Prep School Daily: Basic Food Storage–An In-Depth Discussion of Dry Milk

Here’s an article from last year at Prep School Daily on options for dry milk – Basic Food Storage–An In-Depth Discussion of Dry Milk. When the lockdowns first started, milk was a bit scarce at local stores so we used the dry milk in our food storage to supplement the regular milk we already had. Even if you don’t have the best tasting dry milk, it can be pretty good if you mix it half and half with some regular milk — so you’re using it to stretch your fresh product, rather than completely replacing it.

Is this really what my life has come to?  While I never pictured myself becoming famous (zero desire for that) or rich (security has its advantages) or saving the world, somehow I guess I thought I’d be doing something a little more exciting than writing about dry milk.  Something a little juicier.

But alas, here we are.

Last week I taught a class all about dry milk for about a dozen people at church, and in the process I learned a few things and thought I should share that bit of knowledge with my readers.  And before doing that, I thought I should review what I’d already written.  And to my shock I found that I’d never actually written anything about dry milk!

So without further adieu, let’s delve into the mysterious world of powdered milk.

First off, we have to define each of the kinds of dry milk.

Non-instant nonfat milk is not sold by a lot of companies.  I found one seller on Amazon and non-instant nonfat is also what is sold by the Home Storage Center (HSC). It is processed by drum drying, where the milk is sprayed on a heated drum and then scraped off.  The drum is heated and the resultant dry milk has a cooked flavor to it.  It is generally much less expensive than instant nonfat.  As the name suggests, it does not mix instantly, but takes a bit more stirring.  It has a reputation of being less palatable than instant.

Instant nonfat milk is far more popular, easy to find through all preparedness vendors and at grocery stores.  It is processed by evaporation and spraying into a heated chamber where the milk dries almost immediately.  It is a more expensive process.  There is a wide range in price and palatability.

Instant milk drink is promoted as being the best-tasting.  And it is!  BUT IT’S NOT REAL MILK!  In fact, if you take a look at the list of ingredients, milk is number 3 on that list (at least, for Morning Moos).  It can’t possibly be more than 33% milk.  Kinda disturbing.

There are also instant lowfat and whole milk options.  These are not packaged for long term storage, and even if they were, they don’t have the shelf-life of long-term storage.

In the process of preparing to teach the class last week, I decided to take a look at the nutrition information label for the instant milk drinks to compare with the dry milk powders.   And I discovered that there is quite a range in the vitamin and mineral content of the various products.  Because milk is the primary dietary source of vitamin D for most people in their food storage, it’s something we really need to pay attention to.

However, it doesn’t really matter how much more nutritious one brand is over another if it doesn’t taste good, unless it is only being used in baking and cooking.  If your child refuses to drink it, it won’t matter that it’s got the most vitamins and minerals, right?  And you know you can’t blame them, because you remember pretty well how nasty some dry milk can be.

So doing a taste test is pretty important, especially before forking out a significant chunk of change.  Milk is definitely not cheap.  I’m including the results of three taste tests here. All are for pretty small groups.  One is from a group in Utah that posted their results online.  Another is from a class I taught in Missouri about seven years ago.  And finally, there are the results from my class last week.

For the Utah group, they tested the following milks and milk drinks:  Emergency Essentials, Country Cream, Walton Feed, Augason Farms, HSC, Walmart store brand fresh nonfat milk (control), Honeyville,  and store brands.  All were mixed according to directions and chilled well.  Sugar and vanilla extract were not added to any of their samples.  In their taste test (which was held nine years ago), the HSC milk (from a freshly-opened, freshly-canned can) scored the worst.  Provident Pantry (now Emergency Essentials) was rated the highest.

In my class in Missouri, seven years ago, we had five different samples.  I’m working from memory here, so please bear with me.  We had the Provident Pantry brand (which now carries the Emergency Essentials name), Grandma’s Country Cream, a brand I can’t remember for the life of me, one sample from the Home Storage Center that was mixed according to directions, and another sample from the Home Storage Center to which sugar and vanilla extract were added.  In our small-ish group, choices for the best milk divided pretty evenly between Provident Pantry, Grandma’s Country Cream, and the one I can’t remember.  Everyone put the milk from the Home Storage Center, unadulterated, in last place.  What was surprising to all of us was that everyone picked the milk from the HSC to which we added vanilla and sugar as the second best.

