Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Freezing Milk to Save Money and Reduce Food Waste


Why freeze milk?

  • to stock-up on sale-priced or marked down milk, yet not have it spoil. 
  • to divide a too-large container of milk into smaller portions that can be consumed before souring. So, if you're a household of one, you can buy a gallon of milk, and save money. Simply divide the gallon into weekly-sized portions and freeze all but one portion.
  • in order to shop less often (once-a-month), but always have milk on hand. This is something I do. I buy a month's worth of milk at a time (9 gallons or more). I take advantage of my discounts, sales, and coupons on a single day, then I don't have to think about buying milk again until the next month.
  • to save milk that is near its sell-by date


Can you refreeze milk (that is, freeze, thaw, then freeze again)?

The answer is YES. The taste and texture may be affected (milk may pick up additional "freezer" tastes or milk solids may form small particles). However, milk will not become toxic or make one sick simply because it was frozen twice, IF you have followed these basic rules for thawing the milk in the first place:

  • thaw the frozen milk in the refrigerator, not on the counter. According to the USDA, "once food is thawed in the refrigerator, it is safe to refreeze it without cooking;"
  • do not refreeze milk (or any perishable, previously frozen food) that has been left at room temperature for longer than 2 hours (1 hour if room temp = 90 degrees or more);
  • refreeze the thawed milk within 3 to 4 days of complete thawing.
  • BEST PRACTICE -- refreeze milk in 1 cup portions, to be used in cooked items once thawed, such as cream or cheese sauce, waffles/pancakes, muffins, cakes, breads, and casseroles. 
However, since I know that we all sometimes have our doubts about salvaging a food, this is what I do: if I have previously frozen milk that is already beginning to sour just a bit, I make a large batch of pancakes or quick bread and freeze those items. 


How to freeze milk
As a liquid, milk expands during freezing. To allow for this, pour about 1/8th of the milk off into another container (for freezing or consuming soon), cap the container of milk, and freeze. For a gallon of milk, I pour off about 2 cups of milk. Most of the time, I simply pour this excess milk into the currently-in-use container. When I have more milk that we can use, but I still want to freeze some, I pour the excess milk into other plastic containers, mark with contents/date on lid, and freeze.

How long does milk keep frozen?
For best taste and appearance, use frozen milk within about 6 months. It will still be "safe" to consume after 6 months, but may have more taste issues. I use this "older" milk in cooking with no problems.

Can you freeze milk to use for making yogurt?
Yes, I do this routinely. I use whole milk (4% milkfat) for making yogurt. I make yogurt 3 times per month. The first 2 times are usually within the sell-by date on the gallons that I buy at the beginning of the month. The last batch of yogurt is usually made with frozen, then thawed milk. I pour about 2 cups of a gallon of milk into a plastic container, then mark both the gallon jug and extra container "for yogurt, 1 of 2." This lets the family know that this milk is specifically for yogurt-making, and lets me know that I should be looking for 2 containers of milk to equal 1 gallon. If I am freezing more than 1 gallon of milk for making yogurt, I mark the containers like this: "for yogurt, 1 of 2A" or "1 of 2B." Then I can be certain that I am using a full gallon of milk for each batch.


I'm sharing all of this today because I realized this morning that I only shop for milk once per month. In our house, there is extremely little chance that anyone will have to dash out to pick up milk at the last minute. And on top of that, I was able to save a lot of money in our grocery budget this month because I found gallons of milk marked down to $1.19. I was able to stock up on way more than could be used before the sell-by date because I planned on freezing the milk. This is just a small part of how I save money on groceries. I realize that frozen milk does not appeal to everyone. In fact, for those with texture sensitivities, thawed milk may not work. Not always, but sometimes frozen milk will develop small particles of solids that some people really don't like. And I get that. Freezing milk in a pinch can still work even in these cases, by freezing milk in 1 cup portions solely for the purpose of using this milk in cooking or baking, where the texture of the liquid milk will not matter.

Anyway, I hope this is helpful to someone.

references: 

6 comments:

live and learn said...

I have found the more fat in the milk the more texture problems there are when freezing. Speaking of fat in milk, I haven't bought whole milk in a long time. It used to have 3.5% fat in it. Is that up to 4% now?

ruthie said...

I have frozen milk before, but it seems that when I freeze the gallon size, I can't seem to get them thawed by the time we use them - then there is a frozen chunk of ice in the middle. How long do you thaw it in the refrigerator?

Lili said...

I think you're right, live and learn. In our house, we've just always called it 4%.
The interesting thing about freezing whole milk for making yogurt -- even if there is more separation in freezing/thawing with 4% (3.5%), when you make yogurt with it, there is absolutely no detectable difference in the final product in comparison to yogurt made with "fresh" milk.

Lili said...

Hi Ruthie,
A gallon of milk takes about 5 days to a week to almost fully thaw in my fridge. I shake it up from time to time, to break up that block of ice. But even then, there is still some slushy stuff in there. So, I shake it up really good, pour whatever milk we need for that moment, and let that portion finish thawing on the counter. It's cooked with or consumed within an hour, so still safe. Although, my kids often drank the slushy milk as kids and actually liked that for drinking, not so much for pouring over cereal (kind of weird to have slushy milk in your Wheaties). With cooking, it's no issue.

But if this is still a problem for you, you could freeze milk in half-gallon amounts, or, "decant" a day's worth of slushy milk in the morning, thaw it in the microwave briefly, then use that milk for the day. If I forget to get a gallon of milk out of the freezer in time to use, or we go through milk more quickly than anticipated so the frozen milk hasn't thawed, I use the microwave to partially thaw a frozen gallon of milk. I make sure the lid is on tight, then put the gallon in the microwave on its side and thaw at 30% power for a couple of minutes. And I have been known to partially thaw milk on the counter for an hour or 2, to get the thawing started. Supposedly, it's safe to thaw milk in a cold water bath, like is recommended for thawing whole frozen turkeys.

Hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

I've been freezing milk for years also.I buy whole milk and then dilute it half and half with water and then freeze. It actually tastes better than buying the store bought 1% milk because it still has the butter fat in it,it's more like 2% in texture and great for drinking and cooking.We also get lots of calcium from fish,veg,yogurt & cheese.

Lili said...

Anonymous said...
I've been freezing milk for years also.I buy whole milk and then dilute it half and half with water and then freeze. It actually tastes better than buying the store bought 1% milk because it still has the butter fat in it,it's more like 2% in texture and great for drinking and cooking.We also get lots of calcium from fish,veg,yogurt & cheese.


I do this, too, sort of, in a pinch. When we're very low on milk, and I have some whole milk, I'll stretch what is left with water to use for drinking. No one in my family seems to notice when I water down whole milk, and doing this often gets us through until the next shopping day.