive sugared varieties in individual packaging. Once I started to drastically cut my grocery budget, I became a little more cut-throat in my yogurt buying: I only bought store brand on sale or a name brand on sale with a coupon.

Buy Plain Yogurt

As it turned out the store brand’s flavored varieties were pretty gross and they were filled with ingredients and fillers I didn’t want my family to eat. So, I started buying plain yogurt which had the great price, but without all the additives I wanted us to avoid. I doctor it up with fresh fruit or jam or even maple syrup or honey. My older children haven’t quite caught on, but my younger ones are totally on board. As for me, I love to make parfaits with berries and granola.

I’ve also used plain yogurt as a substitute for sour cream in dressings and in baking. It’s a key ingredient in Mix and Match Muffins and Chocolate Banana Marble Cake as well as our favorite topping for fish tacos, Yogurt-Dill Dressing. It makes Fish Tacos into Happiness on a Plate. Plain yogurt is also a fantastic base for marinades like this Buttermilk-Yogurt Marinade or Tandoori Chicken.

My target price is $0.30 to $0.40 per individual cup or $2 or less for a large carton. The full fat version from Mountain High is divine in parfaits, but I opt for the nonfat because I can’t shake my lipo-fears. (I’m open to reforming my ways, though. So tell me why full fat won’t make me fatter.)

Either way, plain yogurt is a healthy and economical ingredient. Most definitely a good cheap eat.

Do you use plain yogurt in your cooking?

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  1. Denise.C says:

    I love using plain yogurt in cooking! When my kids want yogurt, I will add a wee bit of vanilla extract and boost the flavor. It’s easier on my wallet to buy one big container, rather than a bunch of small flavored ones.

  2. I do now! I have used it in smoothies for a long time, but Saturday I made your fish taco recipe, and my son loved it. He called it “ranch dressing”, and I did not tell him any differently. But, I can’t get it cheap around here. The only ones available are almost $4 a carton!

  3. I have used it in smoothies, and Saturday I made your fish tacos. My son loved it and called it “ranch dressing.” But, it’s expensive here; the only ones I can find are close to $4 a carton.

  4. We’ve been learning the joys of plain yogurt, as well. I still won’t eat it (I dislike tastes like spoiled milk to me), but my kids love it, I cook with it tons now, and it’s wonderful stuff. I also mix in applesauce.

    To me, non-fat yogurt isn’t much different than the flavored stuff you buy. It still is loaded with sugar to make it taste good since the fat has been removed. Here’s a great website on fat and why it’s good for you in it’s natural forms in case you want to read a bit on it:

  5. I made a quart and a half of yogurt last night from milk that was on its last few days. All you need is a double broiler (and I devise my own), a candy thermometer, dry milk, a half packet of unflavored gelatin, a starter (which can be your homemade yogurt after the first time you make it) and your oven (with the light on for incubation.) I was afraid to do this at first, but it turns out every time and cost less than $1.00 per quart. Better yet, it’s healthy and taste better than any yogurt I’ve ever bought. It taste most like the Breyer’s fruit on the bottom – but better! I follow the instructions here: The only change I make is I add 1 T vanilla to the hot yogurt before incubating. I do method A for thick yogurt and I don’t add sweetener. I like to add just a little homemade (could certainly use store bought) jam to sweeten it. So good! Don’t be intimidated by the directions. Read through them and just do it! It’s very simple and so worth it. I used to ration yogurt and only buy it on sale. Now I allow the children to eat it for snacks, dessert or breakfast whenever! They love it!

  6. Kelly Hassenzahl says:

    I have been told that making your own homemade yogurt is both economical and easy as well as healthier. Does anyone else have experience with this. I’d love to try it, but I’ve been a bit chicken to just jump into it. Thanks!

  7. We love plain yogurt… it is great in cucumber salad and the like. We also experiment with the Greek yogurt and the Australian yogurt…so different yet perfect in different recipes! It amazes us the amount of shelf space that is taken up by the yogurt cups in the stores and one usually has to search out the plain ones.

  8. Have you ever drained your plain yogurt to get it to a thicker consistency?….makes it even more like sour cream.

  9. So true! I buy the small cups of plain yogurt and make more yogurt with them. (1 6oz cup of yogurt, 2 cups milk, heat the milk, mix in the yogurt and place in yogurt machine. I get 6 ind. cups of yogurt, and can use one of them to make the next batch and reduce the cost even further.) Unfortunately, my DH hates “real” yogurt, but he has to eat it every day b/c of his digestive system, so I still buy him the individually packaged not-really-. One of these days, though, I’ll convert him;). In the meantime, I use my plain yogurt in cooking and baking, which he doesn’t mind. I also use it as a base for tuna/chicken/’egg salad.

  10. has a lot of great info on why saturated fat isn’t bad for you! Here’s one post to get you started:

  11. I love plain yogurt too! I prefer the greek because it’s nice and thick. My favorite way to eat it is to spoon some in a dish and add 1/2 of berries and a 1/4 cup of granola or some kind of grain cereal. I’ve also had very good luck in cooking with it.

  12. I just bought some full fat plain yogurt and the only ingredient is milk compared to the fat free version with a whole list of ingredients. I’m all about simplifying my food and making it with the least amount of added ingredients as possible. The full fat version tastes better, too.

  13. I second making yougurt. I actually do it in my crockpot and it is super easy and super inexpensive. It is also really yummy!
    If you google “make yogurt in a crockpot” you should be able to find the directions.

