Milk is one of those items that is ever-present in the kitchen. You can consume it as it is or use it as an ingredient. It is such a versatile ingredient. You can use it in your pancakes, desserts, salads, or even dishes like pasta.
Milk is a dairy product. It is produced by mammals such as sheep, goats, and cows.
Manufacturers usually process milk to make it fit for human consumption. They also use it to make other dairy products like butter, cheese, and yogurt.
Milk is packed with nutrients like proteins, calcium, and vitamins. It is always a healthy addition to any meal.
There are different types of milk in the market. They include; whole milk, skim milk, non-fat milk, reduced-fat milk, and lactose-free milk.
I used to be one of those people that throw milk out immediately it reaches its expiry date.
Looking back, I don’t even want to think of all the milk I wasted simply because I was ignorant and had no idea of how long milk lasts.
Anyway, we learn from our mistakes, right?
So, how long does milk last anyway?
Milk normally lasts for up to 7 days past its sell-by date when properly handled or stored. However, if you leave it out for more than 2 hours, it will expire prematurely. Always store milk inside the refrigerator as soon as you buy it.
You will be glad to know that you can also freeze your milk to extend its shelf life for even longer. Frozen milk stays fresh for three to four months.
However, it may taste flat or have an off-white color that not so many people like. If you choose to freeze your milk, I recommend that you use or consume it within two months from the day you froze it. The milk will be safe to consume after months but it may not be as flavorful as fresh milk.
I hardly ever buy my milk in bulk, but if I do I freeze it so that it has a longer shelf life. I do not like letting my milk go to waste.
Factors that influence the shelf life of milk
There are several factors that influence the shelf life of different types of milk. Here are a few.
- Processing method. The method that the manufacturer uses to process the milk determines how long it will last.
- Exposure to light. Milk tends to spoil faster when you expose it to light. Store it away from light to prolong its shelf life.
- Milk should be stored at a temperature of about 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Store it inside the refrigerator for it to last longer. Don’t leave it on the kitchen counter.
- Proper handling. Handling milk properly ensures it lasts for a longer time even past its sell by date.
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The sell-by date
If you are the kind of person that throws out milk immediately after it reaches its sell-by date, you should probably know that you have been throwing out milk that is perfectly okay.
Manufacturers usually indicate the sell-by date specifically for the store owners. They are supposed to have sold the milk by the date that is indicated. The sell by date does not mean that the milk is spoilt or that it is no longer safe to consume.
In fact, you can still safely consume milk up to seven or ten days past the expiry date, depending on the type of milk.
For some reason, milk consumed past its sell by date always tastes sweeter. So if you are wondering whether it is okay for you to take or use that milk past the sell by date, this is your go-ahead. As long as the milk has not gone sour, it is okay to consume it.
Exactly how long does milk last?
Generally, milk lasts for up to seven days past the sell by date when stored in the refrigerator.
However, unopened milk lasts longer compared to opened milk. Here is how long different types of milk last when refrigerated.
- Whole milk: 5 to 7 days
- Lactose free milk: 10 days
- Skimmed milk: 7 days
- Non-fat milk: 7 to 10 days
- Reduced fat milk: 7 days
- Frozen milk: 4 months
All opened milk lasts for 7 days past the sell-by date when refrigerated.
Also, Check out: A list of Suitable Whole Milk Substitutes
How can I tell if my milk has gone bad?
Like any other food item, milk has some tell-tale signs that indicate it has gone bad and is no longer safe to consume. Here are a few signs that your milk has gone bad.
- Sour smell
If you open the lid of your milk and you notice an unpleasant distinctive smell, the milk has gone bad and is no longer safe to consume.
- Lumpy texture
Any milk that appears lumpy or has a lumpy texture has definitely gone bad. If you notice any lumps on your milk you should throw it out because it is an indication of the presence of bacteria.
- The milk appears yellowish in color
Typically, milk should be white in color. If you start noticing any kind of discoloration, for instance, if the milk appears yellowish in color, it has gone bad.
- Thick consistency
When milk goes bad, its consistency changes. Fresh milk should have a thin consistency, so if you notice that your milk has a thick consistency, it has probably gone bad and you should throw it out.
What causes milk spoilage?
Bacteria is the culprit when it comes to milk spoilage. When you open your milk or leave it out, air converts the lactose that is inside the milk to lactic acid.
The lactic acid causes the sour taste in spoiled milk. Bacteria also enters the milk through the air and it eventually causes the milk to spoil and have a terrible smell.
Proper handling and storage of milk
Proper handling and storage are essential if you want your milk to have a longer shelf life.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, you should not let milk sit out for more than two hours. Doing so will give room for bacteria to grow.
You should store milk at a temperature of at most 40 degrees Fahrenheit, away from light. You should also leave it in the same container that it came in.
Look out for the signs of premature spoilage if you accidentally leave your milk out for more than two hours. If it has an odd flavor or smells it is better if you throw the milk out.
Once you buy your milk, store it in your refrigerator as soon as possible. Store it in the inside part of the refrigerator and not on the doors’ shelves.
The temperature on the doors’ shelves keeps fluctuating because of how often you open the refrigerator yet milk should be stored at a constant temperature.
If your milk is in a carton, make sure that you seal it tightly. If you don’t, the milk will absorb unwanted smells from the refrigerator and you definitely won’t enjoy consuming it.
Always store leftover milk separately. If for instance you poured milk out of its container to use it but had some of it leftover, do not pour it back into its original container where the rest of the milk is.
Store it in a separate container and place it inside the refrigerator as well.
If you for any reason buy milk in bulk, store it in the freezer. Frozen milk can last for up to 4 months.
You can use a freezer-safe plastic container to store the milk in the freezer. However, you should keep in mind that frozen milk might not taste as good as fresh milk.
The very low temperatures tend to destabilize the molecular structure of the milk. When you thaw frozen milk, it may have some lumps and it may also be a little bit decolorized.
If you want to extend the shelf life of your milk, add a pinch of salt to it. The salt will neutralize the lactic acid formed when the air converts lactose to lactic acid.
Your milk will stay fresh for up to seven days after you open it as long as you store it inside the refrigerator.
Extra ways you can use your milk before it goes bad.
You can drink a glass of milk before going to bed. Milk is packed with proteins and it will give you a good night’s sleep.
You can also use milk as an ingredient in salads and dishes like pasta as well as desserts. Milk is a perfect addition to oatmeal.
It makes for the perfect filling breakfast.
If you are a smoothie lover like me, you can use milk to make the perfect healthy smoothie that is packed with proteins and calcium.
You can also use milk to make tasty yogurt at home. Trust me, yogurt is not that hard to make. All you need is your milk and a few other basic ingredients.
You might even decide never to buy yogurt from the store again once you master the art of making it at home.