You’re So Money Monday

1308 1308_ () 1308 1308 You’re So Money Monday is a new weekly offering (which may last only one week) in which we discuss a non-superhero-slash-weapon issue. Feel free to weigh in. Or come back tomorrow, when we return to our regularly scheduled program of Chuck Norris and underarm toots. And if you’ve seen the movie Swingers, yes I totally stole the line from Double-down Trent.

Today’s topic: Milk!

For several years now, I have been an ardent supporter of organic milk. I can’t remember what prompted me to make the switch, but I did and we all seemed to notice a difference. The milk tastes delicious and I feel good about serving it to my family.

Well, I recently started another kick — that of keeping close track of our spending habits. When we had reached our proposed food budget on DAY 10 OF THE MONTH I realized a) I have a very compromised understanding of how much money I spend on food (which is what I’m working on) and b) it would be good to see where, if possible, I can try to cut costs. Because that’s a good thing to do, right?

Which brings me to the milk. In general, I’m paying $6/gallon for the organic milk. Please don’t judge. It’s a lot, but I’ve always felt it was worth every penny. But now I have come across this research leading me to believe that I could make the switch back to “regular” milk and start applying those very significant savings to other things, like more produce or possibly a vacation home in Tuscany.

I’m curious to hear from anyone who’d like to chime in — are you pro-organic? Or have you been in my boat, and perhaps switched back? Tell me what you think.

UPDATE: Thanks for the thoughts. I agree with the comment about the antibiotics — that is the big issue to me, and if the “regular” milk is free of those, isn’t that a good thing? I also appreciate the comment about asthma — Charlie has asthma and he has had no major problems the last few years — incidentally since we’ve switched to organic milk. Maybe this is a coincidence. But do I really want to find out?

We don’t have a Costco but we do have Sam’s. I think you save a few bucks buying it there, but not entirely worth the drive and effort to me at this point. I’m not grocerying there on a regular basis, but now that Henry is getting older, I might start again.

One other possibility — water for dinner. Right now the boys drink only milk, constantly, with some juice on occasion. Oh they love their Co-cola, don’t get me wrong. But we buy those as treats when out and about, not for at-home. So maybe starting to scale back how much milk we drink. But then again, can you ever drink too much milk? 1308″> ,



  1. Rachel,
    From what I’ve read, there really isn’t much nutrient content left in milk after it’s been pasteurized, organic or not. Ideally, you would derive the most benefit from organic RAW milk, straight from an exclusively grass-fed cow. For those of us who shop at grocery stores v. local farms, we might as well skip milk altogether, since heating destroys so much of its nutritional value. But, if just don’t feel good about denying your boys dairy, then it sounds like conventional is probably not much worse than pasteurized organic.

    Best of health!

  2. I couldn’t possibly switch from Organic milk. For us it is more a matter of taste because we drink skim milk. Organic skim milk doesn’t look or taste like that watery blue stuff available in the white plastic jugs.
    However, if you don’t notice the taste difference, then you may want to save the $3 a day (though I am guessing you go through more than a gallon a day in your house). Wow. When I put it that way……what are we, nuts?
    And right now I just calculated I am paying $10 per gallon for imported New Zealand milk here in China. I have tried to drink the local Chinese and Hong Kong milk, and the cheaper not-sure-country-of-origin Nestle or Parmalait, but only the New Zealand milk is worth drinking. So you are much less crazy than I am at $6.

  3. Don’t switch back Rach, skip the Taco Bell but keep the milk! *smile*
    We drink organic or milk from an Amish Farm nearby. Skipping all the anitibiotics and hormones is worth the extra cash and I have paid up to $7. a gallon for it. Research also shows that the milk in the store is depleted of most of the nutrition through the pastuerization/homogonization process.
    As far as organic, we are getting crunchier everyday which is crazy when you consider the cost of food. We’ve bought fewer and fewer chips etc.. in order to afford this. The more I learn the more I feel better eliminating as many chemicals as possible in my kids food. I am no by an stretch totally organic, but am getting pretty close to nothing processed if I can help it.
    Great topic, it is one that really interests me because I wonder how other families afford to eat healthy. It seems now a days it is cheaper to buy hamburger helper than it is to cook something from scratch.

