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An easy way to save on milk

When you see a great price, buy extra and freeze it -- with one important modification.

By Donna_Freedman Apr 15, 2011 10:24AM

As a rule I don't eat cold cereal. But recently a coupon/store rebate deal made it worth my while: $3.67 for 10 boxes of corn and rice cereals, with vouchers for three gallons of milk printing out at the cash register.

One reason I don't usually eat the stuff is that it needs a fair amount of milk, versus the mere splash that I use on my daily bowl of oatmeal. Well, this cereal brought its own milk to the dance.

However, there was a slight problem.  Post continues after video.

The milk vouchers expired in less than two weeks. Even if I could eat 10 boxes of cereal in that amount of time (and I couldn't), I knew there would be tons of milk left over that I couldn't use before it spoiled.

Fortunately, I also knew that milk can be frozen. That's an option more people should consider whenever they find a good deal on moo juice, since dairy prices rose 15% in March and are expected to keep climbing.

Milk expands as it freezes, so you need to put it into new containers or make some room in the original one. According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, wide-mouthed containers need a half-inch of headspace for pints and one inch of space for quarts. Narrow-mouthed containers of either size need 1½ inches of room to expand. If you want to freeze milk in the original jug, remove a cup and a half first.

I don't use much milk, so I poured the three gallons into a bunch of canning jars (leaving those spaces) and left some milk in the original jugs as well. I'm set for quite a while.

Don't have canning jars? Repurpose another container. I've frozen milk in pickle jars and also in soft-margarine and cream-cheese tubs.

Yeah, but how does it taste?

For the past few years I used nonfat dried milk; my dad sent me a case of the stuff as a gift. It's all but gone, which is why I decided to jump on this cereal-milk deal. I chose whole milk, because I can stretch it by adding an equal amount of water. The result is good enough for cereal and cooking.

It's important to note, however, that I'm also diluting the vitamins and calcium. I would not do this if I had kids at home. And if you decide to do it for yourself, be sure you're getting calcium from other food sources.
A word of caution: When milk freezes it looks yellowish and, frankly, a little bit gross. It reverts back to normal when it thaws. You'll need to stir it before using, though, because it may have separated a bit during freezing.

The National Center for Home Food Preservation notes that the texture of the milk may change. Some people think thawed milk doesn't have the same mouth feel. I've never noticed this -- but then again, I'm not drinking the stuff by the glass.

If you don't like the consistency (or if a spouse or kid complains), then just use it for cooking. You could also sneak some of it into the next partially used gallon in the fridge and see if anyone notices. I bet no one will.

The next time you see a great price on milk, freeze some. Check the "reduced for quick sale" section each time you shop; earlier this year I got a gallon for 99 cents. Since it would have less shelf life, you might want to freeze it in smaller quantities.

Just don't forget to leave that headspace, lest the container break and leak all over the interior of the freezer.What a mess that would be to clean up, to say nothing of the loss of a perfectly good canning jar.

MSN Money columnist Donna Freedman blogs at Smart Spending and Surviving and Thriving.

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