Save money by freezing milk before the expiration date hits.

By Melanie Fincher
Updated March 01, 2021

When it comes to dairy products, getting your money's worth from them can seem like an impossible task. Too often that gallon of milk ends up down the drain once the expiration date hits. But there is hope — and it lies in your freezer.

Value and convenience can be found in freezing certain foods, and to the surprise of many, milk is one of them. Learn how to safely freeze and thaw milk for later use so you can save money and reduce waste.

Can You Freeze Milk?

Good news! According to the Dairy Council of California, it's perfectly fine to freeze milk for later use. You just have to make sure you do so before the expiration or "best-by" date. If you find yourself always pouring out-of-date milk down the drain, this simple solution can save you money and reduce food waste.

Freezing Different Types of Milk

With countless alternative milks on the market, the term "milk" can refer to drastically different drinks. In general, dairy milks with lower fat contents will do better in the freezer. This is because fat can separate when the milk is frozen, causing the texture to be somewhat grainy once thawed. However, this can be remedied with the use of an immersion blender or by simply shaking the container. Unfortunately, plant-based milks tend to curdle and become more grainy in texture once frozen.

Best Types of Milk for Freezing

  • Fat-free cow's milk
  • Reduced-fat cow's milk (1 percent or 2 percent)
  • Skim milk
  • Whole milk (some graininess may occur)
  • Goat's milk

Worst Types of Milk for Freezing

Sadly plant-based milks just don't handle the freezer as well as their dairy counterparts. A lot of separation tends to occur, although shaking or blending can help to offset this.

  • Almond milk
  • Coconut milk
  • Soy milk
  • Oat milk
  • Flax milk
  • Cashew milk

How to Freeze Milk

You can actually freeze milk in its original container, so long as that container is plastic. If your milk comes in a glass or cardboard container, transfer it into a freezer-safe plastic container before you freeze. Milk will expand when frozen, causing glass or cardboard to break — and you don't want that mess in your freezer.

Because milk will expand, it's important that you don't place a completely full jug of milk straight into the freezer. Leave one to two inches of headspace in each container, whether you're freezing the entire jug or separating it out into individual containers. Then simply reseal the lid, shake vigorously, and place in the freezer.

Write the date on the milk with a marker. Milk will save in the freezer for up to three months, although it's best to use it sooner rather than later, as it can absorb odors from food stored nearby.

How to Thaw Milk

For safe consumption, milk will need to be thawed either in the refrigerator or in cold water. Do not thaw milk at room temperature, because this can risk the quality of the milk if it gets too warm.

To safely thaw milk, place it in the refrigerator to slowly thaw. To speed things up, you can also fill a sink or a large bowl with cold water and place the entire container in the water. Replace the water as it warms up.

You may notice the texture of the milk after it's thawed is a bit grainy. This is because the fat separates. But fear not! A vigorous shake will help return the milk to its original texture. Thawed milk should be consumed within three to four days.

Girl drinking milk
Credit: Image Source/Getty Images

How Milk Changes After Freezing

Although thawed milk will retain its nutrients, you may notice a difference in its appearance. The fat may separate, causing the texture to be slightly grainy, which is why shaking it prior to use is necessary. You may also use an immersion blender to mix the fats back into the milk.

Another change you might notice in your milk is the flavor, and not because the milk has gone bad. Storing milk in the freezer (even with a sturdy plastic container) can cause it to absorb odors from particularly pungent foods (looking at you, seafood). This is why you should try to use your frozen milk sooner rather than later, and avoid storing it next to foods with strong odors.