  4. We don’t go through much milk around here, but we go back and forth with the debate—organic, non-organic but hormone free or even none at all (since many people seem to have milk allergies/intolerances–even though we don’t, I still worry about the possiblities). I have yet to try raw milk—big eww factor for me. Silly, I know….

    Lately I’ve been buying from dairies that aren’t organic but pledge to keep their milk hormone free. I feel like that is a fair compromise between good for my family and good for my budget.

    One big concern I have about the organic milk is that it is ULTRA-pasteurized (have you ever noticed HOW long it lasts according to the date stamp???). I’ve heard people say that any pastuerization ruins the milk…so what is ULTRA doing to it????

  5. MomDaBomb says

    We buy the regular milk b/c of the price. A 1/2 gallon is 3.99 for the organic milk. Last week it was on sale for 2.99 1/2 gallon and one taste and I love it but cannot afford it here. So, I figure that regular milk will have to do and let God do the rest.
    Our friends switched to organic milk about 2 years ago and the daughter has not had any asthma problems- the docs say its the organic milk. So, there are big benefits BUT>>>> the price!!! we go through a gallon of whole milk in under 2 days- we have 6 little ones under age 7! So- thats the deal!

  6. Carolyn A says

    We’ve been buying either organic or local dairy milk (pasteurized) for about a year now I think. The price is killing me, although we’re using less since I stopped drinking milk altogether. (I think it may have been affecting my newborn’s sleeping habits.)

    I’d like to try raw milk, but I just can’t bring myself to take the risk, esp. while I’m nursing.

    My husband has a dairy farm client, and he said the milk tankers that come to take organic milk and nonorganic milk from the farms are the same, so there is probably not any purity of either product. I think the local dairy that bottles its own wins out there. I don’t believe it’s organic, but the cattle are grass fed.

    Plus we like the glass bottles. Nostalgia I guess, and the milk stays colder longer.

    My husband noted the same thing as Denise above just yesterday regarding the “ultra” pasteurization.

  7. Chiming back in, I grew up on Raw milk so that is why the leap wasn’t hard for me. The book “Nourishing Traditions” really is what pushed me into going raw or organic. I’ve not embraced everything in the book, but the dairy I did.

  8. Funny story about raw milk… The mother of a friend of mine is very “earthy,” to say the least. She became interested in the health benefits of unpasteurized milk so she started buying it from a farmer who would meet all of these other “earthy” people in a back alley (not kidding) to sell the milk, since the sale of raw milk is not allowed in Michigan. Well, apparently the authorities got wind and the police busted the raw milk party. However, they got around the law by claiming that all of these raw milk folk were not really buying milk, they were shareholders in the herd of cows producing the milk. Therefore, they are entitled to the raw milk produced by the herd. So now the “earthy” folk can continue to have their raw milk and drink it too. 🙂
    For the record, I’ve been drinking organic milk for about a year, and I wouldn’t want to go back. I definintely think there is a taste difference, and I don’t need any extra hormones!

  9. I buy “hormone-free” milk from a local farm ($2.99/half-gallon), or if that’s not available then I will buy ultra-pasteurized organic ($3.69/half-gallon or $5.99/gallon). I hate buying the ultra-pasteurized, though, for the reasons stated in other comments.

    Our family’s milk consumption has decreased dramatically over the years. I have 5 kids, ages 13 to 3, and we only have milk at breakfast or in a smoothie as a snack. We eat lots of cheese and (organic) yogurt and get calcium from veggies, too. I think we only go through 2 gallons a week, so I think it’s worth the extra money to buy it.

  10. I went around and around on this issue. Here’s where I’m at. All the organic milk available around here is ultra-pasteurized which I wasn’t happy about for some of the reasons listed above. Getting raw milk was going to be an incredible amount of work and I could see that this was not the best way to spend our family’s food budget. With 7 children, its a BIG budget. We get regular milk, I’m trying to work us back up to whole milk, we’re at 2% right now. They children drink milk at breakfast, that’s it. I do get lots of organic whole milk yogurt for eating and smoothies and we eat a lot of organic cheese. So where does the money go now? Cutting out everything processed and tons and tons of fruits and vegetables. In the summer, we’ll hit the farmers market weekly where I’ve gotten to know some of the farmers who grow organically (though not certified). We’ll eat great produce, in season. I may have a look at some of the meat and poultry from a local grower that is pasture fed and organic. But even there, I’m learning that we really can do with smaller portions than what the super-size culture has put before us.
    And, I think that bit of research you found is correct, I was told about the same from a woman who’s husband was in the dairy farm business for awhile.

