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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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Four Pillars

Interesting – I’m a big milk fan too.

I’m tempted to try it, but at a cost of $0.90 per litre it is not much of a saving.

2 Cath Lawson

Hi Mr Cheap – my grandmother used it all the time. I wasn’t a great lover of it, but you get used to it. To be honest, I ‘d forgotten you could still get it. I might try it again – right now I use semi skim but it doesn’t seem to agree with my stomach.

3 Phantasmix

Once again you prove that you’d be willing to sacrifice healthy food for saving money.

Why save a few bucks now and then pay with your health later?

4 Leslie

Powdered milk is great–if you really don’t like the taste, try mixing your reconstituted milk 1:1 with regular 2% or whole milk. I put powdered milk in baking, adding anywhere from 1 tbsp (the crisp of the apple crisp) to 1/2 cup (making bread) kind of thing to add protein etc.

5 Mr. Cheap

Mike: Yeah, originally I expected the savings to be greater. I’m hoping to find a cheaper source of powder though :-).

Phantasmix: You might have missed the last bullet point: “As nutritious as regular milk (according to some sites Ive checked on)” You have other information that its not as healthy?

6 jo

Great experiment Mr. Cheap. Hope you are enjoying the Gazette!

7 bigasssuperstar

Interesting stuff! Milk is ridiculously expensive out here in Nova Scotia versus Ontario … The only thing I use regular milk for is cereal, but my spouse puts it in her coffee … I’m a big fan of chocolate milk, though — any powdered options for that? My sister works in the lab at one of the big dairies … I’m gonna ask her if she knows any dirty little secrets about powdered milk, since she’s already told me enough about the true story of chocolate milk to dissuade most casual drinkers from consuming it.

8 Canadian Dream

@BAS: You can add cocoa, sugar to pwd milk to get a version of chocolate milk.

I actually keep some pwd milk in the house. I mostly use it for bread making, but I should think about expanding it’s use to other baking. Cost difference here isn’t all that much. SK seems to have cheap milk for some reason.

Tim

9 sandy

we used to drink 1/2 powdered and 1/2 “real” when I was younger – we were on a pretty tight budget, and it was much cheaper that way.
my mom always ‘made a new batch’ in the evening, and so it sat in the fridge overnight before we used it, and I never had any issues with the taste

10 Shevy

Milk bags. Wow, they still have those? I remember them from my first marriage when we were living in Calgary. I found them to be a pain. If you didn’t cut the corner just right it didn’t pour well. If you tipped it too much the bag fell out of the little plastic jug.

We used to freeze milk in cartons when we were getting kosher milk once every 6 weeks. Even shaking the thawed milk didn’t remix the butterfat fully and my #1 son used to pour his milk through a strainer to get rid of the little lumps.

The only time I’ve ever used powdered milk was in Home Ec class when we had to because they wouldn’t buy real milk. After that experience I was always scared to use it in real life.

11 Potato

We use powdered milk mixed with a soap and pH buffer to “block” blots in the lab. Kind of hard to think of it as a food product after that.

12 Frugal Vet Tech

We were interesting in seeing if powdered milk would be a good substitute for “regular” milk, but were disappointed to discover that using powdered milk was no cheaper (granted, we didn’t check prices at a lot of stores or look in to buying it in bulk). Powdered certainly has advantages, but you’ve gone over those :)

13 JAC

I hate milk, even the full fat kind. But while on a great diet, I learned to mix 2 cups of powdered (reconstituted) milk, with 5 drops of liquid sweetener (Splenda), and a capful of vanilla extract. You need to refigrate this for at least an hour.

Then I can drink it straight, make milkshakes by mixing it with fresh fruit, and in my cereal.

I like it better than the “regular” stuff.

14 tammy

we use powder milk all the time in the winter. there are lots of quick hot cocolate recipes. just powdered milk, sugar, cocoa, and creamer. we run ours through a coffee maker. Nobody drinks coffee at our house so at leas now it has a use. many times come winter we buy enough and mix it together to makes of the stuff. the kids usually drink it before walking to school.

15 max

I have used dry skim milk for 3o years. It is excellent for cooking, baking and even drinking. It is lighter to carry in with groceries than liquid milk. I even make buttermilk with it. I mix it with regular buttermilk . It has a lot less salt than purchased bettermilk. I buy regular milk for my husband to drink.

16 Squawkfox

OMG. You are insane, but in a good way. ;)

I live in BC now and totally forgot about bagged milk in Ontario. My mom must have had 15 of those bagged milk opening razor gadgets thingers.

Since I live on a farm these days, I just go milk a cow when in need of a dairy fix. Full fat unpasteurized milk anyone?

17 Adam

milk comes in bags?

18 AnnMarie

Just wanted to let you know I know two people who had powdered milk as kids and loved it: My brother and me! It was all we got at home. In fact, I was so used to it that when I went to school, I couldn’t even stand the skim milk! I did eventually get used to it after a few years

19 fern

i’m intrigued. If it saves me $ and it tastes decent, I’m in. will look for it in grocery store this weekend.

20 spyvsspy

I grew up on a small dairy farm, in Europe. My parents used to mix powdered milk with water to feed calfs and pigs.

21 Mr. Cheap

spyvsspy: Are you calling me a pig? just kidding! Its surprising that a DAIRY farm would find it worthwhile to buy powdered milk… Were your parents able to get it super-cheap?

22 deepali

My experiences with powdered milk include: complex humanitarian emergencies, Western blot, and gulab jamun. Worked well in all 3!

Re: nutrition – it can depend on grade. Make sure you are using the high quality stuff.

23 Vanessa

Thanks, this article is just what I was looking for!! Powdered Milk it is from now!! Yay!

24 Bill

I mix the milk with warm water and 1 box of instant pudding mix ( your flavor choice ) not only does it flavor it,but also thickens it …I tried it on the kids and they don’t know the difference….Now they want me to make it all the time…Just chill overnight

25 Charlie

I would imagine there are HUGE variances in quality out there. What brand is being discussed here ? Where can it be bought ? Price ?

26 John

I don’t know where you’re finding cheap powdered milk but the powdered stuff, even bought in 25lb bulk is 3 to 4 times what I pay for milk at the chain grocers. This is odd to me because as a kid powdered was all I got because it was cheaper. Some time in the 80’s my mom started buying the real stuff because it got cheaper than powdered and continues to be so as far as I can tell. BTW in AZ milk is on sale pretty much every week for under $2 a gallon. It’s been hovering around $1.59 to $1.89 for a couple of years. At Costco it is consistently under $2.50 a gallon every day when bought in the 2 gal pack and has been for probably 10 years.

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