Is It Cheaper than Regular Milk?
Years ago, I read a passage from one of my favorite books "The Tightwad Gazette" which described a moment when the author, Amy Dacyczyn, decided to begin using powdered milk instead of regular milk as a way to save money.
In the passage, Amy had run out of regular milk and made an emergency substitution of powdered milk for her kids' meal. One of Amy's little girls drank her glass of milk and made a comment along the lines of "Yum! I love milk!" At that moment Amy made the cost-saving choice to switch to powdered milk for her family.
Since then, whenever I have used powdered milk instead of regular milk, I have commended myself on how thrifty I am. However, unlike Amy's daughter, I can usually tell the difference between the two types of milk when I use powdered milk for drinking or for my breakfast cereal. Not surprising since the powdered milk I use is fat-free and the regular milk I usually buy is 2% milk.
Still, substituting powdered milk is perfect for smoothies. It is also perfect for always having milk on hand for emergency substitions in baking and cooking - I just stir a little melted butter in the reconstituted powdered milk if the recipe won't tolerate fat-free milk. I almost always use powdered milk to make an awesome cup of hot chocolate. If we are completely out of regular milk (not usually a problem, since I regularly freeze milk for later use), then powdered milk will do for breakfast cereal.
Recently, after gloating a bit because my thrify self was saving money by using powered milk, I was startled by a thought I should have had long ago: How much money am I saving? How do I know I am saving money at all?
Time to crunch some numbers.
First, the cost of 2% milk. Our local Martin's Supermarket sells a gallon of 2% milk for $2.79/gallon (price as of 05-31-17). Since there are 16 cups in a gallon, this makes the cost of 2% milk equal to $.174 per cup.
I use Great Value powdered milk, which I order from walmart.com. A 64 oz package of Great Value Instant Dry Milk costs $14.48 (price as of 05-31-17). The package makes 80 cups of milk. This makes the cost $.181 per cup. I would still need to add the cost of the water to reconsitutue the powdered milk. We use well water which would add 1 or 2 pennies to the cost per gallon. This would bring the cost to approximately $.182 per cup.
Regular 2% milk cost = $.174 per cup
Reconstituted powdered milk cost = $.182 per cup
The powdered milk actually costs more than the 2% milk.
Excuse me a moment. I'm going to go find my Complete Tighwad Gazette book and see if Amy Dacyczyn put any calculations of savings in her book.
Ok, found it. I'm on page 210 of the book: "A gallon of whole milk costs $2.19 to $2.59 per gallon. Dry milk, when purchased by the 20-quart store-brand box for $7.00 costs $1.40 per gallon."
This section of the book has a 1992 copyright. Funny how the cost of regular milk has increased by up to 27% in 25 years, but the cost of powdered milk has more than doubled.
Experimenting with the numbers a little, I find that once milk reaches a cost of $2.90 a gallon, then the cost of the regular milk is the same as the cost of the powdered milk.
At a cost of regular milk greater than $2.90 per gallon, then it does save money to use powdered milk. This is assuming that the powdered milk remains at $14.48 for a 64 oz package, which makes the powdered milk cost $2.896 per gallon.
You might argue that powdered milk has less waste than regular milk, since it can be stored (dry) on the shelf and used only as needed. Regular milk can be refrigerated for up to about two weeks before it begins to spoil.
This argument doesn't work well for me, though, since I regularly freeze milk by filling up one or two mason jars with milk from each newly purchased gallon and putting the jars in the freezer for later use. The milk in the freezer jars stays fresh for using when needed. I rarely have spoiled milk in the refrigerator due to this system.
I'll still use powdered milk for smoothies because it is fat free and because I have smoothies for lunch at the office.When I've tried keeping regular milk in the office refrigerator, it usually spoils before I use it all. In that case, there really is a cost savings to using powdered milk.
Of course, if the price of regular milk increases and the price of the powdered milk does not, then I'll be back in frugal territory.
If you would like to compare with your own prices for regular and powdered milk, here are some formula guidelines:
CUPS TO GALLONS
The powdered milk package will usually indicate how many cups of milk the package will make. Divide the cost of the package by the number of cups to get the cost per cup:
Cost of the package of powdered milk / number of cups per package = cost per cup
Multiply the cost per cup x 16 to get the cost per gallon. (There are 16 cups in a gallon)
Compare this cost to the cost of a gallon of milk at your local grocery store.
QUARTS TO GALLONS
Some packages of powdered milk will indicate how many quarts of milk the package will make. In this case, divide the cost of the package by the number of quarts to get the cost per quart.
Cost of the package of powdered milk / number of quarts per package = cost per quart
Multiply the cost per quart x 4 to get the cost per gallon. (There are 4 quarts in a gallon)
Compare this cost to the cost of a gallon of regular mlk from your local grocery store.
So it seems that the real lesson here is that just because something was a cost saving in the past does not mean that it will always be the least expensive choice. It pays to do the math to be sure that you really are saving money. Lesson learned!
That's The Fat Dollar way.
Article by Patti Tokar Canton
© 2011-2019 All Rights Reserved. Do Not Duplicate Without Permission
Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vickie Robin
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