Monday, July 14, 2008

Got milk?

Milk is one of those irritating issues for us. Even with an extra refrigerator out in the garage, trying to store a two week supply of fresh milk is enough to make me a little crazy.

I bought eight gallons two weeks ago. We’re on the last drops of the last gallon already – two days before my next shopping trip. Even though I was short at least one Denizen every single day since Shopping Day.

Ugh. I need at least ten gallons for two weeks. Probably twelve, if everybody is home. Argh. Have you ever tried to wedge twelve gallons of milk into a fridge? Or even two fridges? Especially when the house is regularly climbing over 80 degrees so you’ve got all the fruit in there too?

It’s enough to make a saint cuss. And I ain’t no saint.

Like everything else, the cost of a gallon of milk is creeping upward. We pay about $3.69 a gallon out here; usually, there will be one brand that offers about a dollar discount for a two gallon purchase - $6.39 for two gallons, for example.

Between the storage and the upward twitching of the price of a gallon of fresh, I’ve started thinking about powdered milk. I haven’t used the stuff in years, not since the price for a gallon of fresh dropped below that of powdered. I didn’t like the stuff anyway – chalky water with milk undertones? Blech.



One of my favorite sources for things like bulk food storage containers, freeze dried whatnots, emergency kits, enormous pails of rice and such is Emergency Essentials.

In addition to the aforementioned groovy stuff, they have powdered nonfat milk in 10# cans, each of which will make 4.75 gallons of milk. Each can costs $18.95…or you can get a three cases, a total of 18 cans (or 85.5 gallons) for $309.95, plus $12 for shipping. (By the way, their shipping maxes out at $12. So, with the exception of the Super Pails, you can add as much other stuff as you want to your order and still pay $12. In other words, this is a good company to give ONE BIG ORDER rather than three little ones.)

Assuming I didn’t buy anything else and the shipping was only for the milk, I’d be paying $3.77 a gallon for the powdered milk; if we used it for half our milk-needs, it would last me roughly four months.

Gads, we go through a lot of milk. ANYWAY, moving on.

So the last time I had an order, I added just one 10# can of milk to it. I paid a premium per gallon ($3.99), but I figured that was a small price to pay to try before I buy (in bulk). If it turned out to be nasty, I didn’t want to stuck with over $300 in milk we weren’t going to use.

Last night, doubt in my soul, I whipped up a gallon of the stuff and stuck it in the fridge.

This morning, I tried a tiny glass of it. With my face screwed up, ready to hate and despise it.

It…wasn’t half bad.

In fact, I thought that if you didn’t know it was powdered milk, you might just think it was, you know, just…nonfat milk. We don’t usually drink nonfat milk, so the flavor difference wasn’t as striking to me as it might be to someone who habitually drinks nonfat.

I used it in our muffins this morning, and none of the Denizens noticed anything different – and believe me, they are among the pickiest eaters in the universe. Knowing that I had used it, I was aware that the muffins were slightly less dense – airier, with a crumblier texture, and left out on the kitchen counter they got stale faster than their lowfat cousins.

But in terms of flavor…not a hint of that ‘chalk water’ powdered milk thing.

And then…the ultimate test. I made my husband and I a second round of mochas…secretly substituting half the fresh milk with the powdered.

I could taste no difference. My husband tasted nothing out of the ordinary.


I am pleased. And in this kind of packaging – in a nitrogen packed can containing an oxygen absorber – it really will last and last and last. Well beyond the four months I expect to have it around; probably as long as four years (the average for nonfat dry milk stored at ‘reasonable’ temperatures…if memory serves, at higher temperatures the shelf life drops dramatically, but I’m too lazy to go look it up right now).

When I place my next order, I will be ordering the 3 cases for the best price, both as a solution to my fridge-space crisis, and as a hedge against milk prices taking yet more nudges upward. Given that there will be other things sharing that $12 shipping, I figure my actual cost per gallon will probably be roughly $3.65, already better than the single gallon price. If the two-for-a-dollar-off brand climbs above $7.30, I’ll be saving money.

And much as I’d like to say, “Pfft! It’ll never happen!”…it’s already a dollar more per two gallons than it was a year ago. Another dollar doesn’t seem as unlikely as it did, way back in the grand old year of 2006.

Ah yes, 2006. I remember it well. When house prices never went down, only up, and gasoline was practically free, and we just sat around running our air conditioners all day long because there was no such thing as global warming or electricity bills…


Anonymous said...

I totally love reading your blog.
I live in NS and it costs just under $7 for 4ltrs of millk, which I believe is a gallon US
Also, our gas is 1.59$/ltr !!

Anonymous said...

Wow - we never see two-fer pricing on gallons of milk. We use powdered milk on occasion, and also dislike the aftertaste. BUT we have found a solution. Once our gallon of milk is half gone, we add 1/2 gallon of mixed powdered milk. The blend has a much better flavor, and the kids don't notice at all!

Michelle F said...

I'm addicted to your Blog both for the knitting and for the family/frugal living/LOL factors!

In MA I can get a gallon of 1% for $3.39/gallon at the local convenience store although just 1 month ago it was $3.19/gallon. I just do not have the storage space to buy more than 2 gallons at a time for my family of 4 and between my husband and 2 girls it goes quick. My husband is trying to switch over some of his drinking to diet sodas at only $1-$1.20/2 liter which has it's pros and cons - he has lost a little weight this way but I prefer good ole water - not that I'm willing to give up my Diet Coke!

