Are you dumping money down the drain? If you’re letting milk spoil and then pouring it out, that’s exactly what you’re doing! Most people would love to lower their grocery budget but have a tough time figuring out what to cut.
Food waste is a great place to start!
Cutting out food waste means you won’t have to buy as much because you’ll actually use what you buy. When it comes to milk, there’s a tighter deadline to use it compared to most other foods.
Before I tell you my top 7 ways to use milk that’s about to expire, I’ll start with some milk expiration FAQ (okay maybe not-so-F AQ):
What does the date on the carton mean?
The meaning of the date on the milk jug or carton depends on the state you live in. Dates on food packages (aside from baby formula) aren’t regulated or required by the federal government at all. Dates on food packages are voluntarily put there by the manufacturers, though dates on dairy are regulated in nearly half of the states.
In some states, the date is a “sell by” date (a date that gives consumers about a week to use it), in others it is a “best by” date (a date that tells consumers when the peak flavor is reached, still good for another 5-7 days) and in yet others it is a “use by” date (which sounds the most like “expiration”). What’s worse is that the definition of each of these terms varies, which further confuses and concerns consumers.
How can I tell if my milk is still good?
Generally milk is good for 5-7 days past the date on the carton, even longer if the milk is unopened. However, depending on how the milk is stored, the milk could even spoil before the date (speaking from experience here).
Thankfully, recognizing spoiled milk is simple as long as your nose and eyes are working. If you don’t smell a sour, “off” smell when you remove the lid and take a whiff, then you are fine. If the milk is bad, you will know it! Other clues that your milk is done are lumps in it or a change in color.
If you are unsure, you can err on the safe side by using it in one of the ways listed below rather than drinking it cold with a slightly questionable flavor. You will be perfectly fine using it in a recipe where it is heated and mixed with other things. When milk is really bad, there will be no question.
How can I make my milk last longer?
The difference between milk that spoils fast and milk that lasts well past the date is mostly a matter of how it is stored. You want to keep your milk cold– the colder the better. Instead of in the door of the fridge (which gets a waft of warm air every time the fridge opens) or the top of the fridge (the warmest part), keep it in the bottom of the fridge.
On to the tips!
Here are my top 7 ways to use milk that’s about to expire!
We make yogurt pretty regularly at our house. Making yogurt in your crock pot is easy and very cost effective. You’ll need a small amount of yogurt to act as the starter, but other than that, the only ingredient is milk. Heating the milk up changes the milk and “resets” its expiration clock, if you will. In other words, even if your milk is about to expire, the yogurt you make from it will still last its normal up-to-two-weeks in the fridge.
So what do I do with a gallon of yogurt? There are so many things you can do! Eat it with fruit or granola, put it in smoothies, use it as a substitute for sour cream, make frozen yogurt, and use it in other recipes.
Homemade pancakes are a staple around here. We make our own pancake mix so that it’s all ready whenever we want pancakes (sometimes for breakfast and sometimes for dinner). Since you need eggs and milk to make the pancake batter, it’s a great way to use up that milk that’s about to go bad!
Pudding is a great way to use milk! If you are going to eat the pudding right away, then you can make the instant kind. The instant kind will be good as long as the milk would be good, so instant pudding doesn’t really stretch the expiration deadline on your milk. It does, however, make your milk very yummy and edible, so you might eat it up faster than you’d drink it up.
If you want to stretch the lifespan of your milk, make the “cook and serve” pudding or make pudding from scratch. Getting the milk up to boiling “resets” the milk’s internal expiration clock. We have started making tapioca pudding from scratch and love it for a snack. Here’s the recipe that I use. I use skim milk (no cream) and it works wonderfully.
I recently shared my potato soup tutorial and showed how I make a roux with milk to make the soup creamy (instead of using cream or another expensive alternative). If you have extra milk on your hands, making a creamy potato soup (or other creamy soup) is a great way to prevent wasting that milk!
Yummy Hot Chocolate
Hot chocolate is a special fall and winter treat around here. While making hot chocolate with milk is always an option, we usually make the frugal choice to use water. Most hot chocolate mixes have powdered milk in them so you aren’t drinking chocolate water. However, when I’m feeling fancy or we have a gallon of milk getting close to expiring, I make it with milk. It’s yummier and creamier with milk, so it’s a special treat.
Making your own pasta sauce from scratch is easier than you think. I make a simple white sauce that is very versatile (similar to this one). Melt in some cheese and you’ve got cheese sauce! And you know what the main ingredient is? You guessed it–milk! If your milk is about to expire go make some white sauce and have pasta for dinner!
I freeze milk all the time. It works like a charm. Milk expands when it freezes, so you’ll want to pour a little out before putting the entire gallon in the freezer. To make thawing milk even easier, freeze it in a gallon ziploc bag. I double them up just in case. Instead of filling the bag absolutely full, just fill it part-way then lay it flat to freeze. And just so you aren’t alarmed, the color of milk changes to a yellow-ish color when you freeze it.
When you thaw the milk, stick it in a sink of cold water or put it in your fridge. Honestly, I just leave it on the counter sometimes too, as long as you shake it periodically to make sure the outer, thawed milk stays cold. Wait to drink it until all of the milk has thawed, as the creamy part and the watery part thaw at different rates.
You might notice a difference in milk that has been frozen and thawed (I don’t, but I’ve met others who do), but it is perfectly safe to use. If you notice a difference in taste of consistency with milk that has been frozen, you can use it in cooking and you’ll never know the difference?
There you have it! I bet you want to go out and buy extra milk just so you’ll have the chance to try these out!
Oh, and as a bonus idea, eat cold cereal for every meal! Seriously– when I’m pregnant, I can eat cereal for every meal. Actually, I can do that pretty much anytime.
For more ways to not waste food, check out this video on how to not let produce go bad:
How about you?
- What do you do to use milk before it expires?