I can afford it.
So, the sourdough starter discard waste problem. In reality, it goes like this: at current prices, I could pay almost $6.00 for a three pack of Fleishman’s Active Dry yeast in the familiar yellow and red package. For me, that would cost $1.00 for each ½ batch of bread that I regularly bake. Since I produce 7 or eight loaves of focaccia per month right now, that means $8.00 month just for yeast. In actuality, I buy bulk 16 oz. Bags of SAF instant Red Label and last time I got it the cost was about $6.00. My cost per loaf then is about $0.05. I get almost 130 batches per big bag or more than a year’s worth of bread at current bake rates if I am not in an experimental mode. All it takes is a digital kitchen scale.
Now to sourdough starter. Using premium flour from King Arthur, either Bread Flour, AP or White Whole Wheat, my cost per pound is approximately $1.20/lb from the 5 lb bag. If I leave my starter out on the kitchen counter and feed it every day with 50 grams of mixed flour (1/2/2), the cost per day is $0.13 or $3.90 per month. If I bake 8 loaves per month, my actual yeast cost is $0.49/loaf. This is half the cost of packet yeast but more than bulk of course. My schedule rarely allows the time to do all of my baking with sourdough however so actual sourdough production is more likely no more than 4 times per month so the cost of the daily fed starter comes about even with packet prices. If I feed 1/1/1 then my cost drops by half. The sourdough starter discard is greatly reduced.
If I am baking sourdough only 4 times per month, I can slow the starter by refrigerating it until it is needed and only feed it 4 times per month. Each feeding then costs only $0.13 so that is my per loaf cost to leaven the loaves. Still more than bulk commercial yeast but I can handle the extra $0.08 per loaf. If I feed 1/1/1 then the difference is only $0.04 . Still on the fence about the feeding formula. I have maintained the current 1/2/2 since day 3 and it seems to be pretty healthy.
Her name is Isabel and I think $0.13/day is very reasonable for her company.