Q&A Tuesday: How do you freeze milk?

Any tips on freezing milk in a paper carton? We buy organic milk in a half gallon paper carton. Can I freeze it in that carton or not? I’ve never done it before. Thanks! –Leisha

I freeze milk all the time. And honestly? I’ve never had a problem freezing it in a cardboard container. It will expand some when it freezes, so you might want to drink or use a half cup or so before freezing. But otherwise, just stick the milk in the freezer in the paper carton.

When you’re ready to use it, you can thaw it in the refrigerator overnight. Or, you can stick the carton in a sink full of cold water for 15 or 20 minutes.

I’m often able to find organic milk on clearance that’s close to the expiration date. We use what we can until the expiration date and then I freeze the rest. By buying it on clearance, we’re able to buy higher quality milk without spending a fortune to do so.

I don’t recommended using frozen and then thawed milk for drinking. The consistency changes some and it just isn’t very appealing for drinking–at least our family doesn’t think so. :) However, milk that has been frozen and then thawed works beautifully in pancakes, waffles, french toast, or other baked goods.

Chocolate Chip Pancake Batter

If you typically bake big batches of these items, you can just freeze the milk in the paper or plastic carton, thaw, and use. However, if you only make smaller batches, you’ll want to go ahead and divvy the milk up in one-cup or two-cup portions before freezing so that you can just pull out the exact amount of milk you need. You could use ziptop freezer bags or airtight plastic containers with lids.

Want to stretch your milk even further? Replace a fourth or a half of the milk called for in your pancake, waffle, or baked good recipe with water. You probably won’t even notice a difference!

Do you freeze milk? If so, what’s your favorite way to use it?

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Comments

  1. Michelle K says

    We freeze ours also with no problems. We drink it thawed and find that it doesn’t taste any different. Just give it a few vigorous shakes and you are good to go!

    • Wendy says

      I’ve never frozen milk but I may try it. I had a question though. If you freeze milk that has expired and then thaw it out later, how long is it good for since it’s already passed the expiration date? Thanks.

      • Courtney says

        Technically, most milk has a best by or sell by date. The sell by date is the last day that milk is supposed to be sold in stores.
        The expiration on milk is approximately one week after the sell by date depending on the brand, how fresh it was when it was containered, and how cold it has been kept at home.

        The best advice I can give you is use your nose. You can smell when milk has gone bad, and with practice, can even smell when it’s starting to turn.

      • Lana says

        I try to freeze before the expiration date if I have a bunch that I know we will not use in time. If there are five days until the expiration then I write ’5′ on the carton with a Sharpie. When I thaw it I figure I have 5 days to use it.

  2. rose says

    I always freeze milk and use it just like it was fresh…. I will pour a cup or more into the bottle in the fridge and then freeze, thaw and use like normal.. I buy Skim or 1%.. can hardly find Organic milk under $5 a gallon…but I can get a gallon of reg. milk for .99 sometimes…

  3. Breanna says

    I freeze gallons of milk (but in the plastic containers) since we buy them 2 gallons at a time at Costco. I’ve never had a problem drinking the milk after it’s frozen and it still lasts about 1 week after it’s thawed. The bottom of the container will be slightly thicker as the fat settles once frozen, but with 1% milk it’s not very noticable. You will probably notice a difference with 2% or whole milk.

    • says

      I buy my milk from Costco too. I buy up to 20 gallons at a time to save me time and money. I only buy skim milk so there isn’t any fat to settle at the bottom. It tastes just the same to my family of 7.

  4. Heather Snyder says

    We place it in ice cube trays to freeze it. After its frozen we pop in in a zip lock bag. Ours takes 8 cubes to make a cup!

    • Denise says

      I do the same thing! I don’t drink milk but use it in recipes, I got tired of going to use it only to have to throw it away because it was bad before I got to use it again. I add a few to my fruit when making a smoothie in the morning.

