Last week I stopped into Aldi to see if there were any good deals after a run at the local park since it’s within walking distance. On this particular trip, I found a couple things on special, with one being whole milk for 79 cents a gallon. That’s not a typo. $0.79 as in less than a dollar for a whole gallon!
The catch? The sell-by date was 4 days away. We already had 1.5 gallons at home in the fridge, but I can’t resist a good deal, especially when the regular non-sale price of a gallon of milk at Aldi was $2.15 a gallon. The price of milk at the Walmart across the street? They were selling a gallon for $2.78! Too bad I can’t buy milk from Aldi and return at Walmart and make 63 cents a gallon…
So I grabbed three gallons and headed to the register.
In my household, we drink about two gallons of milk a week, but now we had almost five gallons. To use the milk before it spoils, we’d need to double the amount of milk we drink. Or we can freeze it.
Just like how you can freeze meats, vegetables, and prepared foods so they’d last longer before spoiling, it is perfectly safe to freeze milk so it doesn’t go bad. This is perfect for people who find a good deal at the store or who may be leaving town on vacation or travel but have a lot of leftover milk.
How To Freeze Milk
You can freeze whole milk, low-fat milk, and skim milk all the same. The lower the percentage of milk-fat, the more closely the thawed milk will taste like the original before it went into the freezer.
Milk, like most liquids, will expand when frozen. Do not freeze milk if it is in a glass container. Plastic jugs are safer, but they may still split open in the freezer and you will end up with a huge frozen mess. Plastic is flexible and can expand a bit, but low temperatures could make certain plastics less pliable. To prevent this, pour out a cup of milk so there is extra room in the container.
I took the chance and put the full gallon of milk into the freezer as it came in the plastic jug. The plastic container bulged out a bit after the milk froze, but it survived the process.
The length of time for milk to freeze solid will depend on the size of the container. My gallon of milk froze into a giant block of ice in about two days. Smaller containers will freeze and thaw quicker and are easier to find space for them in a packed freezer.
Most sources say you can leave your milk in the freezer anywhere between two and up to six months. The longer you leave the milk in the freezer, the more likely it will absorb odors and flavors from other foods in the freezer. Over time, milk will also gradually turn yellow. Both these factors might make milk less appealing to some people even though it is still perfectly safe to drink.
Due to milk absorbing odors and flavors while in the freezer, you should avoid freezing milk in paper milk cartons. Save a few clean, plastic water bottles if you need to freeze milk that came in a carton.
How To Thaw Frozen Milk
The best way to thaw milk is to plan ahead and place the milk back in the refrigerator to defrost. In a pinch, you can use a cold water bath.
Unless you froze the milk in smaller-sized containers like water bottles, you should never use heat or leave the milk out at room temperature to defrost. This includes thawing your frozen milk in the microwave or warming it on the stove. Doing so could result in milk defrosting unevenly and spoiling faster.
I moved my gallon of milk from the freezer into the refrigerator set at 40 degrees F and it took just over 3 days to thaw from a solid block of ice to milk with ice slivers suspended in it. I was able to pour milk from the jug after 2 days, but the whole-fat milk was much creamier or richer than normal because the fatty and watery portions of the milk defrosted at different rates.
Using Previously Frozen Milk
According to Eat By Date, unopened milk will last about a week past its sell-by date on the container. Once opened, milk will usually last about 5-7 days before it starts going bad.
Freezing milk won’t turn back its freshness from before it was frozen. You should aim to use your thawed milk within 5-7 days if it was frozen before the date on the milk container.
Should you need to freeze previously opened milk or milk already past its sell-by date, one way to keep track of how much time you had left to use the milk is to write the number of days remaining on the container before putting it in the freezer.
You may notice a slight change in texture of the thawed milk. It might be slightly grainy, chunky, or watery from the milk-fat separating from the liquid.
Before drinking or using previously frozen milk, mix the fats back together with the milk. You can use a blender, whisk, an immersion blender, or food processor to quickly blend the milk for a more consistent texture and get rid of any remaining chunks of ice. As a frugalist, I recommend using muscle power and vigorously shaking the container after making sure the lid is on tight.
I found my milk easily drinkable without much difference from fresh milk. For the finicky eater, previously frozen milk is great for use in cereal, oatmeal, making pancakes, and baking.
By freezing your milk, you can take advantage of buying milk that is nearing expiration and not worry about not being able to finish it in time. Nor will you need to dump out unfinished milk before you go on a trip or risk coming back home to find your old milk moving and trying to escape the fridge.
Have you tried freezing your milk? What were your experiences?