You might have noticed in the last few months that your grocery bill is a little higher than usual. Due to inflation, grocery stores are hiking prices of staples including produce, meat, and dairy products.
Even at Costco, for example, prices are up between 2.5% and 3.5%, Chief Financial Officer Richard Galanti said on an earnings call, according to GroceryDive.com.
The price of milk specifically has shot up over 18%, according to BLS data. In May, a gallon of whole milk was $3.50 on average. In May 2019 it was $2.96.
Milk is one of the "more common" food items that get thrown away, says Andrea Collins, sustainable food systems specialist at the National Resources Defense Council. "About 20% of milk in the United States never gets consumed," she says. Factor in inflation, and it becomes even more important to waste as little as possible.
Here are four expert tips on how to properly store and save milk, so you're not literally pouring money down the drain.
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 a long time. That's why Agatha Achindu, founder of toddler food company Yummy Spoonfuls, told Grow that her freezer is her "best friend," especially for perishables 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 cube trays and using the frozen cubes in iced coffees. You can also put defrosted milk in oatmeal.
The reason it lasts longer isn't simply because it is organic, according to Scientific American, but because organic milk producers use a different process, called ultrahigh 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 gallon of store-brand milk at Target, it may only cost $3.19, but if you're not going to drink all that milk in the next 4 to 6 days, you could end up throwing out a fair chunk of it and have to buy another jug for $3.19 within the week.
If you buy a gallon of Great Value organic milk, it could set you back $7 but last you nearly a month.
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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