The Great Powdered Milk Experiment

by Mr. Cheap

For some reason EVERYONE seems to have had powdered milk when they were a kid and HATED it. I have no idea when or where I tried it, I just remember that it tasted like evil. As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m reading “The Complete Tightwad Gazette”, and one of the articles in it talked about how great powdered milk is.

I definitely agree that milk can be a pain in the butt to keep around. It expires quickly, it’s heavy to lug home and it’s not cheap (it’s around $1.25 / liter in my neck of the woods). In Ontario, milk is often sold in 4L bags (with 3 smaller bags inside a larger outer one: this site explains it). Because there aren’t any good grocery stores near where I’m living, I’ve been buying milk at the convenience store (since it would be hard to carry milk home in addition to my other groceries).

Never one to let my childhood prejudices go unchecked, I grabbed a bag of powered milk and decided to test whether it’s drinkable or not and in what (i.e. I was pretty sure it’d be ok in coffee, but how about straight in a glass or on cereal?). I’m a dairy fanatic (cutting back on cheese when I was trying to lose weight was tough), so I really wasn’t sure what the results would be.

To quickly outline the benefits of powdered milk:

  • Lasts FOREVER (compared to liquid milk) – the 1 kg bag I got is good until Nov 2009.
  • Easier to get home (lighter in powdered form)
  • Easier to stockpile (you don’t have to run to the store when you realize you’re out of milk, you just mix up some more)
  • Cheaper (it’s about $0.90 / L) – might be possible to buy it for even less if you bought in bulk
  • You can control the “creaminess” (mix it to taste like skim or 2%, just by adding more or less water)
  • Great in an emergency (if you can’t buy milk for a few days because of a natural disaster, just mix your own)
  • Easier to cook with
  • As nutritious as regular milk (according to some sites I’ve checked on)

The instructions on the bag said to refrigerate after mixing it, but I couldn’t wait and tried a taste after mixing. It was pretty unpleasant (gritty). Undaunted I threw it in the fridge overnight. In the morning I opened the door, crossed my fingers and poured myself a glass. I took a swig and:

It tasted just like the milk I usually drink.

It was actually creamier than I was used to (I drink skim milk). I’ve since tried it on cereal, and in coffee and tea, and so far it tastes great everywhere.

Years ago I switched from 2% to skim, and it was tough at first. When you’re used to something, and you have something subtly different, it’s easy to reject it. However, I quickly adapted to both skim milk and powdered milk.

I wonder if the powdered milk we all had as kids was just served too soon (they didn’t let it sit in the refrigerator)? Maybe kids just have more acute taste buds than adults…

I’d definitely recommend grabbing a bag of powdered milk and seeing if you can switch over. If it’s tough to stomach, try “cutting” (mix them half-and-half) real milk with powdered milk until you get used to it.

Another option for “stockpiling” milk is to buy bags of it and freeze them. Families in the more rural areas where I grew up would sometimes do this (so they wouldn’t have to make trips into town just for milk). Shake the bags after you’ve thawed them to mix the fat back in with the liquid.

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