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Money & Finance
Articles: Money

Milking the Milk Budget

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As if we weren’t gouged enough by the rising gas prices, we are now enduring a huge hike in our milk prices too. With some areas of the country now paying over four dollars per gallon, the higher milk prices can have a huge impact on tight grocery budgets.

While my answers to this dilemma may not be as appealing as you had hoped to hear, the pure and simple fact is that paying four dollars for milk is not appealing either. With some minor changes, you can free up money in your grocery budget and still have plenty of milk to drink in your house.

Powerful Powder

Before I begin, please know that I know exactly what you are thinking right now. In fact, I thought the same thing before I started using powdered milk in our house. I remember one childhood instance where we had run out of milk and my mom tried to give us powdered milk in its place. Two things gave it away that we weren’t drinking regular milk. The first was that the milk wasn’t in the milk jug. The second was that the milk tasted off to us. Of course my mom watching us expectantly was also a big clue, and our expressions and groans told her that we wouldn’t be drinking milk like that again for a long time.

Powdered milk still has a distinct taste, but it has come a long way. If you are a skim milk drinker, I find the taste of powdered milk very comparable, due to the lower fat content. I am still not a big fan of drinking the milk straight, but if times were lean, I wouldn’t object too loudly. The taste has greatly improved and it can be a great asset to any frugal family’s refrigerator.

Just imagine how much milk you use that you never actually drink. Milk is an important ingredient in cooking and many dishes may require two cups of milk or more in your recipes. Rarely is there a special type of milk you have to purchase for making your dishes. Prepared powdered milk can make an excellent substitute in your cooking and I promise you will never notice the difference.

The difference you will notice though is the amazing difference in price. We can purchase 20 quarts of powdered milk for only $9.99 at our local Aldi Supermarket. The price per gallon works out to a mere $2.00 per gallon. Unless there is an incredible sale on milk, this definitely beats the usual milk prices.

If you are really scared to use powdered milk, begin the process gradually. Try just adding the powdered milk to the dishes you are cooking. You can then progress towards adding it to your milkshakes and smoothies. As you begin to warm up towards the idea of using this ingredient, you can begin replacing it in other dishes in your house. One of the easiest ways to begin trying powdered milk is to use the powder in your coffee instead of creamer. It is just as rich and costs a fraction of the price.

You will want to follow a few simple rules for preparation, if you plan to drink the milk, to achieve the best taste possible. First, make sure to read the instructions for preparation on the outside of the box. Fill your pitcher halfway with the water and then pour in the directed amount of milk powder. Turn your sink on to a low stream, to help prevent the milk bubbles, and fill the pitcher to the top. Give it a stir with a spoon and put in the fridge for four hours minimum. It is preferable if you can let the milk chill overnight because the milk will have reached its optimal taste. Some people do add a teaspoon or so of sugar and I have heard a teaspoon of vanilla extract can also do wonders for the taste, depending upon your preference.

Milk on Ice

I love to stock up on milk when the stores run a good sale, but how do you keep all of that milk from going bad? The best way to store extra milk is to keep it in your freezer. The lower fat milks tend to freeze the best, but all varieties of milk can be frozen with great success. The first dilemma will be finding freezer space for the milk, but once you have some space freed up, it is time to stock up.

When our local stores run sales on milk, I buy six gallons of milk. Four of them go in our chest freezer and the other two go in the refrigerator for immediate consumption. I set the milk in upright in the freezer and allow it to freeze that way. If you are concerned about the milk expansion, you can pour a little of the milk off of the top of each gallon, but I have froze them immediately without doing this and have had no problems with the gallon jug containers.

When you are about halfway through your gallon in the fridge, you will want to pull out one of the frozen gallons. It will take two or three days to completely thaw in the fridge so you will want to make sure you give yourself plenty of time.

Frozen milk will look yellow when you pull it out of the freezer and that is completely normal. When it thaws, it will return to its normal color.
Give your milk a good shaking, each time you use it, to reconstitute the milk together. The milk proteins do separate during the freezing process, but if you shake the milk well, you will not notice the difference in taste.

Once the milk has thawed, it will last for approximately five days before going bad. The milk can also be frozen for up to three months.

Milk Recipes

Here are some great recipes to have on hand when you are missing that one special ingredient. With powdered milk in your refrigerator, you can make your own ingredients, without a trip to the store!

Sweetened Condensed milk

½ cup hot water
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup powdered milk
Blend ingredients together in a blender. Can be stored in refrigerator or frozen. This will make one can of sweetened condensed milk.

Evaporated Milk

1 ½ cups warm water
1 cup powdered milk
1 tablespoon butter
Mix powdered milk and warm water together. Add butter. In a small pan, heat mixture together. Beat well, cool and store in the refrigerator.

Sour Cream Substitute

2/3 cup dry milk
¾ cup water
1 teaspoon vinegar
Beat together thoroughly and refrigerate.