Cheap milk replacement for cereal? In a bulk dry mix?
January 27, 2007 7:53 AM   Subscribe

Wanted: Extremely cheap non-milk replacement for cereal eating.

Part A: I'm tired of milk. It's gross, it's expensive, it's not portable.

I would like to know if there are any milk replacements suitable for hot and cold cereal eating that cost less than cheap generic milk.

I like soy, rice and almond "milk", but I find it too expensive for the sheer bulk quantities of grains that I eat in the form of hot and cold cereal. I prefer rice and almond milks over soy milks.

I have eaten plenty of oats and cold cereal with what amounts to plain water, or water with a dollop of yogurt, but that usually was just because I was out of milk and too lazy to go get some or I was broke, not because it was tasty.

Part B: Why can't I buy bulk dry "mix" for soy, rice or almond milks like I can buy powdered milk? Is there any way to get a tolerable milk-replacement mix? This would be incredibly awesome for things like travelling, camping, and living good and cheap.

I list all of this to indicate exactly how far away from "milk" I'm willing to go. It doesn't have to taste like cow-milk. It should just taste much better than water and be cheaper than milk, hopefully with equitable nutritional values, with huge bonus points if I can buy powdered mix in bulk.

Tags: Milk Soy Almond Rice SoyMilk AlmondMilk RiceMilk Breakfast Cereal Vegan Vegetarian BachelorChow
posted by loquacious to Food & Drink (36 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
well some cereal is good just dry or drizzled with a little bit of honey.
posted by mmascolino at 7:57 AM on January 27, 2007

Response by poster: Why can't I buy bulk dry "mix" for soy, rice or almond milks like I can buy powdered milk? Is there any way to get a tolerable milk-replacement mix? This would be incredibly awesome for things like travelling, camping, and living good and cheap.

Addendum: in addition to the portability aspect, dry bulk mix would/should be inherently cheaper due to lower transport costs, and by virtue more energy-wise because the liquid portion isn't transported, which is something I like the idea of.
posted by loquacious at 7:57 AM on January 27, 2007

Response by poster: well some cereal is good just dry or drizzled with a little bit of honey.

I do that as well, but I can only do it for so long before my teeth and mouth get mad at me. See also: Cap'n Crunch Lacerated Mouth Syndrome, not that I've had any of that crack in a box in ages.

Dry is fine for snacking but not for mowing through a small mountain of bran flakes or cheerio-like O's covered with whole uncooked oats and/or wheat germ. I'm pretty serious about my cereal.
posted by loquacious at 8:02 AM on January 27, 2007

You could try orange juice in your cereal as Dr. Dean Ornish does. He is a vegetarian, and only eats animal products once a year: Turkey at Thanksgiving. Orange juice and raisin bran. Yum.
posted by LoriFLA at 8:30 AM on January 27, 2007

Once on a business trip my wife accompanied me and we found some powdered soy milk to keep in the room since we had no refrigerator. It tasted god-awful but we found a fairly large container just at a normal grocery store.
posted by Octoparrot at 8:33 AM on January 27, 2007

My own solution to the problem -- which for me is a "bulk soymilk" question -- is indeed to buy dry raw ingredients and then make it into soy milk on demand (with 24hr lead time). You can get dry soybeans in bulk and make soymilk at less than a dollar per gallon, even organic. In fact I believe the process for making rice and almond milk is similar, but I've never made those myself.

Essentially, you:
- soak a pound or less of soybeans overnight to revive them, then
- blend them with water in a food processor/blender, then
- boil in a huge pot with more water until it stops foaming, then
- strain through cheesecloth/muslin.

It's not the easiest or fastest thing in the world, but I find it rewarding. And if your time is cheap or you consider the task to be leisure, it's cheaper than any soymilk. But see here for more discursive instructions. You don't need to buy one of those expensive soymilk machines, but since most of them say they also work for rice & almonds, you should be able to do exactly the same process. It's obviously no good for camping, though.
posted by xueexueg at 8:36 AM on January 27, 2007 [2 favorites]

I think it'll be tough to find something that's both cheap and nutritionally equivalent to milk. Milk is kinda unique.

I've occasionally seen powdered soy milk, but it tends to be meant as some sort of nutritional supplement (kept in that area of the store, not the soy milk area), and ends up being more expensive than the regular bottled stuff.