In my class last week we had seven different milk choices. All of the milk products that were acquired years ago have been stored at recommended temperatures since purchase.  The cans from the HSC, Provident Pantry, and Grandma’s Country Cream were all opened last week.  Except for the sample with vanilla and sugar, all were mixed according to package directions.  All were well chilled.  Taste testers ranked the samples from 1 to 5, with 5 being the best and 1 being they’d rather die than drink it again.

I was surprised by some of the results.  I will note that most of the taste testers this week were over the age of 50, and I really think there is some change in the taste buds when we get older.  It’s so important to taste and see what we like best.  We have our ideas of what tastes good, what something is supposed to taste like.  I’m pretty happy to eat store brands of most foods, but my graham crackers better be Honey Maid, and my saltines better be Premium or Krispy.

My cans of Provident Pantry and Country Cream were ten years old.  The cans from the HSC were from 2001 and 2010.  Carnation, Kroger, and WinCo bulk were all fresh purchases.

Coming in at a solid last place was Carnation, with an average of 2.1.  I’d have thought they would have figured out the milk business by now.  Kroger scored 2.9.  Provident Pantry, 3.3.  WinCo bulk bin, 3.4.  Country Cream, 3.9.  HSC without any additives, 3.6.  HSC with sugar and vanilla, 4.1.

For the nutrition analysis:            Vit A   Vit C  Vit D  Calcium      Cost        Servings     Cost/Serving
Carnation                                      10%      2%     25%      30%       $0.99             4                  $0.25
Kroger                                           15         —       15          20             2.31           12                   0.19
WinCo bulk                                      (not noted)
Provident Pantry                            0          2          0          25
Country Cream                              0          0        10          30
HSC (2001, no additives)             10        4          25         35
HSC (2010, sugar and vanilla)     15        4          40         35

For comparison, what’s currently available
HSC                                              10        4          25         35            4.00           29                   0.14
Country Cream                               2        2          10         30          18.99           64                   0.30
Augason Farms                             15        2          10        20           22.99           39                  0.59
Thrive                                             0        0          10         20           10.49          15                   0.70
Emergency Essentials                   10        4          25        30           18.95           45                   0.42
Augason Farms Morning Moo     10        0          15         10           23.99           93                 0.26
(Carnation and Kroger remain the same)

As you can see, the various milk products different dramatically in nutrition and cost per serving.  All servings are eight ounces each.

The clear winner for cost per serving is the HSC milk at 14 cents per serving.  Even factoring in the cost of sugar and vanilla extract (at $4.00 per ounce currently), it’s 22 cents per serving to make a milk that tastes as good as the more expensive brands.  If you look at the nutritional content, the HSC is the winner again, just barely surpassing the Emergency Essentials brand.  The others just don’t even hold a candle, especially when you factor in how important vitamin D is in the diet, and even more so for children.  In case you don’t remember, where else can you get vitamin D in your diet?  Fish, beef liver, eggs, and cod liver oil.  Or supplements.  Keep in mind that 42% of American adults are deficient in vitamin D.  And in the early 1900s, before milk was fortified, 90% of children in Boston and New York had rickets.  Make sure you plan well for the children in your life.

Another method for improving the taste is to add 1/4 to 1/2 cup more milk powder per quart of milk.  We didn’t try this for the class and I have no experience with it.  It’s just something you may wish to try yourself.

For the class last week, we didn’t just taste test milk, though that was a really important part of the class.  I also showed participants how to use the inexpensive HSC dry milk in their everyday cooking.  We taste tested instant oatmeal, cream of tomato soup, survival bars, and chocolate pudding.  Even if people prefer the more expensive milks for drinking, it’s important to see that less expensive milk can successfully be used for cooking and baking.  However, it is very important to note that the measurements of dry milk for baking are not necessarily interchangeable.  It takes anywhere from 2/3 cup to 1 1/3 cups of powdered milk to make a quart of liquid milk.  All recipes on this blog, unless otherwise noted, are made using HSC milk, which uses of a ratio of 3/4 cup dry milk to 3 3/4 cups water.