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Friday, September 12, 2014

Rising dairy prices and what can we do about it?

So, on the news this week it was mentioned that dairy prices will continue their upward climb. Aside from acquiring a cow or goat, what can we do to mitigate these rising prices on milk, cheese, butter and cream? Let's put our heads together and see what suggestions come forth. Here's what I intend to do:

  • continue using meat fat for sauteing and making gravy. 
  • I make Yorkshire pudding often to go with soup suppers, so I will now try using some leftover meat fat in place of the oil called for in the recipe. (This doesn't save butter, but spares oil to use in recipes that will save butter.) 
  • I sauteed summer squash in chicken fat the other night and one daughter asked if I used butter. She thought it tasted amazing. 
  • The same daughter asked me if we could use meat fat on toast. I reminded her of the Little House books, where Laura's family used salt pork fat on toast, when their butter ran out. My daughter and I agreed that bacon fat might be good on toast. 
  • I made a savory cornbread on Tuesday, "buttering" the pan with chicken fat, and using chicken fat in place of a butter/oil mix I usually use in the batter. Very good!
  • I think I will also try doing eggs for frittatas and omelets in saved fat.
  • I'll switch to meat fat when buttering dishes for savory casseroles.
  • continue to make butter/oil spread, to stretch the butter that we use for buttering toast and bread.
  • What's the regular price on butter in your area these days? It was about $4.50/lb yesterday at the market. Meanwhile, margarine was on sale for 89 cents/lb. I'm reluctant to go back to margarine, as we avoid trans fats/hydrogenated oils when possible (except Crisco for pie pastry -- makes great pie crust, but maybe I'll consider lard). How do you feel about margarine vs. butter?
  • continue shopping for markdowns on milk
  • regularly compare powdered milk prices to liquid milk 
  • Is powdered milk less per gallon for anyone right now? Every 6 months or so, I compare the price per gallon on non-instant in 55 lb sacks (cheaper than instant per gallon for me) to liquid milk. Back in the 90s a 55 lb bag of non-instant milk was cheaper than liquid milk. That could be the case again this next year.
  • Buy more when I find it on sale. The cash and carry restaurant supply has mozzarella on sale shredded in 5-lb bags for $11.98. I had intended to buy 2 bags, but after hearing this week's dairy price forecast, I switched to 3 bags. I'll be watching for bags of cheddar at the same price. Bags of shredded cheese freeze well, so there should be no problem of mold with stocking up so much.
  • Use cream cheese more often in sandwiches. Over the weekend, I made a simple chive and cream cheese spread for lunch one day. Cream cheese often goes on sale around the fall/winyer holidays and again at Easter, for as little as 88cents/ 8 oz block, but usually right around $1/8 oz. This works out to $1.76/lb to $2.00/lb, less than hard cheese prices by about 50 cents per pound for me. And cream cheese keeps much longer in the fridge, unopened than the sell-by date.
  • Does anyone here freeze cream cheese? I've never tried freezing it, but have heard the texture changes a bit. I'd like to hear of other's experiences with freezing this. Also, can sour cream or cottage cheese be frozen successfully? I sometimes find both of these items marked down because the container is squashed.  And how about freezing block cheese to use on sandwiches later? I freeze the shredded and it works as a melting cheese just fine, but want to know if block cheese gets crumbly when you freeze it, and perhaps it could be frozen in slices?
  • Buying cream when on markdown will be my best money-saving strategy. Whipping cream can be whipped and frozen in mounds, to use later. I have a few frozen mounds of whipped cream in the freezer from last spring. If possible, I'll save these for Thanksgiving. Then hope to find whipping cream on markdown just after Thanksgiving for Christmas and New Year's. 
  • Non-dairy whipped topping is also always an option, and often goes on sale just before the holidays.
  • Has anyone here ever tried the homemade whipped topping recipe that uses gelatin and powdered milk? That's a possibility, too, and non-hydrogenated (healthier than some non-dairy whipped toppings?), calling for gelatin, dry milk, sugar, oil and water. If I try it this fall, I'll let you know what we my family thinks.