  5. says

    When I find whole milk on sale I buy a gallon and mix it half and half with water, freezing one of the half gallons for baking and cooking. Leaving the other in the fridge for cereal and drinking, we can’t tell the difference from 2%.

    • Heather says

      Nutritionally, it is not the same, though. You cut the fat in half, but also the calcium, etc., by adding water.
      2% or skim have less fat, but still the same amount of other nutrients as whole.

  6. Marie says

    When I can get 2% milk for $1.99 I will buy an extra gallon or two and freeze the whole gallon. We’ve never noticed a change in how it tastes. Also at our grocery store often there are catalina deals for free milk and one time I had 4 so it was nice to freeze it.

  7. Ac says

    I had no idea you could freeze milk! What a fabulous idea and time saver. I feel like I’m going to the store all the time for milk. :-(

  8. says

    I have never frozen milk, but I have four boys and we go through a TON of it. If I find some on sale and freeze it and then thaw to drink, how long will it last once I take it out of the freezer?

    • Diane says

      I think it’s about the same number of days as you originally had. So if it was going to expire in a week and you froze it, I think you’d have about a week to use it.

    • Katie says

      Freezing milk is kind of like freezing time, so it’s good for however many days are between the date you freeze it and it’s expiration. I just bought 5 gallons I found on sale for $2 today that expire on the 17th. Since there are 14 days between now and the expiration date, I used a sharpie and wrote “14″ on the container before I put it in the freezer. This way, I know I have 14 days to use it once I get the container out. HTH!

  9. Maigan says

    I am single and don’t drink milk. My mom is widowed and lives alone. When we find milk at great prices we divvy it into small tupperware containers and divide them up between us. This is a great way to save! She uses it on her cereal and has never complained!!

    • Lori says

      We do the same! Tupperware containers, freeze for the kids. They don’t say anything about the taste.

  10. Martina says

    We freeze Milk in Ziploc Bags (whole Milk only), we thaw it in the Fridge, once thawed we drink it, use it in oatmeal, or anything else that needs milk

  11. Diane says

    We freeze it, too, so I can get it when it’s 2.00/gallon which doesn’t come around more than every 4-6 weeks. If it starts to get sour I use it for pancakes or muffins or whatever in baking.

  12. says

    I’ve never had a problem with freezing cow milk, but almond milk does not freeze well for me. Especially the 35 calorie kind. UGH. Such a waste of money.

    • says

      Sadly, both almond and soy milk are not to be frozen. I always use up close to expiring soy/almond milk by making pancakes,muffins or waffles. Either that or cream of potato soup. :D

  13. Stephanie says

    I freeze skim milk all the time. We can’t taste any difference between once frozen and fresh milk. It is a huge time saver to freeze milk..it means I can go to the store every 2 weeks without having to go back for milk.

  14. says

    We freeze gallons of 2% milk all the time (plastic containers). The only problems that we’ve had with it are some brands don’t expand well and the containers burst. Wal-mart’s brand is especially bad for this, but most do just fine. When we are ready to use it, we let it defrost in the sink for about 6 hours before putting in the fridge. There is sometime some separation, but we shake it a bit, and it’s just fine. We use it on cereal and even for drinking. I personally don’t drink a lot of milk, but my husband and kids do, and they have never complained about the taste.

  15. Susan says

    I freeze milk quite often. I also do use my frozen milk for drinking, but the trick in making sure it still tastes fine is to let it thaw completely. The milk solids (i.e., flavor) seems to thaw last so if you still have a frozen part in your container (you can tell by shaking it), then its not yet ready for drinking. Once thawed completely though, I have not noticed a taste difference.

  16. Lisa says

    We freeze our milk also but I have another question. I am lactose intolerant and was wondering if it is possible to freeze lactose free milk? Has anyone done this? And how is the taste? Thanks in advance!

