Saturday, July 2, 2011

Saving the Moola: dry milk is useful (and cheap!) in all things cooking and baking

Jason and I buy certain items only organically or locally - such as eggs, milk, cheese, meat and produce (produce - when we are able; in the winter, this poses a bit of a dilemma). When a recipe for homemade instant hot cocoa crossed our desks, we were anxious to try it. It called for dry, also known as instant, milk, and we had never really tried that before - either for drinking purposes or cooking/baking purposes.

Unfortunately, the instant hot cocoa was disgusting, but we have used dry milk for other purposes in the meantime and have truly found a new way to save money. I am not too knowledgeable on the cost of a gallon of regular, non-organic milk at a regular store, but I know a gallon of regular milk at Sam's Club is $2.88. For my cost analysis purposes below, I will use that cost since I know it for sure, but feel free to analyze the costs based on what you know you regularly pay for regular milk.

Sam's Club Milk
$2.88 = 1 gallon
Cost per ounce: $0.023

Instant Milk
$2.16 = 1 gallon
Cost per ounce = $0.017

The cheapest instant milk we have come across, by use of our price book (please note that Wal-Mart prices have not yet been recorded in our price book, so we may end up finding cheaper instant milk there) is at Sam's Club.

What can instant milk be used for? Amy Dacyczyn, author of the Complete Tightwad Gazette, noted that when she ran out of regular milk one day at home, she substituted instant milk at dinner. Her son, not knowing a substitution had been made, smacked his lips and said, "I do love milk!" Ever since that day (which is years and years ago), they have used instant milk for drinking purposes. I have yet to try this, as I have heard it is not so tasty, but there are many other ways you can use instant milk:

  • Macaroni and cheese - Jason and I always prefer homemade mac and cheese, and you can use instant milk in that to substitute for real milk. Also, we typically keep around a few boxes of instant mac and cheese to use for quick lunches or snacks or to supplement dinner, and instant milk is a great substitution there.
  • Muffins, pancakes, french toast, etc. - A few weeks ago, we whipped up 50 (!) oatmeal chocolate chip pancakes. When we saw the recipe called for over 5 cups of milk, we looked at each other in horror. That's a lot of milk! And since we only buy organic milk, this would have been very costly (the cheapest price for organic milk we have found is also at Sam's, and it is about $3 for a half gallon). We pulled the instant milk from the pantry and substituted that in. And let me tell you - those pancakes are tasty! I can't tell at all. In fact, Jason whipped up the batter and when I tried them, I asked if he had decided against using instant milk. The pancakes are that good.
  • Homemade Instant Oatmeal - You can't tell at all that instant milk is used in this. I have to tell you - I was very dubious of instant milk when we first bought it, but I can't stress this enough - you, literally, cannot tell.
  • Anything else you can think of that you cook/bake and calls for milk!
The greatest benefit to using instant milk is that it is shelf stable. You can buy this in bulk at Sam's, or if you don't have a membership there or don't think what you would buy would pay for the membership cost, buy the largest package available at the grocery store. The box we purchased a couple of weeks ago expires in 2013. The milk will absolutely be used up by then. Just make up the milk when you are cooking/baking for your recipe, and you're good to go. I don't know how many times milk has expired in our house. This way, we can more accurately determine how much milk we need for drinking purposes only (about a half gallon a week), and for the rest, we can just pull instant milk from the pantry. We save money and cut back on our wasting. Win win!

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