  1. Hi Lili--

    Dairy has spiked here, as well, but our prices seem to be better than yours, in many cases. Aldi's butter went from $2.50/pound to $2.99/pound and I was complaining about that--but compared to $4.50, we have a bargain! My hubby and I compare ads on Sundays--he works near a grocery store that I don't have easy access to, and sometimes they do loss leaders on their milk (I think a couple of weeks ago it was $2.88/gal as compared to $3.28 gallon regularly priced). He will usually pick up milk a couple of times during the week of the sale--towards the beginning and the end, to "buy" us another week of milk (we are heavy milk drinkers). I use more oil than butter and almost never buy cream, so those prices don't affect me so much. Not sure I have any great insights to share, but thought you might like the cost comparisons.

    1. Hi Kris,
      What -- do cows give cheaper milk in your area?!! Aldi's regular price on butter sounds fantastic, at $2.99/lb.
      Milk is getting harder and harder to find at a good price. But I keep checking. Walgreens in our area has been putting milk on sale for $2.50/gallon every couple of months. You might want to check local drug store ads for milk in your area.

  2. I freeze cream cheese occasionally when I find it on sale and haven't had any problems. A little of the water may separate out, but not enough to effect it's use whether in cooking or spreading.

    Your mention of cornbread reminded me that when I was growing up, we always used bacon grease in the mix and in the pan, and it was really good. I don't do that much any more. Maybe that's why I can take or leave corn bread these days. :)

    1. Hi live and learn,
      Thank you! That's good to know about freezing cream cheese. I've always been unsure about freezing it. I have several packages from Easter, and will freeze some for this winter's use.

      Bacon fat in cornbread would be yummy, and a good way to use up leftover bacon fat. I did grease the corn bread pan with chicken fat the other night, instead of butter. Worked fine.

  3. Timely post! I did my weekly trips to Kroger and WalMart (the only two options for grocery shopping in my town) yesterday and noticed the dairy spikes.

    Milk was $3.69/gallon at Kroger and $3.29/gallon at WalMart. I will start watching the drug store ads again for milk sales and continue to look for the Manager's Special markdowns at Kroger.

    I did find a somewhat better deal on butter yesterday. By the 1-pound package, WalMart had the Great Value butter for $4.69/pound. Right beside the 1-pound packages, they had a special value 2-pound package for $5.98. I picked up one of those value packages. It's not as great as the $2.00 or less per pounds I got before Easter, but definitely the best I've seen lately. Now, I'm wondering if I should buy some more of those value packages to stock up a little. I'm wondering if the pre-holiday sales on butter will bet better. I'm hoping...

    Thanks for all of the tips!


    1. Hi Angie,
      I do think there will be sales on butter again this fall, but the price may be up, maybe $2.19/lb or slightly more, and definitely with limits. The limits might require a store coupon.

      Thanks for the tip on WalMart's 2-lb special value pack of butter at $5.98 (under $3/lb, not too bad). I'll keep that in mind.

  4. If you're in an area with Fred Meyer, check their ad this Sunday. Ronda left a comment yesterday about their upcoming anniversary sale, on my facebook page. Butter is expected to be $2/lb for the next week. There will probably be limits, and a store coupon needed. But they do keep a generous stack of flyers at the door of my store, so I'll be making several trips throughout the week, as my errands bring me near that store.

  5. dear lili,
    the price for butter is 250 gramm 1,10 us dollar,
    1 liter milk 1,5% fat....0,84 Us Dollar
    200ml whipped cream/schlagsahne cost 0,63
    Margarine 500gramm cost 0,84 Us Dollar
    shredded Mozzarella cheese cost in my country more.
    but other prices are rising meat,turkey and chicken cost more as last year
    i buy often markdowned meat,milk and chicken.
    best wishes,
    love and hugs regina

    1. Hi Regina,
      Okay, so I had to do the conversion -- 250 grams of butter is a little over a 1/2 pound, so you're paying the equivalent of about $1.99/lb for butter, or so, if I did the math right. That's actually not too bad. And your milk is roughly $3.17/gallon (again if I'm figuring this right).

      Everything is relative, however. And food is definitely more expensive this year over last. Looking for the markdowns is a great way to keep your grocery spending down.

  6. I freeze cream cheese all the time. Does not effect at all if used in dishes. If used alone it is more spreadable- a plus to me! Angela

    1. Hi Angela,
      Oh that's good to know. Most of the time, we just use the cream cheese as a spread, anyway. Thanks for the input!

