Most of the time powdered milk is more economical than fresh milk, but not always. To determine whether fresh or powdered milk is more economical in your area you need to know the price of a gallon of fresh skim milk and the price of a 4-pound box of powdered milk. Divide the cost of the 4-pound box of instant nonfat dry milk by 5 (which is how many gallons of liquid milk it makes). Then compare the prices. Sometimes powdered milk is half as much as fresh milk. Sometimes fresh milk is about the same price, or even cheaper than powdered milk. The price of powdered milk is usually pretty stable, but the price of fresh milk fluctuates widely. Choose the type of milk that is most affordable to you.
There are two basic types of powdered milk available at the market today. The most common, and usually the most economical is Instant Nonfat Dry Milk. Large, 4-pound boxes are usually the best buy, meaning they have the lowest unit price. This is the price per ounce or per pound. Smaller boxes are available, but they usually cost more per ounce. Nonfat dry milk can be reconstituted (mixed with water) to make the equivalent of fresh skim milk. It’s high in protein, calcium and Vitamin D. It’s nearly cholesterol free and fat-free. Plus it’s low-calorie, with only 80-calories per 1/3-cup dry, or 1-cup of reconstituted milk.
Whole powdered milk is also available. The brand name that seems to be the most common is Nestle’s Nido Fortificada. It’s available in 3-1/2 pound canisters and 12-ounce canisters. The 3-1/2 pound package is usually the best buy. It usually costs more per gallon than nonfat dry milk, but less per gallon than fresh whole milk. A 3-1/2 pound package makes about 3-1/3 gallons of milk. Divide the cost per package by 3.33 to determine the cost per gallon of reconstituted whole milk. Powdered whole milk is high in protein, calcium and Vitamin D. It has all of the fat that you would find in fresh whole milk. Nido Fortificada is also fortified with a few vitamins and minerals such as iron, zinc, Vitamin C and Vitamin A. Not all whole milk powder is fortified, but Nido Fortificada is. Like fresh whole milk, powdered whole milk has about 150-calories per cup of reconstituted milk or per 1/4-cup of dry milk.
When reconstituting powdered whole milk it’s best to use room temperature or even warm water. This allows the milk to dissolve most readily. Do not use boiling water, which will make it clump up something fierce. Instant nonfat dry milk dissolves readily in a wide range of temperatures from very warm to very cold. It will even dissolve in boiling water if you stir it with a wisk and a snootful of determination.
Powdered milk is easy to use in cooking, where the flavor is less noticeable. Over 30-years of cooking, I’ve used reconstituted milk in every type of recipe, from sauces and soups to cake, muffins and even custard. It is impossible to tell that you’re using reconstituted dry milk. Recipe mechanics work the same and the end products are just as tasty as if you used fresh milk. When powdered milk is cheaper than fresh milk, using it in cooking is an easy and painless way to reduce your grocery bill. If you have a small family simply mix up a quart of reconstituted milk and keep it in the fridge. If you have a larger family, mix up 2-quarts or even a gallon at a time. When you’re cooking, simply grab your reconstituted milk and use it instead of fresh milk. Clean, empty mayonnaise jars hold a quart and have wide enough mouths that they’re easy to keep clean. They are convenient for mixing up a single quart at a time.
Drinking powdered milk is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish. Powdered milk has a poor reputation in a lot of circles. There is a stigma attached to powdered milk, that only destitute people drink it. That it tastes bad, that it’s not as nutritious as fresh milk. It seems like only people of low status and poor reputation drink powdered milk. All of this is a bunch of hogwash. Not a bit of it is true. Still, the reputation persists. The first hurdle you have to surmount is giving yourself permission to put all of those nasty rumors to rest and admit that drinking reconstituted milk is a perfectly good and legitimate thing to do. Drinking powdered milk doesn’t mean that you’re poor, stupid, uneducated or of low status. It simply means that you’re smart enough to know a good thing when you see it, and that you love your family enough to be fiscally responsible.
The second obstacle is the taste. Some people persist in believing that reconstituted milk doesn’t taste good. While I freely admit that it doesn’t taste exactly the same as fresh milk, I firmly stand by the statement that is does, in fact, taste good. You have to make sure it’s well chilled before you taste it. Warm, freshly mixed powdered milk, doesn’t taste bad exactly, but it doesn’t taste as good as milk that has spent the night in the refrigerator. Cold reconstituted milk tastes best.
