Buying milk?

Buying your favorite brand of milk at a good price makes you feel like a savvy shopper, but two other factors should be considered before you step to the checkout.

As a consumer purchasing milk, you may typically look for the best price of your favorite brand among a variety of options, and then head for the checkout. That system works if you are only focusing on price, but if you don’t identify the milk’s “use-by-date” and consider the size of the container, you may be costing yourself money.

It is no surprise that milk is perishable. This fact places more responsibility on the consumer – to find and read the use-by-date listed on a milk container before hearing to the checkout line. Food manufacturers provide the sell-by-date to help ensure milk, and other foods are purchased by retail stores and consumers during a period of time when the product is safe to consume. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service states that the use-by-date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. If you have ever tasted or smelled spoiled milk, it is a disgusting experience that no one wants to repeat.

Michigan State University Extension warns that consuming any food after the use-by-date has passed is dangerous and could cause a foodborne illness. Don’t ignore the use-by-date and tempt fate. The risk of increased bacteria growth in food after it has exceeded the use-by-date can reach such a high level that you and your family could become very sick, even if the food still smells or looks normal.

Retailers attempt to sell milk and other dairy products well before the use-by-date. To promote a quick sale, especially when the use-by-date is within a few days, prices may be greatly reduced, making these great buys seem too good to pass. However, if you don’t check the use-by-date combined with your weekly schedule to determine if you can finish the item before it expires, you could end up losing money. Milk is a versatile ingredient and can be enjoyed not only as a beverage but in many recipes. Consider what ways you could use the food item to gain full benefit of the reduced price.

In our increasingly busy society it is normal to experience hectic days and weeks, changing schedules. Perishable, refrigerated foods like milk and produce may not be eaten as planned, putting you in the dilemma of what to do with the items. With minimal effort you can freeze food, including milk as a solution. However some foods (including milk) may slightly change texture and taste after being frozen and thawed.

Once food is frozen, the use-by-date is no longer in effect. Frozen food remains frozen, preventing spoilage. It is always wise to label and date all food placed in the freezer. Milk expands when froze, so use a container designed for the zero degree temperatures of a freezer, allowing it to expand. Thaw frozen milk in the refrigerator, not on the kitchen counter.

Shelf stable milk that requires no refrigeration until after it is opened is an alternative for a household that uses minimal milk.

Milk is a nutrient dense food that provides key vitamins, minerals, protein and helps supply daily calcium requirements. If milk is on your weekly shopping list remember to read the use-by-date and grab the gallon, half-gallon or quart size container that best compliments your budget and schedule.