  17. Karen says

    I’ve done this two or three times now. I don’t drink milk, and nobody else here likes to drink it once thawed, so have used it for cooking and baking with no complaints. I made the mistake of freezing nearly a full gallon and found it took forever (days) to defrost. Even in water it takes a very long time. I am going to split it into recipe portions from now on and use freezer jars with a pretty good headspace. I was a little startled by the appearance of the milk when frozen (yellowish) and how it seems to separate when thawed, but after a good shake, it seems just fine for what I use it for. I’m wondering if anyone has used it for yogurt after thawing, and whether there is a texture issue??

    • Stephanie says

      Yes, I use thawed milk to make yogurt. It turns out fine…no difference in texture for me.

  18. Meme says

    I freeze 2% all the time. As long as you give it a good shake before you pour a glass no one I’ve ever served it too has been able to tell a difference. If you don’t shake it to mix the fat back in it does/will have a fuuny taste. I shake it every time I use it.

  19. says

    You could also culture some to extend its refrigerator life.

    All you have to do is add about 1/4 cup buttermilk (or kefir- or a tablespoon of kefir grains) to the container and allow to sit out at room temp for 12 to 16 hours (since its winter- summer=8 to 10 hours at most usually will do). But you will have an entire container of buttermilk (or kefir) that will last longer in your fridge and you can drink as is, use in smoothies in place of yogurt, add to quick breads with a little soda for a nice rise and fluff, biscuits, cornbread, etc.

  20. Lori says

    I want to know where people are getting 99 cent gallons of milk! We pay over $4 here in SE Louisiana, sometimes close to $5, the high $3′s if we’re lucky. I’ve NEVER seen milk put on clearance. Would love to know where to find this as my kids go through it like water!

    • Jennifer says

      I have to agree with Lori. I live in NJ and milk is super pricey at $4.69. I have never seen a reduced sticker on milk. On occasion there may be an in-store deal (buy some many of this or that, get a free gallon of milk). My family of six can go through four gallons of milk in a week.

      • Lisa W. says

        Milk in MI is averaging 2.99 a gallon with the sale now being 2/$5. Use to be 2/$4 but the price went up last year and hasn’t come back down. The sale happens quite often.

        • Andrea says

          In some states/regions, the minimum price is set by “dairy board” of some sort, so milk never goes on sale.

          The only milk deals I see in New England are Catalinas (buy six gallons, get one free) or the occasional mark down on about-to-expire milk.

  21. says

    I think milk prices are very regional.

    I sometimes find markdowns in the dairy section at Safeway and Fred Meyer (I’m in WA state).
    We get milk delivered from a local dairy at 2.50/half gallon. It’s one of those few things I’m willing to pay extra for…..but I am Loving this post. Just last week we had extra, and I forgot to put a skip in. I’ve been wondering who to gift with milk! I’ve heard you can freeze it, but this is the first clear how-to I’ve read. Off to try!

    PS If you’re not fussy, I’ve always heard that the cheapest place for milk is 7-11 or the gas station. Our Rite Aid and Walgreens have milk cheaper than the grocery as well.

    • Carla says

      Does anyone know if the milk at places like this is equally as healthy? I hesitate to buy it anywhere but the grocery store, and maybe I am too paranoid.

      • says

        I’m pretty sure it’s all subject to the same government regulations, although I don’t know for sure.

        Personally, my big freak out milk-wise is the growth hormones, but I also know sometimes you have to pick your issues, esp. with prices these days.

      • Courtney says

        Yes. In fact, my dad (who was a dairy farmer) can actually read the numbers coded on the cartons. He was showing someone at Walmart one day that the milk from the big name brand and the cheap brand actually came from the same farm, the same day.

        ECB’s are the only coupons we can get for milk in MA; so I used to buy milk at CVS. No difference.

    • says

      In Wisconsin, I buy all of our milk at the Kwik Trip gas station. They are cheaper all-around, but another advantage is that they sell milk in bags (instead of plastic cartons). I can get a half gallon bag for $1.50 or so. I certainly don’t think there’s ANY difference in the quality of milk!

