10 December 2013

Fresh Milk v Powdered Milk

I wrote a few weeks ago that I prefer to use fresh milk for drinking, coffee and on our cereals, rather than powdered, although I use powdered milk for baking and UHT when we go camping. And what a can of worms that opened!

It seems the fresh v powdered milk debate is a very emotional one, I had no idea! There are the die-hard fresh milk drinkers who won't even consider powdered milk. Then there are the confirmed powdered milk drinkers who believe they are real Cheapskates because generally powdered milk is cheaper than fresh and then the fanatical powdered milk drinkers who like saving money and believe they are doing the green thing and being kind to the environment.

Here's my take on the topic.

I buy 9 litres of fresh milk each week. Where I buy it from depends on where I take Mum shopping - when she shops on a Thursday I do our fresh food top up. Sometimes it's Aldi, other times it's Coles or Woolworths and depending on her mood and what's on her list it could be the local IGA or Foodworks. When it comes to fresh milk I'm not brand or store loyal. The cost is between $8.64 and $12 a week. That cost is built into our food budget (although I much prefer the weeks it's $8.64).

In an ideal world we'd have a house cow and I could have all the truly fresh, raw milk I want and not have to buy it from a supermarket. Enough for milk, pure, thick cream, rich butter and even cheeses. Wouldn't that be wonderful?

We don't live in an ideal world (and our council has strict rules about keeping livestock on a suburban block - go figure!) so I have to buy our fresh milk from the supermarket. And when it comes to powdered milk I usually buy it from Aldi when I do my six monthly shop. Aldi powdered milk is the cheapest I've found locally. And it tastes OK if you have to use it in coffee or on cereal.

I use powdered milk in all baking. I use powdered milk to make custards and sauces. I use powdered milk to make MOO evaporated and condensed milk (and save a fortune too!). I use powdered milk to make up cake mixes, scone mixes, damper mixes and pancake mixes to save time in the kitchen and to take camping with us. I use powdered milk to make up Hot Chocolate Drink Mix. Powdered milk certainly has a place in my kitchen.

Which had me thinking about just how green powdered milk really is (and OK, some of your comments put a bug in my ear too).  I've been looking and searching and I haven't really come across anything that will say definitely one way or the other whether using powdered milk is environmentally friendly.

Personally I think powdered milk has to be a greener option than fresh milk even though it takes a considerable amount of energy to make it, especially if that energy comes from a renewable resource such as wind or solar power (and I've not been able to find that information either).

For a start there's far less packaging. My nine litres a week comes in three plastic bottles with plastic lids and a plastic label. Sometimes I can repurpose them for other uses but more often than not they are rinsed over the pot plants (the dregs of milk are a great fertiliser for your pot plants), squashed and put into the recycle bin. My one kilo packet of powdered milk comes in a foil packet, that can be folded flat and put into the bin or it can be cut into ribbons and used to make bows for presents or to tie plants in the garden before finally going in the bin.

Then there is the transport problem. Powdered milk is compact - you can get a lot more packets of powdered milk on a truck than you can fresh milk in bottles. One packet of powdered milk is the equivalent of between 7 and 10 litres of fresh milk (depending on the brand and the strength you make it up), a huge difference in transport costs and fuel for fresh milk.

Which reminds me of another point: powdered milk has a long shelf life, it doesn't require refrigeration until it is made up into a liquid. It can be stored in a warehouse rather than a giant fridge and put on a regular semi-trailer instead of a refrigerated van. More energy savings to be had there.

And finally, a one kilo packet of powdered milk from Aldi currently costs $5.99 and officially makes up seven litres - that's 85 cents a litre, not a huge saving on the fresh milk at 96 cents a litre but over a year it adds up to $51.48, almost a week's grocery money.

You can save more by stretching it. I don't make it up to full strength, getting 10 litres from a one kilo packet and bringing the price down to 60 cents a litre or a saving over the year of $168.48.

If you've given up using powdered milk to replace fresh milk but would like to try again to save a little money try these tips:

1. Find a glass bottle to store it in.

2. Use cold water to make it up and whisk it rather than stir so there are absolutely no lumps.

3. Let it chill for 24 hours before drinking it, adding it to cereal or putting it in your tea or coffee. When it has time to thoroughly chill and settle it tastes almost the same (I just can't say it's the same) as fresh milk.

I'll continue to buy fresh milk (and raw milk when I can get it). We like it and it is covered by our food budget. I'll also continue to use powdered milk for baking and cooking, for the convenience and the saving.

If you're not sure - try powdered milk for a couple of weeks and see what you think. As with all things when living the Cheapskates way, if you don't like it you can always go back to fresh milk. And if you do like it you can count your savings.


  1. This is a good reminder of something i used to do and had forgotten about. I'd make up milk form powdered skim and mix it with an equal amount of fresh, whole milk. Very difficult to pick the difference & cheaper than the lower fat milk at the supermarket. Can't stand skim milk by itself...it's like barely flavoured water :P

  2. John in MelbourneMonday, January 27, 2014

    Whilst I would be happy to use powdered milk in cakes etc where it doesn't matter, I will never use it on cereal or in my tea. If things ever got so bad I couldn't have fresh milk, I would eliminate something else first.

    As for that UHT muck, that is also very high on my list of no-no's. I cannot drink it as it make me very ill. I don't know why. It's a big problem when I go to Singapore and Malaysia, as they don't have a lot of fresh milk there.

    A long time ago, when I was about 14 or so, my mother tried substituting real milk with powdered milk to save money. You could smell it a mile away. She only did it once, I just picked it up and poured it down the sink and told her if we couldn't afford real milk, then we would go without.

  3. We have used powdered milk since 1972 - a matter of necessity as we lived in Papua New Guinea and fresh milk was just not available. We raised two healthy children on it. I might add that they have both continued the habit. When we lived in the Northern Territory we used to buy it - from Adelaide - in 25kg bags. Have never had a guest comment/complain. Aside from the considerations mentioned in the Blog powdered milk is always at hand - no rushing to the store.
    We do use UHT when making yogurt. Nothing would convince us to move to fresh milk.

  4. I grew up on powdered milk simply because that was all my family could afford. I had completely forgotten about it over the years after I got married and only rediscovered it after I discovered cheapskates. Best thing i ever rediscovered. I have saved a fortune on baking and discovered the best flavored cheese sauce for lasagne using milk made from powdered milk...and i save a fortune. There will be no going back to only fresh milk for me.

  5. Hi Cath. at 63 year old it has come at a shock last year (2015) that all the delicious fresh milk has had a sneaky side affect on me - arthritis. Since eliminating dairy from my diet I have found a pain free life. Hard cheese, yoghurt I can tolerate but butter and cream are gone. I really do feel !


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