Freeze, Cook, Bake: 3 Ways to Use Milk Before It Expires

It’s happened to all of us  ̶  you open the refrigerator door, grab the milk to top your cereal, look at the date stamped on the front and realize your carton expired yesterday. Do you throw out the remaining milk? Is it still safe to drink?  

One very important thing to remember is that the date stamped on the carton is a sell-by date. Sell-by dates tell stores when specific product should be moved off the shelf. If your milk is properly stored (on the bottom shelf of your fridge, at 35-40 degrees Fahrenheit), it will still be good for up to one week past the sell-by date. 

When in doubt, give your carton the “sniff test.” If your milk doesn’t smell, no need to waste what’s left! Studies estimate nearly 30% of our food supply is wasted; a big factor contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. So, what can you do with that milk to avoid wasting it?

Freeze It
Milk can be frozen for up to three months. Before freezing milk in the carton, just make sure to leave a half-inch space at the top, because the milk will expand as it freezes. You can also freeze milk in ice cube molds for easier access; using smaller portions means you can thaw out the exact amount needed when cooking. It’s important to note that freezing milk often causes the milk to separate, which changes the texture. This doesn’t change the safety; you can still drink your thawed milk straight from a glass (we recommend shaking or stirring it first). However, you might find it best for use in baking, cooking or smoothie recipes. 

Cook With It
If you want to use your milk quickly without freezing it, try some fun new recipes. Overnight oats can be made into almost any flavor, sweet or savory. They make a quick and easy on-the-go breakfast and are a great way to pack in some extra protein. You can also make delicious smoothies with fresh or frozen milk – a fun (and easy) way for your kids to get essential nutrients without the fuss. 

Bake With It
While baking, you can substitute milk for water in many box mixes for cakes, muffins, bread, etc. Or try these homemade Apple-Oat Muffins. Also, try mixing up a batch of waffles or pancakes and freeze the finished products for a quick breakfast or an easy “breakfast for dinner” night. 

Just because that expiration date is quickly approaching, doesn’t mean you have to pour your milk (and your money) down the drain. Taking small steps to eliminate food waste in our homes can help us all create a more sustainable world. 

For more ideas on how to use milk, check out our 20 Ways to Use Milk fact sheet. You can also find more recipes here. If you’d like more information on food waste, check out the National Dairy Council’s Honor the Harvest page.

By Amanda Ford, MS, RDN, LD

Amanda is a registered dietitian nutritionist who loves teaching others about the relationship between nutrition and health. Amanda has developed and lead numerous classes and seminars on nutrition and disease prevention. When she is not working, Amanda loves to spend time with her young daughter, her husband and her bulldog. Learn more about Amanda. 

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