  11. I buy organic. My understanding is that the cumulative effect of toxins in foods and the environment make us sick. We can only reduce small amounts here and there.

    The MSNBC article does not want to make me switch back, but it was informative. The author states that “the research does not support a health advantage. . .,” but I didn’t see any research that one could look at and evaluate. I also wonder why they wrote the article.

    Carolyn A. — I heard the same story from someone on upstate NY.

    I really appreciate this post. If anyone has resources and articles that lead them to go organic, I would love to have a link or title. You could e-mail it to me.

  12. I recommend raw milk. We are not milk drinkers here – just on cereal. I have never liked store milk. While dating my husband, his family had a milk cow and after having had raw milk there, I loved it! I remember thinking that if I could have milk like that, I might actually drink it. However, I’m sure that if it’s a calcium issue, I’m much happier getting it from cheese, yogurt, veggies, etc. Go for the raw!

  13. We’ve mostly stayed with regular grocery store milk. If I am making the trip to the Mennonite market I might buy the organic milk there, if there is money left in my budget after buying meat & butter & baking supplies. Mostly thought I stick with the regular. I have to pick & chose what I want to be organic & given my families eating habits it makes more sense for me to spend that money on fruit, leafy greens, assorted flours & meat.

    I’d be willing to go with raw milk on occasion if there was any nearby. But since I have to spend at least $10 in gas to go get it, with very few to no other things to get along the wa.y, it simply is not feasible for me

  14. sorry, my other comment sounded like a rant.
    I’m wondering if that study was funded by the dairy farmers. I was told that the legislation making it illegal to sell raw milk was pushed by lobbyists for dairy farmers. It would be interesting to know.
    As far as raw milk, we have to buy shares so that we are part owners of the cows in order to legally buy the milk.

  15. We buy hormone free milk. I feel better buying that than regular milk, and there is no way I can afford organic milk. Good luck with your cost-cutting efforts. We are doing the same thing and it can be very challenging.

  16. other places I would research are”

    And read Michael Pollan’s books, Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food (your friend,Rod Dreher, recommends them).

    Also there’s a farm owned by the Lohr’s in SC (probably somewhat close to Augusta- it’s 45 min. off 85 getting off a bit before Clemson’s exit) that sells raw milk. I belong to a cooperative that drives from Atlanta to get the milk every 2 weeks. Each of us makes the trip once every 6 months and we pick up about 80 gallons. Milk is $3.50 per gallon.
    For those scared of ‘raw,’ the state of S.C. tests the milk.

    Hope that helps.

  17. Rachel, I get it. This has been a dilemma in our house too! I’ve done the whole pendulum swing. From skim regular milk, to dairy truck delivery, to organic, to raw as a shareholder in a cow from a farm, back to where we are now: Publix grocery brand whole milk.

    The issues for us (big family, going on 7 kids) was first: health, then the whole milk thing versus skim (milk is food, so for us, WHOLE food is best), so we switched to whole milk. ok. Then I spent last summer all the point of raw milk. However, way too much hassle, convincing arguments but not totally sold on the NO pastuerization and couldn’t get my whole family to drink it plus it cost a fortune!

    So then I decided against “organic” as all of the brands of organic in my stores were ULTRA pastuerized, which in my research is a bad thing. Kills everything, even the good stuff. Plus they are crazy expensive.

    Then I discovered taht the milk Publix sells as store brand has NO antibiotics or hormones. Now, those are my final and bottom line issues. DON”T want those, ever. the plus is that store brand is half the cost.

    So that’s the swing from store brand, away, and back again. Long story, same end. Sigh. Like the rest of life, eh? But it’s an important topic, growing boys drink A LOT of milk!!! Good luck!

