Americans toss out almost a pound of food per day, according to a 2018 study, and one of the "more common" products that get chucked is milk, says Andrea Collins, sustainable food systems specialist at the National Resource Defense Council.
"About 20% of milk in the United States never gets consumed," she says. All of that wasted milk results in billions of dollars lost.
In 2018 Americans purchased 1,924,800,000 billion gallons of whole milk, according to the USDA. The average price of a gallon of milk in 2018 was $2.90, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. By pouring one-fifth of that milk down the drain, consumers were losing more than $1.1 billion.
If you're constantly throwing away unfinished, expired jugs of milk, consider these four expert-approved tips that can save you money and milk.
Expiration dates are not federally mandated, meaning manufacturers can put any date on their products. And while the USDA does have guidelines in order to differentiate between use by, sell by, and best by, none of these definitions indicate how safe it is to eat the labeled food.
"If it tastes and smells fine, it's perfectly fine to eat," consumer savings expert Andrea Woroch told Grow.
Collins agrees that using your senses can save you from throwing out perfectly good milk, and that the smell and taste of something is often a better indicator of freshness than the date on the package.
Freezing is a good way to salvage lots of food that typically doesn't last long. That's why Agatha Achindu, founder of toddler food company Yummy Spoonfuls, told Grow that her freezer is her "best friend," especially for things like blueberries, which can range from $2 to $8 a pint at different times of the year.
The same goes for dairy. "A lot of people don't know milk can be frozen," Collins says. Freezing and thawing your milk may change its texture, according to Dairy Council of California, so you may want to use it as an ingredient rather than just drink it alone. Collins suggests putting soon-to-be expired milk in ice cubes and using it in iced coffees. You can also put it in oatmeal.
The reason organic milk lasts longer isn't simply because it is organic, according to Scientific American. It is because organic milk producers use a different process, called ultra-high temperature (UHT) processing.
Milk that is UHT treated is heated to 280 degrees Fahrenheit for 2 to 4 seconds, which kills any bacteria in it. Producers use this process because organic milk usually travels farther to get on store shelves since fewer grocery stores carry it, so it has to last longer. Regular milk is only processed to last 4 to 6 days after it is put on shelves.
This could end up saving you money. For example, if you buy a Great Value gallon of milk from Walmart, it will only cost $3.89. But if you're not going to drink all that milk in the next 4 to 6 days, you will end up throwing out a fair chunk of it and have to buy another jug for $3.89. But, if you buy a gallon of Great Value organic milk for $5.89, it can last for 3 to 4 weeks. Buying a pricier gallon of organic milk that will last you a month costs less than buying two gallons of regular milk, so you're saving more with the upfront investment.
Many people keep their milk on the front-door shelf of their fridge. This, Collins says, could be causing it to spoil quicker. "Make sure that your refrigerator is cool and kept at below 40 degrees, and store your milk in the part of your fridge that is cooler," she says. "That would be in the back of the fridge."
Also, adhere to simple but easy to forget rules. For example, don't leave your milk in the back of your car too long after you buy it, and don't leave it on the counter between uses.
Follow these tips and you can save money — and eliminate the guilt of throwing out half-a-gallon of spoiled milk.
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