  22. says

    We buy whole raw milk, and sometimes we need to freeze some, such as when we will be out of town and cannot finish it before we go. Since it comes in glass jars (not tempered), I mix the cream in and transfer the milk to large tupperware cereal containers. I leave the top “flap” open until the milk is frozen to allow for expansion, then close it. Sometimes the thawed milk is less palatable as it is harder to mix the cream in again (it floats to the top to some extent). If I am using it for drinking, I sometimes pass the quantity needed through a metal seive as I pour it into the jug. No one complains!

  23. Kristina says

    I found that our muffin tins hold a perfect 1/2 cup. So I freeze it that way and then pop them into a bag.

  24. beth b says

    The very lowest I’ve found milk here in Wisconsin is $1.99 a half gallon for organic or. 99 for hormone free. That’s at the natural foods store. I’ve never seen it on clearance at the regular grocery store but maybe I just don’t shop at the right time.

    When I buy almost expired milk I culture it into kifer or yogurt. Once I tried sour cream with half and half at it’s expiration date and it went bad very quickly. May have been the culture I used.

    FYI, half and half does not freeze well. At least not for use in coffee. *shudder*

  25. karen b says

    am truly hestitant to comment, but think I am. we own a dairy farm & when you freeze milk, thaw & reuse you are loosing major nutrients, not sure why, but thats what i have understood. I would never water it down either unless you plan on replacing valuable vitamins in your diet. I do understand why you would like to do this though freeze that is. never an issue here:)
    we are also glad that you are paying a little more for it because that is how we get paid:) we think consumers really don’t understand where the bulk of their grocerys come from, from farmers that struggle & work very hard so others can eat. not really complaining but do get tired of people complaining about the high cost of food. am truly sorry in advance if I have offended any one not my intent.

    • Courtney says

      Kudos to you! It’s hard to be a farmer, and I think the frustration is that junk food is cheap, and good food is more expensive. Most of us here are trying to find the balance between our budget and limited resources, and the mouths that need to be fed.

      I actually buy my milk straight from a local owned dairy out here. It’s not raw, just regular milk made by cows my kid can pet, and see. It’s one of our splurges for a healthier, local life.

      I love the flavor. My husband didn’t drink milk much (I grew up on a dairy farm and therefore am addicted), but since we started buying it at the farm, he loves to drink it!

    • BethB says

      Thank you for working hard to provide the rest of us with food. I also get frustrated with complaints about the high cost of food considering how little most farmers make. Yes, there are many people who truly cannot afford good quality food and for whom the slightest price hike is catestrophic. That is a shameful commentary on our society and food system. But there are many of us who can pay more and we need to start voting with our dollars to facilitate change in our broken food system. I go out of my way to support local farmers either buying directly from them or local foods in stores. I would love to buy milk directly from a farm but right now it’s not reasonable for me so I buy the most local products I can get. Not hard in Wisconsin. :)

      • Lauren S. says

        BethB, I really love how you put that! Although unfortunately MANY people (myself included once) that could barely afford the cheap junk food that was placed in the grocery store for .99cents. But for people who do have that extra wiggle room to pay just a little more should definitely put their dollars towards milk or any product for that matter towards hometown farms. We are looking into that for eggs. Actually, a friend of mine has parents who sell their eggs from their farm for only 1.00/carton. That’s cheaper than I can get at the grocery store!

    • Patti says

      Thank you for reminding the readers that our food comes from farmers!! Many, many people do not understand how food gets to their tables and that is why there is so much consternation over food prices. I applaud you and all farmers who supply our country with this basic necessity. I challenge those who complain about the cost of food or the lack of certain items to try raising it themselves to see exactly how easy it is. And I mean all food… not just tomatoes in the summer!! It would open some eyes to what it takes to supply the American table. I, for one, am grateful that I can go to the grocery store and pick up my milk.