    Michele G

  18. I buy 2 gallons of raw milk twice a month. We have to drink it fast because it has no preservatives! So it goes bad quickly! And having to throw it out is spilt milk that I will cry over! In between times, I buy whole milk that is hormone free. I do not go the extra mile for the organic, because it is pasturized. As long as there are no hormones, I feel comfortable giving it to my kids. We are not huge milk drinkers, so this is what works for me right now.

    I have just read Real Food by Nina Planck. I thought it was a very good resource. She writes a lot about milk. We are also very low processed food family due to dh severe allergy to gluten. After getting used to how to cook, I actually feel like my grocery budget is more reasonable. Hope this helps! Love your blog!


  19. Kansas Mom says

    We were buying all organic for a while, but then decided to cut our grocery budget in half in order to live on my husband’s salary alone. We now purchase only some organic fruits and veggies (those on the worst list) and have switched to local but non-organic meats and poultry. The organic milk stayed, though. We drink a TON of milk, which means we spend even more (close to that $6/gallon figure), but because we drink so much I want to be sure it’s the best we can get.

    There was some recent evidence that it makes a difference in pregnancy and nursing. Here’s one link:

    I’m not sure I hit the 90% mark overall, but I might given how much milk we drink.

    My husband and I hope to have our own little farm in the next few years and are seriously considering getting our own little dairy cow to get the benefits without as much of the cost.

  20. Ecce Quam Bonam says

    Hey Rach,
    I’ve long thought that, neighborhood covenants notwithstanding, having our own personal nanny goat and consuming the occasional kid (hee hee) would be a good way to handle the organic milk issue.

  21. I go back and forth. If I can get to costco I buy organic but if Walmart has a gallon on sale for 2$ I buy it. It all tastes the same to me but I hate milk. My daughter loves it and she doesnt show a preference. I’m most concerned about hormones in milk affecting her adversely but science doesnt seem to support milk being the main cause of precocious puberty.

  22. happy appy wife says

    Due to the rising costs of fuel and transporting, the cost of groceries has skyrocketed – regular milk in these parts is $4.39 a gallon/store brand, and organic is $5.79/gallon.

    Hubby raised dairy goats as a youth and we are considering the purchase of 2-3 dairy goats along with some chickens to cut costs over the long term (milk, butter, cheese, eggs, meat). We own .75 acres in hillbillburbia, blessedly flat and no zoning restrictions on farm animals.

    The garden this year will provide all our vital veggies throughout 08-spring 09. Seedlings are already growing under lights.

    Eating organic and healthy does not have to be expensive. We eat organic, and we do it cheaply.

    What we do to cut costs: Subscribe to Countryside magazine – great cost-cutting and p&r ideas, all from readers.

    Join a food co-op, or frequent farmer’s markets, or make friends with farmers (dairy, veggie, beef, beekeepers, etc). Or read the classifieds – most farmers sell their excess produce.

    Plant a garden. Can vegetables and fruits. Pick from local orchards and farmers (check the classifieds). Container garden if you have ‘no space’. A plot as small as 10′ x 10′ can yield more veggies than you’d ever think.

    Purchase your beef directly from the source with friends to share the cost, and have it butchered and split amongst participating families. As a kid, my family would ‘split a cow’ with another family, and store the meat in a chest freezer to use over the course of a year.

    We are, as a culture, spoiled by what we can get at the grocery store, at a moment’s notice. Perhaps the rising costs of foodstuffs will encourage a return to family self-sustenance.

    Good luck and thanks for the forum!


  23. Anonymous says

    Rachel – I don’t really have an answer. We spend about $7/gal on soymilk, so I know where you’re coming from. Do you have a warehouse club that you belong to? Many of those are switching to organic products and they are much cheaper.

    If you’re looking to save on your monthly food bill, I’d suggest The Grocery Game (you can Google it). It requires some time clipping coupons, but I’ve seen my monthly bill go down about 40%. It’s been a substantial savings for us. Good luck and happy shopping!

