I know you do, friend.
As a mid-year holiday gift to you, I present you with the easiest way to save money: Making your own Greek yogurt.
Please stop having a panic attack. It really is simple, I promise.
Go to the kitchen and get out the following equipment:
1) Some sort of heavy pot, like a good regular pot, a dutch oven, or a stock pot.
2) A candy thermometer or other non-meat thermometer.
3) A whisk (or fork, I suppose, in lieu of a whisk).
4) A crockpot.
5) A few towels (I use one larger towel and a couple kitchen towels).
6) Cheesecloth. I recommend getting butter muslin, as it strains much, much better than the large-weave stuff you get at the grocery store. Plus, it's reusable.
7) A mesh strainer.
8) A mixing bowl atop which the strainer can sit.
Now, go get the following ingredients:
-1/2 gallon of milk (I've done 2% and 1%, both work equally well...so, I assume you can do skim or whole, as well)
-1/3 cup dry milk (technically optional, but it adds thickness and protein)
-1 packet yogurt cultures OR 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (Greek yogurt tends to have lots more strains of active yogurt cultures than regular yogurt)
Now, let me preface the recipe by saying that, if you have patience to wait for something in the mail, you can make this REALLY simple. You can either order freeze-dried yogurt cultures online, or you can use plain yogurt from the store that has active cultures in it. I 100% recommend buying cultures. It is totally fool-proof. Using yogurt as your starter is more unstable and prone to trouble. I, of course, was like, "Pffffffffft, WHATEVER. I DO WHAT I WANT" and used yogurt the first few times. And it was tricky. The first time I made yogurt, it didn't set...for 8-9 hours, so I was like, "I WILL BE DAMNED IF THIS DOESN'T WORK" and I added more plain yogurt and went to bed--because really, what did I have to lose at that point? In the morning: Yogurt! Sure, it may have been questionable to eat that yogurt after it had been out on the counter, warm, for almost 24 hours, but I did, and I'm still here to tell the story.
So, okay, here's how to make Greek yogurt:
1. Pour the 1/2 gallon of milk into your heavy pot/dutch oven. Clip the candy thermometer to the side. Put the heat on somewhere around medium-medium high. You want to bring the temperature up to 175-180 degrees. Be sure to whisk every 5 minutes to avoid scalding the milk and getting gross brown milk bits in your yogurt. Once at 175-180, remove from heat and let cool to 112-115 degrees, whisking every so often to keep a skin from forming. Cooling takes about 20-30 minutes.
2. Dump in the dry milk and stir thoroughly (you can add the dry milk a bit before the 112-115 degree mark). Then, pour in your cultures/yogurt starter. Mix well. Let sit 1-2 minutes.
3. Pour the mixture into an unplugged crockpot and cover. Make sure the crockpot is set to "warm" for your ease of use later. Cover the crock pot with towels. If there is a good deal of space under the crockpot, be sure to tuck the towel ends under there so heat doesn't escape. Mostly, heat gets out of the top of mine, though, so I'm always careful to put the most layers over the lid.
5. Every so often throughout the 6-8 hours, plug the crockpot in for 5-10 minutes (depending on how cold your house is and how well your crockpot works). I usually do this once every 2 hours (so, maybe 3 times) to keep the temperature around 110 inside the crockpot. My crockpot is fairly crappy, so if yours is well-insulated, you might not need to do it at all.
6. Have 6-7 hours passed without you touching the yogurt? Good! You are now officially allowed to look inside and gently poke the top of the liquid with a spoon. Is it yogurt?! You bet it is, you rock star. Nice work all around, people and bacteria.
If you're the kind of person who likes delicious things, you could save the drained liquid (whey) for 7-10 days in an airtight container and use it in place of water in baked good recipes, like these delicious Cinnamon Raisin Bagels.
P.S. I apologize for the crappy yogurt photos. If I remember to take prettier "after" photos sometime, I will update. ;)