Milk is one of those grocery store staples people buy, hoping it lasts a week or two in the fridge at home. But as time goes by, you question if it’s still safe to drink. So, how long does milk last?
Generally, dairy milk is not sold with an expiration date but rather a best-before or sell-by date. When stored correctly, unopened milk may last up to one week, while opened milk may only last up to three days past those dates. But those time frames are not guaranteed.
So, let’s take a look at the shelf life of milk and some tips on how to keep milk from spoiling. So whether your milk is about to expire or you just want to know how long it will stay fresh, keep reading for all the details.
How Long Can Milk Stay In The Fridge?
According to USDA, you can refrigerate milk for about seven days, but their guidance doesn’t account for the date labeled on the jug or carton. Healthline, on the other hand, gives us two to three days after opening and five to seven days unopened.
As milk goes bad, the smell and flavor will change. So, you should always buy milk with the furthest date from the shopping day and use it quickly to enjoy its fresh taste.
While freezing milk is an option, I don’t recommend it. I grew up drinking milk that has been thawed or partially thawed, and it just doesn’t taste the same.
This is especially true when someone starts using it before it has completely thawed because they will get all the tasty fats and flavor and not much of the still-frozen water. That means that when you go to pour a glass, the remainder will taste very watery.
How Long Is Milk Good For After Opening?
Because fresh air is introduced and anything floating in it, you can expect opened milk to last three to four days under ideal conditions in the refrigerator.
Pasteurized milk shouldn’t contain any bacteria or things that can grow and spoil your milk. But, the air we breathe is full of all kinds of molds and bacteria that will make their home in your milk.
While the fridge may slow down these spoilage threats, it doesn’t top them, only slows them down. And cooking or microwaving milk will not destroy them.
How Long Is Milk Good After Sell-By Date?
When you buy milk, take a closer look at the date labeled on it. Most people believe that it is an expiration date, but it’s usually a best-by or sell-by date.
When this date comes, it doesn’t mean that your milk is bad. For the best-by date, it means that the best time to drink it at the freshest has come to an end. The sell-by date is when the store is required to sell the milk.
Can you drink milk past the “expiration” dates? Yes, but do so with caution. While your nose may indicate spoilage, you should learn all the signs to tell if milk is bad so that you or someone else does not consume it and become sick if it has spoiled.
What Temperature Should Milk Be Stored At?
According to Cornell University, milk should be stored at a temperature below 40°F, ideally between 34°F and 38°F, to maintain freshness and longevity.
It’s always a good idea to check your refrigerator and freezer from time to time to make sure that it’s holding proper temperatures. As they age, they may lose coolant, or dust may impact their cooling coils, causing higher temperatures inside.
Where you place items in your fridge can impact the storage temperature, which is very important when storing dairy products like milk, yogurt, sour cream, cheese, and ice cream.
How To Make Milk Last Longer
There are some things you can do to help keep milk fresh for as long as possible.
- Store milk in the coldest part of your fridge, usually toward the back. Never store milk in the door, even though they are designed to hold drinks.
- Avoid opening and closing the fridge door frequently as this can cause warmer air to circulate inside. Opening the door for only 30 seconds can take hours for the internal temperature to cool again.
- Don’t store milk next to strong-smelling foods, as it can absorb those flavors.
- Maintain a clean fridge. If something else has spoiled, even spills, it can cause your milk to go off quicker.
- Consider buying smaller milk containers so you can finish them before they have a chance to go bad.
- Freeze milk if you won’t be able to drink it before it expires. Frozen milk will last about three months. Thaw it in the fridge overnight and use it within a day or two after thawing.
With these storage tips, you can enjoy milk for weeks after opening it. Just be sure to check for signs of spoilage before consuming it. And if in doubt, throw it out.
How To Store Milk
- 1 Refrigerator
- 1 Quart Milk
- Only buy as much as you need for the week.
- Do not let it sit in the car for long. Use a cooler bag to help keep it fresh.
- Keep the container closed at all times. If you’re baking, it’s easy to open it and leave it sitting there. But the three steps to remember are open, pour, and close.
- Do not let it sit out for longer than you need it. Get it back to chilling right away.
- Store in the fridge near the back on a lower shelf. If you are storing meat on the bottom shelf, then store your milk one shelf above to help prevent cross-contamination.
- Always toss out spoiled milk or when you’re unsure if it's still good.
- Enjoy fresh milk in all your recipes, cereals, or on its own.