  24. We drink regular old grocery store milk. Always have, always will–all eight of us. Hasn’t killed us yet. 🙂

  25. Anonymous says

    Rachel, CostCo sells organic milk (and other organic products) – if there’s one in your neighborhood, it’s worth a look. My membership has allowed me to slash our grocery budget significantly. We too are a family of 7 – our milk consumption is significant but our real area of amazing consumption is produce – we eat more fruit than a colony of Giant Brazilian Fruit Bats! Thank heavens for the giant flats of $6.00 strawberries!


  26. Courageous Grace says

    I purchase Lactaid because I’m lactose intolerant and it’s cheaper in the long run to buy the lactaid milk then the pills to take with my milk….so I can’t help you here. 😀

  27. I think you had a good thought, there, Rachel. Drinking less milk might make sense for your family. I know we only drink water with dinner here. That’s the way my mom did it and so I guess the option of milk *with* a meal(besides pb&j or pancakes)just didn’t occure to my mind as an option. I have also done the whole back-and-forth between raw, unpasteurized, organic milk and plain old store-bought stuff. I LOVED the raw milk and the fact that I wasn’t feeding them antibiotics and hormones. You now have nearly 30 comments here, which pretty much indicates that it’s on lots of our minds. I just mentioned it to my husband a few days ago, as in, “We need to go back to our raw milk”.
    and–I love Money Mondays..can’t wait till next one. 🙂

  28. My wife left this open and I had to comment. When I was teaching a class on public health at UC Berkeley we went through this issue as it interested students. Feel free to ignore me.

    Is there vitamin loss from pasteurization? Yes, but it’s very slight and the loss is in the vitamins that milk is not a great source for anyway. (Nobody ought to try to get their RDA of vitamin C from milk, that’s what fruits and vegetables are for.) B vitamin complexes that are decreased by small percentages. Calcium is the really important nutrient and there is no decrease in that at all.

    Are there some benefits from raw milk versus the normal stuff? Yes, some studies back in the early part of last century showed some benefits with things like cavities or illnesses. Fortunately, these small and modest benefits are now much, much less important as we have things like fluoride in water and toothpaste antibiotics to deal with germs. Recent studies show any gains are negligible.

    Are there small traces of artificial chemicals or antibiotics in normal milk? Not at any levels that can be detected by man. If there are then the milk cannot be sold. Some may still be there below that threshold, but the amounts are so small that it would be irrelevant. Substances aren’t toxic, doses of substances are toxic. (e.g. water intoxication) There’s also no such thing as a cumulative effect from eating foods that used pesticide, herbicides, fungicides, etc. Allowed levels in food are much to low for there to be any buildup and if it still worries you increase your water intake and that will take care of it even faster.

    Are there hormones in the milk that can cause early puberty? No, there are not. The increase in early puberty currently appear the be the result of high body fat, especially in pre-teen girls. Cutting milk out of their diet is a horrible idea as they need as much calcium as they can get at an early age for later bone health. Get the kids outside exercising more.

    Are there health benefits from organic milk? Nothing really firmly established. What studies that have show a small benefit and that benefit seems to go away as soon as double blind tests are used. The benefits are usually reported in news stories as something large and significant, but for any sort of population study an increase in any sort of harm less that 100% (a doubling of risk) is almost always irrelevant and whatever the risk seen in the population is always much lower in better tests. Knowing this fact keeps you from worrying about results from almost all medical studies reported in the news.

    Is there a link with milk and asthma? People do report that their asthma gets worse right after drinking milk. However, the same percentage of people report this after thinking they had milk and they actually had a placebo. It seems to be that people mistake viscous liquids for mucus in the throat. Switching from one type of milk to another won’t change anything with asthma. You’ll find plenty of people who claim the contrary, but there is a reason that the word “evidence” is not the plural form of “anecdote.” No scientific study has ever found any result with this.

    Is less processed food better for the environment? The jury is still out on this one. On one hand there are less chemicals used, on the other hand there is need for additional farmland. On one hand the market is there to reward farmers with higher prices for their goods, on the other hand this results in higher food prices across the board which harms the developing world.

    In short, buy whatever you want. If you want buy the cheaper milk, buy the cheaper milk. If you want to buy raw milk, buy raw milk. If you want to buy organic milk, buy organic milk. There’s no real difference in benefits with whatever you buy. So relax, buy what you want, and don’t let anyone make you worry about it.