  7. Lili,
    Here's a post I did about freezing cheese:
    I hope it helps.
    I second your comment about the longevity of cream cheese I always stock up when it's a bargain price and have used it nearly a year after purchase w/o any problems.

    1. Thanks, frugal spinster!
      I wondered if the sliced cheese would change in texture. As you said, it's best for melting, so would be great for toasted cheese sandwiches, but maybe more crumbly in a cold cheese sandwich.
      Great tip on having the deli slice a block of cheese!

  8. Very interesting. I can get milk here for $1.79/gallon at the Save-a-Lot store, but since it goes on sale for $1.99/gallon every few weeks at King Soopers (Kroger) I usually don't bother with the extra trip. (I'm back to buying milk again since you taught me how to freeze it.)

    I haven't priced butter lately, but last time I bought it - a month ago or so, I think I paid $2.99/lb. And I got cheese at King Soopers today for $3/lb on sale. Perhaps it was a good thing I stocked up a bit!

    I love your ideas for using animal fat in place of butter - my only butter saving suggestion is for baking where I often substitute applesauce or ground zucchini for a part of the butter or oil in the recipe.

    And I don't eat dry cereal anymore, but back when I did, I would use fruit juice in place of milk because of my lactose intolerance. It tasted remarkably good!

    Oh... and one other idea for recipes that call for cheese - you can often get some of the cheesy flavor by adding a few spoonfuls of nutritional yeast. You do have to be a bit careful though since the stuff packs a wallop in terms of B vitamins so you can end up giving yourself a niacin flush if you use too much!

    And... I've frozen every kind of cheese imaginable and never had a problem with it. Sometimes block cheeses come out a little bit crumbly, but not enough to make it unworkable for a sandwich - Of course I usually stick my sandwiches in the microwave for a few seconds to partially melt the cheese because it helps everything stick together, so that could be masking the crumbliness. You might want to experiment with small quantities before you go all out.

    1. HI Cat,
      You have bargain cows in your area, too! $1.79 is an amazing price for milk these days.

      I've never tried juice on cereal, but will give it a try on my granola sometime. I usually use rice or soy milk. And I'll have to get back to using fruit or vegetable purees in baking. Thanks for the reminder!

      I've never used nutritional yeast. I've heard some people like it on popcorn. But thanks for the warning on using too much.

      I've got 1 large block of cheese, unopened, left, and am still figuring how best to store it. I may try slicing and freezing most of it. I can buy shredded cheese for much less per pound than block cheese. So I want to save this block to use in sandwiches, sliced, and use pre-shredded cheese for cooking, melting. Thanks for your input.

    2. If you slice it before you freeze it, you might want to put a small piece of parchment or waxed paper between each slice like they do with deli cheeses - in my experience the time it's most likely to crumble is when you're pulling a slice off of the bunch. Good luck!

    3. Thanks, Cat. That's what I'll do!

  9. Wow! I can't imagine that price for butter. We're less than $3 a pound, not by a lot, but still not over yet. Milk is getting higher and my alternative is to use powdered milk for all baking, etc.

    I do freeze cream cheese with no major noticeable difference.

    I've not tried the homemade topping, but I'm looking forward to how you like it.

    1. Hi Shara,
      I know! Butter prices are so high right now. It does make me think twice about which cookies I choose to bake each week -- deciding mostly on butter content, right now!

  10. I've noticed dairy prices going up here too. Yogurt has become prohibitively expensive so I've finally cracked making my own from UHT milk. In the process I've realised I should use UHT for things like pancakes, yorkshire puds, sauces etc as this would be cheaper. And this year my days off during the week finally coincide with our weekly market where the cheese is a really good price. I can get nearly a kilo of cheddar for £5 which is an excellent price. Trouble is the family seem to eat more if there's a big block available so I reckon I need to cut it up into smaller chunks and freeze it (thanks Cat for the helpful tips on freezing).

    1. Hi Sarah,
      That's the issue I'm dealing with. With a large block of cheese, as soon as I open it, it's as good as gone. Slicing and freezing might make it last a lot longer. And here, I can buy shredded cheese for a lot less than block cheese, per pound. But the shredded works best for cooking/melting, and won't stay in a cold sandwich, unless melted.

