Got Milk? Keep it fresh longer by freezing.

Milk is a great nutritional staple.  It is a fine source of protein and of the ever elusive mineral calcium, which is so important to strong bones.  Vitamin D, also hard to obtain, is another benefit of regular milk intake.

Although milk took a bit of a publicity hit a few years back as its price moved up dramatically, prices have actually fallen recently, and projections are that its price will remain stable for some time.

Even with the recent price stabilization, milk is not cheap.  The other problem with milk is that it has a short shelf life.  Typically, the jug you pick up at the local grocer is good for two to three weeks.  For individuals and small families, it can sometimes prove a challenge to empty that gallon jug with such a short window.  This in turn leads to one of the cardinal sins of frugal living: waste.  Few things trouble me more than the thought of literally pouring milk, or any other commodity, down the drain.  For many consumers, however, this is a regular practice.

There are a couple of good pointers to keep in mind for avoiding this particular form of waste.  First, realize that the “use by” and “sell by” dates stamped on the jugs and cartons are fairly arbitrary.   Rarely does milk actually go bad by the marked date.  In my experience, you can usually count on milk still tasting perfectly fine for a good 5 or more days beyond the marked date, so there’s no need to throw it out merely because the date is reached.

With that said, it still makes sense to buy milk with the farthest out date possible.  To do this, reach for jugs in the back of the display case.   There usually is some date variation within the display case.  Unless you are a fast milk drinker, you obviously want to get one with the latest date.

The best strategy for milk savings is to prolong its life by freezing it.  For some reason, people have forgotten this simple strategy, which seemed to be practiced more often a generation ago.  At any rate, and to remove all doubt, milk can be frozen, and, contrary to some opinions, I notice no change in taste when it is done.

Here is the method I recommend.  Save your next empty milk container.  After your next galloon purchase, pour half of it into the empty jug, and store the jug in the freezer.  Keep it there until you are down to a two to three day supply of refrigerated milk.  At that point, move the frozen milk back down to the refrigerator.  (You can thaw the milk more quickly by allowing it to sit at room temperature until thawed, but doing so tends to shorten the remaining shelf life).

Some people feel that milk tastes different after freezing.  Again, I have never noticed this.  The only problem I occasionally encounter is small amounts of lingering ice.  Shaking the jug vigorously and allowing the milk to sit out for a brief period of fifteen to twenty minutes usually takes care of this problem.

A couple of closing pointers.  Realize that milk expands when it freezes.  You should therefore avoid filling the container to the rim.  And what if your freezer is already too full to accommodate a jug of frozen milk?  This is an easily solvable problem if you read this blog and arm yourself with this tool of frugality.

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