Holy cow! The cost of milk is going up, but our paychecks aren’t keeping pace. Record milk prices are expected this year, with multiple factors coinciding in the marketplace threatening to continue the trend. Even Starbucks is raising prices and blaming it on the cost of milk.

Your gut reaction might be to skip the milk, yet that could be penny-wise but pound-foolish. We all know milk is a great source of calcium and protein, and just 24 ounces a day can take care of most of our calcium needs. Remember, too, that calcium — especially that from milk — helps control weight.

Here are tips for squeezing more value from your milk.

Do the Math

If milk is $4 a gallon, an 8-ounce glass is only 25 cents. Three glasses, which supply a significant amount of the protein and nearly all the calcium and Vitamin D your body needs each day, cost just 75 cents, notes Stephanie Smith, RD, with the Western Dairy Council. Compare that with bottled water, soda or fancy coffee. “Dairy products remain a great nutritional value,” she says.

Go for the Gallon

Check expiration dates and get the freshest. If you consume those three 8-ounce servings each day, you’ll finish the gallon in 51/3 days, well before the milk would spoil under normal circumstances.

Bodybuilder tip: Check the label to make sure you buy fat-free or 1% milk to minimize your fat intake. Whole milk has nearly 8 grams of fat per cup.


Protein Powder

As food prices go up overall, milk products may remain good deals for protein. Eight ounces of milk provides 8 grams of protein; based on a price of $4 per gallon, that comes to a little over 3 cents per gram of protein.

Cottage cheese, another milk product that’s loaded with protein, has a hefty 14 grams of protein per half-cup. A 32-ounce store brand container recently cost 3.5 cents per gram of protein. Pack some for lunches or keep some in the refrigerator at work for protein pick-me-ups. If you don’t like the flavor, sprinkle on pepper or other seasonings.

Bodybuilder tip: Mix protein-packed, low-fat cottage cheese with fruit or chopped green onion and bell peppers for lunches, snacks and even breakfast. Add it to omelets and smoothies for added protein and calcium.

Shop Around

Milk prices may be rising, but some stores offer better deals than others, advises Smith. Shop around at supermarkets and club stores as well as convenience stores. Look for sales. If a store offers a great deal for a 2-gallon purchase, maybe you can buddy up with a friend and each take a gallon.

Keep it Cold

“Milk should be stored in the back of the refrigerator, where it’s usually coldest, and not in the door,” suggests Smith. “Pour the amount of milk you need and place the container back in the refrigerator immediately. Don’t let the milk container sit on the counter for extended periods.”