      Wow! That's great on the homemade yogurt! I've found that we actually prefer homemade over commercial yogurt, now. Better flavor in the plain yogurt, and we can sweeten it as we like, and not have to have the sickly sweet stuff from the store.

  11. Lili
    A timely post, as dairy prices are rising here in CT as well, just not as high as yours. I am even seeing this at the affordable stores, such as Aldi's. Milk jumped 50 cents, their sliced cheeses (not Amer but rather, Cheddar, Swiss etc) jumped from $1.79 to $1.99 and is now $2.19/7-8 oz pkg. A few years back, I moved my price point from $3 to $4/lb and am fighting to keep it at $4. One tip: check at the local deli counter for "cheese ends." I was at Shoprite just yesterday and I got several ends: Provolone, Mozzarella, Pepper Jack Colby, Munster, Alpine Lace Swiss-all at the bargain price of $2.79/lb! I had DS shred it for me (due to my hands) and it's now frozen for future use. I am also reducing the amounts used in recipes to save as well. I compared my source for dry milk-it's up to $15.99/5 gallon equivalent box. I usually pay $10. I find that I am using more stick margarine in baking, where flavor won't be impaired, and I've always used reserved animal fats in what little frying i do.

    1. Hi Carol,
      Thanks for the tip -- I will check the deli for ends. That would be a great way to buy the types of cheeses that I can't buy shredded through the restaurant supply, like Swiss.

      I did think of you and how you cook when I started using meat fats. And that has given me more confidence in using the fats that I'm just not as fond of, but have plenty of, like turkey fat. I made a Yorkshire pudding using turkey fat, the other night, and it was actually very good.

  12. I have a couple of questions. I hope you will pardon if they seem ridiculously stupid ones and I apologize in advance if they are. I bought 6 lbs of ground beef at 2.99 lb here (special price nowadays, sadly) and cooked 5 lbs in the slow cooker to portion out and freeze. I used a fine mesh strainer to press out as much grease as possible before portioning into ziploc freezer bags and left the grease/liquid in the crockpot overnight as it was still pretty hot. This just happened to be the other night when we had record breaking cold temps and it was 64 degrees inside when I got up in the morning. The fat from the ground beef had solidified in the crockpot so I scraped it off and put it in a container. Is this fat something I can cook with or should I throw it out? Is this the type of fat you were speaking about in the above article? When I bake chicken should I save the grease that is in the bottom of the pan for cooking? Also the liquid under the fat had congealed like gelatin. Again, can I use that in soup or is that something to throw out.

    1. Hi KCMama,
      Yes, the fat from cooking the ground beef is what Ive been using to make a ground beef gravy. This kind of fat is usually not caramelized much, so it has little flavor of it's own, but I use it along with herbs like thyme and oregano, plus some onion and soy sauce and water to make a decent gravy for a weekday dinner of mashed potatoes, or over biscuits/bread.

      With the chicken fat and drippings, I've been using the fat in cooking. I pour off the fat, save in a container in the freezer and use to saute veggies or add to cornbread. And the dark liquid underneath the fat (that's congealed) is delicious used in soups, sauces and gravies, and usually what one might use to make a pan gravy right after roasting the chicken.

      MY new motto is "waste nothing". And that's my attempt with the meat fat/drippings. Hope I answered your questions. And no, there are never any stupid questions, just opportunities to learn more.

  13. Here the prices are rising too. Store bought milk is now up to 60-65 euro cent per liter. I buy raw milk at my farmer for 40 euro cent per liter. But sad is that my children don't like the taste of raw milk. I love my raw milk and I buy most of the times 20 liter per week. I skim of the milk and make butter and have butter milk left or I make sour cream from the cream. I then make yogurt, gouda cheese and ricotta. All for only 8 euros. I only go once a week to the farmer so I don't have fresh milk all week.
    I use sunflower oil for some baking recipes where it requires butter and I make soy milk with my soy milk maker. Saves a lot of money and I just use it in recipes where it asks for milk. Nice is that you have some okara left from soy milk making which makes lovely vegetarian burgers.

    1. Hi Maria,
      when I was very little, I remember my mother skimming the cream off the top of the bottle of milk. She would pour this cream into a small pitcher and use it in cooking, or for coffee. You can't do that with today's homogenized milk.