If you’re already accustomed to skim milk, then cold reconstituted milk will have a similar flavor. If you are accustomed to fresh whole milk, then reconstituted nonfat milk will taste weird. Part of the reason is because you are used to whole milk, not nonfat milk. In this case try reconstituted whole milk, so that you’re comparing apples with apples, instead of apples with oranges.
Reconstituted milk tastes best if your box isn’t too old, and if you mix your milk according to package directions. Old powdered milk does not taste as good as a fresh box. If your box of milk has been opened for a year or longer, the milk you make from it probably will not taste as good as milk made from a fresh box. The old box can still be used for cooking, but you owe it to yourself to buy a new box of powdered milk for drinking so the milk you make from it will not taste stale or old. If you don’t follow the reconstituting directions on your package, using more or less milk powder than required, it can give the resulting milk a weird flavor. Mixed correctly and chilled overnight, reconstituted milk has a pleasant, mild, almost sweet flavor.
Remember that most likes and dislikes are a matter of what we’re accustomed to. My children grew up drinking nonfat dry milk and when they had fresh whole milk at friends’ houses, they thought it tasted terrible. I grew up using nonfat powdered milk and drank it almost exclusively for 30 years. I could tolerate fresh skim milk, but even 2% milk tasted weird to me. If reconstituted milk tastes weird to you, then give yourself a little time to become accustomed to it. Work up to it gradually. Use the money you save from using it to motivate you into giving it a sincere and honest try.
For convenience, here is a chart for mixing your own reconstituted nonfat milk.
Reconstituting Chart for Instant Nonfat Powdered Milk
To equal this amount of Liquid Milk
Use this much Fresh Water
And this much Dry Milk
7 teaspoons or 2-1/3 tablespoons
Dry whole milk is a little different from nonfat dry milk. Here is a handy chart for mixing your own reconstituted whole milk.
Reconstituting Chart for Whole Dry Milk
To equal this amount of Liquid Whole Milk
Use this much Fresh Water
And this much Dry Whole Milk
1/4 cup 1/4 cup 1 tablespoon 1/3 cup 1/3 cup 4 teaspoons 1/2 cup 1/2 cup 2 tablespoons 2/3 cup 2/3 cup 2-1/2 tablespoons 1 cup 1 cup 1/4 cup 1 quart 3-3/4 cups 1 cup
The tables above will help you work out the amount of powdered milk needed to prepare specific measurements of liquid milk. Here are some tips to help the milk turn out as fresh tasting as possible.
- Fill your pitcher or container with about half of the required quantity of water. Measure in the appropriate amount of dry milk. Stir briskly to dissolve. Fill the pitcher with the balance of water. Stir again and chill.
- For instant nonfat dry milk, use cool water when possible. Nonfat dry milk powder tends to dissolve more readily in cool water.
- For dried whole milk, use warm water if possible. Whole milk powder dissolves more readily in warm water.
- Stir the milk a lot to dissolve the milk powder. Then let it sit for a few minutes and stir it again. The protein in dry milk blends more easily if it gets a chance to stand for a little while after mixing.
- Powdered milk may be used immediately after mixing if desired. For the best flavor though, chill the milk for at least 4-hours or overnight.
- Serve it with a meal or another food, so it’s not the focus of the family’s attention.
- Store the milk in a refrigerator if you have one. If you don’t, then wrap the pitcher or jar in a wet towel. As the water evaporates, the milk will cool. If you have a root cellar or basement, you may want to keep the milk there, or even outside in the fall and winter.
- If you store the milk outside be sure it’s protected from critters who may be thirsty. A box with a large rock on top is sufficient to keep out most animals.
- If you do not have refrigeration, then only prepare enough milk to last the day. I prepare it the night before, so it has a chance to blend and chill overnight. About 2-quarts will be enough to last a family of 4 for most of the day. If you continually find you have some left over, then prepare less the next day. If you find yourself running out, then prepare more.
- Some people add a drop or two of vanilla to their milk to improve the flavor. Other people add a spoonful or two of sweetener for the same purpose. I don’t use either of these ideas, because we are accustomed to the flavor and prefer it plain.
- Pitchers and wide-mouthed jars are the most convenient containers for mixing and storing reconstituted milk. I used to try to use apple juice jars, but they are difficult to keep clean and awkward to pour the dry milk into. If you must use a narrow mouthed jar, then you need a funnel. A chop stick or spoon handle is handy for poking down though the funnel tip when things get clogged up.
- Wide mouthed canning jars, or even clean, empty mayonnaise jars are convenient for mixing and storing reconstituted milk.