Sunday, September 8, 2013

Reducing Food Waste: One Thing at a Time

One of the biggest challenges with reducing food waste is to find a way to not waste things you want to have around, but don't use that much.  In my case, I have been having a hell of a time with milk.

I'm not a milk drinker--I never sit down and have a glass, but I do need to have it around in small amounts for tea, some recipes, etc.  Unfortunately, by the time I realize that I need my milk, it is often decidedly stinky.  I throw it out, buy more, use a tiny bit, and then the rest goes bad.

When BF and I lived together, we could usually make it through a carton without throwing it away, though there were plenty of mornings when I needed it for whatever reason and had to trot down to the corner store in wrinkled clothes with bedhead.  Now that we're in separate places, we're both struggling with this.

I started buying smaller and smaller containers, but since those containers are plastic, I felt bad, and the smaller options are more expensive ounce per ounce.  So I came up with a better solution--freezing it.

I bought a case of small mason jars:
And now when I buy milk, I fill up the jars and freeze all but one.  You obviously need to leave a bit of room for the milk to expand as it freezes, but this way, I always have milk on hand, and I don't throw nearly as much away.  I can also buy a larger size container and reduce the amount of packaging I consume while saving money by buying the largest size.

The biggest enemy in terms of milk spoilage is air.  You'll notice that if a jug has been opened, but only a little taken out, the milk stays good for a much longer time.  Pour out half the milk, and the rest goes bad much faster.  That's why this system works to reduce spoliage in two ways.  I freeze what I'm not using and effectively stop the clock on it going bad, and I reduce the amount of air in the milk that's thawed and ready to use.  Plus those blue mason jars are so cute!

Another tip for keeping milk fresher longer is to store it in the back of the fridge so the temperature doesn't fluctuate as much.  We used to have a fridge that was wearing out and had cold spots and warm spots instead of even temperature throughout.  We noticed when we stored the milk in the back in a cold spot, it lasted much longer.  Now I store my milk in the back of the fridge near my Britta cooler so that it doesn't get hit with hot air when I open the door.  It really does make a difference.

Have you ever tried this?  Any other tips for reducing food waste?


  1. I buy organic milk. It's about $1.50 more than a non-organic (store brand) half gallon is but it lasts about 6 weeks. Organic milk is typically ultra-pasteurized so it's not great for making anything that needs to thicken up (like sauces or yogurt) but it's great for putting in coffee/tea, cereal, giving to the cat when she's begging...

    Since it lasts so much longer I can always finish the carton, usually well before it goes bad.

  2. Since I only use milk for cooking such as baking, I just keep a bag of dry on hand. Not any cheaper but no waste. There may be some ecco objection to dry milk that I am not aware of but so far it works great for my needs.