      Interesting about the soy milk maker. I didn't know there was such a thing. Years ago, I saw a woman give a demonstration on making soy milk in a home kitchen. Very interesting. I make rice milk for cooking, when my supply of regular milk is low. And I can use the leftover rice "pulp" for a nice cream of rice breakfast cereal. (I'm almost out of regular milk right now and will have to make rice milk this week, for recipes.)

  14. Prices are insane everywhere! I am thankful we have an Aldi close to us and I can buy their butter and cheese. Even though they are rising also they are nowhere near the 4.58 a pound at my closest market.

    Because I had never heard of making the fake whipped topping I had to try it. I found the recipe online and read rave reviews about it. For the record I abhor Cool Whip so the fact that it does not taste like it is a bonus to me. I thought it tasted more like sweetened whipped cream. The texture was a little different though. It has a slight oily feel, but it is not unpleasant. The day I made it, it was light and fluffy. I put the remainder in a covered bowl in the refrigerator and on day 2 the gelatin was pronounced. The "feel" was somewhere between whipped topping and panna cotta. It would still kind of hold its shape in a dollop but it was a heavier denser dollop. All in all it was not a bad product, much tastier than Cool Whip, but needs to be consumed the same time it is made. I will do it again but only make half as much

    1. Thank you, Anne, for the feedback on making the whipped topping. I first saw that recipe in a Tightwad Gazette book, many years ago, and had always wanted t try it. This may be the year I make it, if dairy prices keep going up and I can't find whipping cream at a decent price!

  15. Lili,

    I prefer shortening over lard for pie crust, as the lard gives it more of a meaty taste, but lard is less expensive. Lard will work fine for things like dumplings and meat pies (like chicken pot pie). For me, it's just a matter of taste, but if I have to I will use lard in sweet pies.

    I buy Gold N Soft spreadable margarine. It doesn't have trans-fats and often goes on sale in our area. Winco has the best price in the 3 pound container, and Walmart has the second best price for the same size. There are sometimes coupons for this brand (both printable and in the ads) and it goes on sale regularly.

    I reserve butter for baking, have switched to shortening for pie crust (instead of butter, since shortening is cheaper).

    Right now powdered milk is about 30-50 cents more per gallon than I pay for fresh whole milk (but of course it is skim). I believe (without pulling out the receipt and checking) that it turned out to be $3.58 a gallon with the boxed Kroger brand. Now, it would be cheaper to buy in bulk, but I cannot allot $150 to milk in one month at this point in my budget. I bought powdered milk anyway, because of the rising dairy prices, but just two boxes.

    I have kept cream cheese unopened in the fridge for over a year (which is about 6 months past the expiration date) and it was fine. I must have missed two containers recently; they were twice as old as that and still fine, as they were unopened. I like your idea of using cream cheese in sandwiches, but right now that would be an addition to our sandwiches; I usually make them without cheese and with thinly sliced meat and lettuce from the garden, or tomatoes (depending on the season).

    Today I was making something that called for powdered milk. I measured out the water, planning to add the milk afterwards, like I usually do. I had a tiny helper and I wanted to make sure she didn't spill while mixing, and because I was watching her, I forgot to add the milk powder. The recipe still tasted just fine. I have used less powdered milk but the full amount of water in recipes before (baking recipes). I may continue doing this, and sometimes just using water, to lower the milk expense.

    1. HI Brandy,
      Thank you for your feedback. Interesting about the "meaty" flavor with lard in pie crust. I will keep that in mind. It would work for some pastry, but maybe not for others.

      So, I've been checking dry milk prices in every store I go. This week, Fred Meyer has boxes of instant on sale for what looked like about $3 (a little over, but I don't remember exactly) per gallon. Liquid milk is regular priced around $3.50/gallon here. So, in our area, if someone couldn't find liquid milk on sale or markdown someplace, the powdered would be a price-effective alternative.

      I have found the exact same thing with baking/cooking. I'll forget to add what I thought was a key ingredient, only to discover it turned out well enough for our family's consumption. I've made pancakes with half milk/half water, biscuits with whey from straining yogurt, in place of milk, oil in drop biscuits instead of butter/shortening, forgotten to add salt, etc.

      Good to know that the cream cheese does keep far longer than the sell-by date. I have enough packages left from last Easter that I may not need to buy any this fall.


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