Leoal said...

Wow, another Nova Scotian beat me to the punch. Anyway, I went to Needs (convenience store) in an emergency one time and the 4L of milk was $7.99. That is not normal, however.

I don't know where she gets the gas price from, it is $1.42/L right now, and has never been $1.59, at least not in Halifax. Diesel, maybe, but not gas.

I grew up in Alberta, and milk prices are lower there (although still higher than you pay). Either way, I think we make it up with some of these prices:

-Hospital visit: free
-ER visit: free
-Doctor Appointment: free
-Dental appointment and cleaning for small children: free
-Eye appointment for small children: free
-Having a baby: free
-Supplementary health insurance to cover prescriptions, dental, optometry, and private rooms at the hospital: less than $50 for my entire family.

I can ration milk. I can't ration health care.

Lydee said...

i like the idea of blending the milk with the powdered milk. I used to use powdered milk in all my baking before i started working away from home more and baking less. It works well in most things except soup, you know if you make a chowder or what not. (I was crazy enough to try it!)

Powdered milk adds protein to your bread (if you haven't added milk before), but you probably knew that.

If the baked goods are too dry, supplement with a touch of cooking oil, perhaps...i've never bothered myself, but it may increase shelf life...

I'm still doing okay with my designated shopping I've banned any "stuff marts" from my shopping places because my impulse buys were too high. We too are feeling the money crunch...

Anonymous said...

When I was growing up we always mixed half non-fat powdered milk with half regular milk. If it's chilled, there's not much difference in taste. "Mixing milk" was one of our regular chores. I never drank un-mixed milk unless I bought it at school.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant! And thanks for hooking me up with a source. Milk is also the curse of my (one big trip once every two weeks) shopping existence. I had even gone back to weekly trips (which I'd really rather not do) to solve it. We don't go through nearly that much milk, but I'd love to have a back up plan for when we run out in the middle of Week 2. I also usually have half & half and/or heavy cream around (for coffee & homemade ice cream), so I can add a little of that for "mouth feel."

Milk is about $3.69/gal here in Albuquerque too. If you watch you can get it on sale for 2/$5 or 2/$6, but I didn't see a sale last week.

Marty52 said...

Here's another vote for mixing half regular milk and half powdered milk. When my kids (3 boys) were little, we always mixed it that way. They didn't know the difference and I didn't notice any great taste change... winner all around! I also used to put some powdered milk (along with wheat germ) in everything I baked to up the "good for you" factor.

PipneyJane said...

Thanks to EU subsidies, powdered milk here isn't that much of a saving over fresh. The big price saving, though is in UHT ("longlife") milk, at about half the price of fresh. We only do one major supermarket shop a month (for the two of us), so buy a half-gallon of fresh milk then and half-a-dozen litre cartons of non-fat UHT milk (a.k.a. "emergency milk" on my shopping list).

I know many people say "UHT tastes disgusting" but it is the cream that carries the funny flavour (same thing goes for dried full-cream milk - yuk!). UHT non-fat/skimmed milk tastes a little less "fresh" than fresh milk, but not to a discernable degree.

I don't know if it is an option for you, but it is worth considering.

- Pam

Heidi said...

Our milk is about $3.50 gal. Problem is my husband drinks 2% and I like fat free. I am a huge milk drinker not to mention all the cereal and coffee that I drink with milk. I would LOVE two for milk gallons. Ugh, the envy! Lol

Anonymous said...

Hey Tama! Not sure if you have a Raleys or BelAir nearby, but you may want to check their milk prices. While every single other thing there is just CRAZY expensive, mine sells the second jug for a dollar. So, you buy one and it's $4.xx (close to $5, but I don't remember how close) and if you buy 2 it's under $6 for both. Great deal for a big family, not so great for just 2 adults in my house that don't drink a lot of milk.


Anonymous said...

Here's another source for good powdered milk.

We bought it for food storage and then when it started to age we opened the can and tried it. It is good! We have the chocolate and the regular. The kids like the chocolate in the hot chocolate machine.

Sorry, I didn't really pay attention to the cost and quantity it makes.

Yarnhog said...

Do they have shelf milk where you are? I don't even know if it's sold in the U.S., but when I've lived in Europe, I've always used it. It is ultra-pasteurized and comes in one-liter boxes and you can store them unrefrigerated for months. I actually prefer the taste to refrigerated milk.

Anonymous said...

Goodness gracious, where in the world do you put all of that milk? Do you have two refrigerators? My family drinks a lot of milk but my frig is so full, I can only fit two to three gallons in it.
Milk in the Houston area is running $3.65 to $4, but you can find a sale now and then 2 for $6.
BTW, I love your blog.

Anonymous said...

Goodness gracious, where in the world do you put all of that milk? Do you have two refrigerators? My family drinks a lot of milk but my frig is so full, I can only fit two to three gallons in it.
Milk in the Houston area is running $3.65 to $4, but you can find a sale now and then 2 for $6.
BTW, I love your blog.

Anonymous said...

oops, sorry about the double posting