  14. over 30 years ago (back in the day) we lived in a co-op and made our own yogurt. Plain mixed with jam can be wonderful. I bet it could be nice paired with homemade apple butter.
    I noticed that the Yoplait cobbler and shortcake flavors are basically vanilla yogurt with some fruit. (hey, I can do that, and crumble in some muffin to give the cobbler/cake rif that’s ignored by yoplait)

  15. We are making the transition to full fat dairy and it is a bit daunting. After hearing my whole life that fat makes you fat, it is hard to wrap my head around the fact that it is healthier for me. But I must say, the whole milk plain yogurt tastes much better than the fat-free. It is creamier and smoother. Not at boingy tasting. I make my own using a good quality whole milk yogurt and some yummy non-homogenized whole milk. Even with the cost of the milk ( about $5 a gallon) it is a bargain to make my own.

    We use the yogurt in smoothies, just to eat, or even as a remedy for umm… feminine yeast problems.

    My favorite way to enjoy the homemade plain yogurt is in a bowl, topped with my homemade coconut granola. The granola is sweet, just enough, and it balances out the tanginess of the yogurt perfectly without making it sicky sweet. Let me know if you would like the recipe….

    • I, too, was scared to go full fat because all the food authorities say otherwise, and that’s all I knew. I made the switch a year ago, and I have been happy with that move.

  16. i use the all natural nonfat plain yogurt and add about 2 T of fruit (mashed banana, fresh pears or cooked cinnamon apples) to lightly sweeten a portion of yogurt. i mix this in with fiber one cereal and top with frozen blueberries. add a cup of coffee and it’s my favorite breakfast. yum.

  17. About Full Fat Items – not just yogurt! Add this to your bookin it list! I know you would like it

    Eat Fat, Lose Fat
    by Dr. Mary Enig and Sally Fallon

  18. I just finished licking the inside of my Vanilla yogurt container!! LOL!
    Seriously! Yogurt has become my go to snack. Some chocolate chips, some walnuts.. and I’m a happy girl!

    Great post!

  19. Alex Hall says:

    I still have a hard time with plain yogurt, as do my kids, but I think it’s mainly due to what we are used to – sugared yogurt! As for the fat, I know that with milk, the fat makes it easier to digest and makes it so you absorb more of the vitamins (that are fat soluble). I’m not sure if the same is true for yogurt, as it usually has the live cultures that aid in digestion.

  20. You should read The Schwarzbein Principle written by a doctor who has done lots of research on diabetic patients. It completely changed the way I looked at fats!

  21. I don’t like the plain, but I love the vanilla flavored, as does my daughter. We add in fresh fruit – strawberries, blueberries, peaches, raspberries, whatever is in season.

  22. I occasionally buy the big containers of vanilla yogurt, but have been too chicken to try plain. Thanks for the listing the practical uses of it!

  23. I’ve been making plain yogurt in my crockpot too. I use the recipe from 365crockpot. Like Meg said above, just google yogurt in your crockpot to find the directions. Totally easy and delicious!!!!

  24. Fat is essential to your diet because the vitamins and minerals we need are fat soluble, meaning the fat is what carries them to wherever they’re supposed to go. If you don’t have full fat in your dairy, you really aren’t getting the benefits of the calcium, which pretty much nullifies the reason to consume dairy.

    Also, when they remove the fat from dairy, they are removing vitamins. They have to replace the vitamins, so thus you see on the label Vitamin A & D. The problem is that they are synthetic. I guess I don’t like the idea of fake stuff in my food.

    I’m also of the mind that if fat were bad, our natural foods wouldn’t have been created that way in their original state.

    The foods that we really need to curb are refined sugars and flours. That’s what packs on the fat cells.

  25. One of my favorite cookbook authors (Joanna Lund) used fat-free yogurt for the following alternatives:
    3/4 cup plain yogurt + 1/3 cup nonfat dry milk is a sour cream substitute (makes 8 servings) (her recipe calls for fat free, but I have used both and it works)
    Knowing that, I use yogurt as a substitute in dip recipes for sour cream on a regular basis. If you have one of those dip mixes (like French Onion or Ranch) OR want to use salsa (about 1 cup of your favorite salsa) you have a great topping for baked potatoes or steamed brocolli. The salsa version is great for tacos and burritos. She recommended that if you cook with yogurt instead of sour cream, that for every 3/4 cup yogurt add 1 teaspoon cornstarch to stabilize it. I have not ever tried the cooking yogurt with cornstarch due to a corn allergy in the family, so I cannot vouch for how well that works. Neither have I been brave enough to make my own yogurt…yet! :)

  26. I use whole milk to make my own yogurt, and none of us have gotten fat from it. Whole milk yogurt is WAY better than low fat yogurt. :-)

  27. I second the resources others have said about eating fat. We eat tons over here, and my husband’s lost 60 lbs. doing it!

    I find Dannon whole milk plain yogurt at Walmart for about $2/carton. And the only ingredient is “cultured Grade-A milk” which is great! No thickeners, stabilizers, or other crap. I put it in smoothies or feed it to my son plain or mixed with blueberries. Yummy!

  28. Patricia says:

    Why fat won’t make you fatter?
    Here’s a resource:

    Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon, head of the Weston A. Price Foundation. It will convince you!

    Love your posts. Thanks for them, and the recipes!!

  29. Demetria Elms says:

    Great post! I always forget how versatile plain yogurt is until I come across a recipe that requires it. Mountain High Youghurt is my absolute favorite. I cannot stand the taste of sugary yogurts like Yoplait, Dannon, etc. since I’ve been using Mountain High for a few years. FYI, Mountain High has a great website full of easy recipes. Their Snickerdoodle Muffins are awesome :) Yummy!

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