      • Heidi says

        Thank you for discussing this topic. This is what I thought of immediately as I began reading comments. Farmers depend on the price of milk for their livelihood. I wouldn’t buy from Kwik Trip becuase they own HUGE farms and price low thus put the smaller farmer out of business. We really do need to vote with our dollars. If we don’t then all we’ll have left are big box stores. Yuck.

  26. Jane says

    This may only help people in the Midwest that have a meijer store : Meijer often runs Smart balance milk on sale for $2.59 and for the last 3 sales, this price has coincided with a $1.50 manufacturer coupon and a $1/2 meijer coupon. By combining the two, I have been getting milk for .59 a half gallon for months. This milk has a long expiration period – like 6 weeks – but also freezes well.

    • Lana says

      We don’t like Smart Balance after freezing it. It has a weird sludge in the bottom of the carton. Hubby said don’t freeze any more Smart Balance no matter how cheap it is!

      • jane says

        I’ve never had that problem – maybe a higher fat content ? But at least you can leave refridgerated longer than regular milk.

  27. Jessica says

    I’m lactose intolerant, so I do almond milk or some other type of nondairy milk in all my cooking and for drinking. I go through phases where I will use a lot but then turn around and use very sparingly, so I have been wondering about freezing it to keep from wasting (it’s expensive!). Has anyone tried freezing any milk alternatives?

    • Aimee says

      A commenter above said they had a bad experience with freezing almond milk. Maybe they could elaborate further for you. I would be curious to find out why it didn’t work either.

  28. Patti says

    I freeze buttermilk in the amount needed for my recipes. I also freeze other milk when I find a good deal on it. This week Walgreens has milk $2.79/gallon (here in SC) which is $.70 cheaper than Aldi’s !!! Naturally, I stocked up (limit 2). While I was there, I saw a container marked down to $1.75. Should have bought it and frozen it in recipe size amounts. We LOVE Aldi milk – it lasts a lot longer than other stores. Since my husband and I drink different kinds, this makes a huge difference. I guess it lasts longer because Aldi doesn’t move it out of the coolers. Just a reminder that if you leave your milk out long, it will deteriorate faster. So pour and put it back in the fridge!!

  29. CJ says

    I drink thawed milk but I find mine takes 3 days for the ice crystals to fully thaw before I can drink it. If the taste is off I just mix in some Nestle Quik powder and have delicious chocolate milk! I never see clearanced organic milk at my grocery stores, maybe because I live in Missouri and we have very strict dairy laws (no coupons, minimum prices, etc). But yet we do get the catalina deals such as a free gallon of milk when you buy 4 boxes of cereal. I’m not sure why that’s allowed when regular coupons on milk aren’t.

  30. Rhonda Murray says

    Courtney, can you share your dad’s code reading knowledge? I’d love to be able to compare the national and store brands.
    I check the cooler everytime I’m in the store looking for marked down milk. I pour about a pint into a clean container to use now, then put the date into the freezer on the top of the jug. So, I know if I put it in on the 10th and it’s dated the 15th, I have a minimum of 5 days to drink it after freezing. I like icy milk, they don’t, so just teach your family to shake the milk everytime they open the fridge. Skim is much better tasting than whole because so little separation of fat. I also use the milk when it’s getting iffy for baked goods of all kinds and sometimes to make yogurt.

  31. Amber S says

    Interesting discussion on milk prices. Milk has been on sale here in AZ for $1.57 a gallon often lately. However, this is also a state where it is illegal to sell raw milk. So, you can’t buy the real stuff, but you can get store bought cheap. I buy lots and freeze it in the plastic gallon jugs (pour out about a cup first), and we drink it without noticing a difference. I’ve just started milking our goat (I freeze that too), and hoping for a dairy cow someday!

  32. Tammy E says

    I love to use my frozen milk to make homemade mac and cheese and broccoli or zucchini cheese soups. Of course we also do quick breads, muffins, pancakes, oatmeal we also drink it, but only after it has been thawed completely and then I use the emersion blender to give it a good blending.