  29. I know I’m late in chiming in, but I would seriously look at the quantity the boys are taking in. Regardless if it is organic or not. From a nutrition perspective (I’m an RD), 2 glasses of milk a day along with other dairy rich foods (cheese, yogurt, and if they’ll eat them dark green veggies), will meet their dairy needs. Once their “needs” are met nutritionally, you are basically just looking at the extra milk as “empty calories”. So many products are calcium fortified (bread, cereal & juices) that it is unlikely your boys will be hurting themselves by reducing the milk consumption. Increasing the water, would be a definite bonus and a good habit to have for life long wellness.

  30. I’m gald you said this Margaret. Milk is nutritious and kids have a need for about 3 servings of dairy a day, more than that, especially of Whole milk is a lot of added calories and fat that they don’t need. I would worry about that being the cause of early puberty like Curt said as well as many health concerns later in life rather than hormones in milk. I buy store brand regular Skim milk. In a lot of things, I think store-sold organic products are a solution looking for a problem. If you have the capacity to homestead, I think that’s great, but if you’re shopping at the grocery store, I’d rather save some money on products that are just as good.

  31. Interesting discussion. I figure milk is a fine thing to drink, at least for kids. But I would argue that the concern with drinking a lot of it is not the fat, but the (natural) sugar. On a related note, Gary Taubes’s book “Good Calories, Bad Calories” is a great, science-based book that I highly recommend. It gives an in-depth look at some of the questionable recommendations about diet that have become conventional wisdom over the past few decades.

    Anyway, I try to drink mostly water.

  32. Wade & Kerri says

    Wow, I’m glad you posted this question — I’ve been educated! I grew up on raw milk and don’t drink pasteurized/homogenized because I don’t like the flavor (unless there’s chocolate in it), although my husband and our sons go through a minimum of four gallons a week. I would feel better buying organic or hormone free, but even the regular stuff is $4/gallon — $20/week, $80/month, almost $1000 year, and that’s the cheap stuff!

    Good luck with the grocery budgeting. Do you have a money-tracking program like Quicken on your computer? We use ours religiously. Every dollar we make is entered and every dollar we spend is accounted for and categorized. It’s great because we can see exactly where all our money is going and keep track from month to month which categories we’re staying on course with and which need to be curtailed a bit. It’s a bit of work getting it set up initially, but I highly recommend it for tracking and monitoring expenses.

    (sorry, had to repost — did bad math previously!)

  33. Anonymous says

    we’re the only species that drinks another animal’s milk.. i say, scale back.

  34. Anonymous says

    Actually, you can drink too much milk! My son is borderline anemic (his iron counts are low) and his doctor recommended us cutting back on milk – which is naturally his drink of choice. She said that too much milk can interfere with iron absorption. He’s a much happier and more energetic boy now that his iron levels are normal, and I make sure that he doesn’t get more than a few cups of milk each day. We’re careful to get the hormone-free kind in our house too.

  35. Marria ( says

    I buy organic milk when at all possible…but, like you, must consider my “food budget!” I only have three children but feeding them is quite expensive! My sister, a dietician, says if I am going to spend my money on organic products, milk is a good choice. We can taste the difference and the abscence of pesticides seems to make the milk last longer. I clear out my store’s shelf when they discount it to $1.50 for half-gallon! Sometimes, when the budget is tight…I will purchase a gallon of regular milk. (And try not to notice the difference!)

  36. Melanie B says

    I buy organic mostly, though recently I’ve started buying from a local dairy that has hormone free milk (and at less than $3 a gallon is less than half the price.) For me health concerns are big; but even if the studies cited are correct, an even bigger issue is taste. The organic milk just tastes better. When my budget leads me to buy store brand it tastes sour to me, though it does last longer as I start drinking less milk. The local dairy is a bit of a drive and I don’t really save money as we always end up buying ice cream when we go, but again the taste is the key factor.

  37. class factotum says


    No reason to hurry to drink the milk before it goes bad. I finally figured out (after pouring way too much milk down the drain, which made me sick) that milk can be frozen. I will freeze it in small containers (water bottles work well, just don’t fill them all the way) and thaw them as I need them. I hate wasting food, so this has been an excellent solution for me.