Anyway, I like eating oatmeal with orange juice. It sounds a lot stranger than it is. Try microwaving it with orange juice instead of water/milk and maybe adding frozen strawberries. In the summer, try quick (not instant) oatmeal with orange juice poured over it, uncooked. Cheap OJ made from frozen concentrate (with added calcium) will probably taste OK for these purposes.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:37 AM on January 27, 2007

My father eats cereal with powdered hot chocolate mix. Nothing like milk, nutritionally, but pretty inexpensive and (he claims) tasty. Milk can pretty much be replaced by a multivitamine and a calcium pill.
posted by muddgirl at 8:42 AM on January 27, 2007

Is powdered baby formula too expensive? Or just profoundly unappealing? Maybe I'm getting a little too creative here...
posted by unknowncommand at 8:42 AM on January 27, 2007

You can make your own rice (1, 2, 3) and nut (almond) milks. They're definitely cheaper and all the recipes I see look fairly simple.
posted by Melinika at 8:43 AM on January 27, 2007

Anyway, I like eating oatmeal with orange juice.
posted by needs more cowbell

Oatmeal with freshly squeezed juice from a blood orange has been my favorite breakfast for over 50 years. It's not the inexpensive replacement requested and wholesale orange prices have nearly tripled in the last couple of weeks thanks to the frost that hit California growers. Blood oranges have a higher sugar content than other citrus varieties and that sugar provides a degree of frost protection so they weren't hit as hard, but prices are still going up.
posted by buggzzee23 at 8:58 AM on January 27, 2007

When I was eating Granola for breakfast I used cider or apple sauce instead of milk.
posted by sgobbare at 9:03 AM on January 27, 2007

There seems to be plenty of powdered soy milk for sale online.
posted by walla at 9:10 AM on January 27, 2007

Why can't I buy bulk dry "mix" for soy, rice or almond milks like I can buy powdered milk?

You can. It's not cheap. The product you want doesn't exist unless you are wiling to put in the legwork either to source the stuff cheaply or make it yourself. If you really want to live good and cheap, moving away from breakfast cereal as a meal is honestly the way to go as far as bang-for-your-buck protein.

That said, the two things I suggest are

1. finding soy milk powder someplace (it totally exists, I have some in my house right now) and either buy in massive bulk quantities or find it on sale/special someplace. I have a local dented can store near me and the stuff regularly shows up there. It's still not superdupercheap but it's equivalent to powedered milk.
2. powderd milk from food shelf. The stuff often shows up there. However I think one of the reasons it shows up there is because it's meant for families with young children who have calcium needs that you do not.
3. protein powders mixed with water and/or sweetener and/or flavor. I have not tried this, but I think it's the best overall solution, though sort of gross.

In short, my feeling is that you are looking at a "tasty, portable, cheap: choose two" situation. Truly dwelling portably means either accomodating what you eat to suit packability and long lastingness (i.e. ditch the cereal), or accomodating costs to have stuff that is awesome on the road (i.e. pay the money), or accomodating your palate to learn to enjoy less savory liquid options on cereal (i.e. go with yogurt and/or cider). This is not me just talking smack, I've pretty much gone down this road before.
posted by jessamyn at 9:16 AM on January 27, 2007

Cap'n Crunch and Pepsi. Ah, memories.
posted by shoesfullofdust at 9:37 AM on January 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

How expensive is soy milk? I buy Silk and it lasts for 3 months and costs about what real milk costs. Real milk barely lasts a month. I save money by not throwing out milk.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:46 AM on January 27, 2007

What about generic soy protein powder? One of those 1kg tubs must make a decent amount of liquid, and you could likely cut back on the amount of powder used to get a thinner consistency more like milk.
posted by glip at 10:01 AM on January 27, 2007

Cap'n Crunch and Pepsi. Ah, memories.
posted by shoesfullofdust
You still have memories after such an experience? My hat's off to you.

Another alternative is coconut milk. You can buy it powdered and import shops sometimes have it in bulk. Fairly high fat content if you mix it to any strength approaching milk though.
posted by mce at 10:02 AM on January 27, 2007

Can I just say how nice it is to see people who add OJ to cereal? Every time someone has seen me pour OJ over Cheerios (or even mentioned said combo), I have gotten the most disgusted looks. And they all refused to try it point-blank.
posted by timepiece at 10:23 AM on January 27, 2007

Soy milk from Chinatown is cheaper than what you can get at a non-Chinese grocery store. There are no additives like calcium carbonate, carageenan or whatever else they put in "regular" soy milk. This means that it will taste more watery, and less thick. It's usually just soy beans, water and sugar (if you get the sweetened kind) and it's made fresh (do not get the boxed kind, get the kind that come in clear plastic "milk" containers). Look in the drinks section of your local Chinese grocery store or bakery.
posted by hooray at 10:44 AM on January 27, 2007

I have in-laws who use Cremora on their cereal. With milk in the house. I think that's kind of gross, but...well, they don't. Any "non-dairy creamer" might be worth trying; there's certainly loads of office-grade cheap powdered around.

I'm not sure I buy a "vegetarian" who "eats meat once a year..."
posted by kmennie at 12:35 PM on January 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Whole Foods gives a 10% discount on soy/almond milk bought buy the case. It's not a huge discount, but it's something. You might want to check if your local retailer will do the same.

If you're into experimentation, my Dad used to pour brewed black tea on those giant individually wrapped shredded wheat bricks. I've never done it myself. My personal milk substitute is hot or cold applesauce, but I doubt it's cheaper than almond milk, unless you made your own.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:51 PM on January 27, 2007

I think the baby formula suggestion is definitely worth trying. You're best bet is going to be DIY for cheap, though, and the good thing is you'll know exactly what's in your milk.

I'm not sure I buy a "vegetarian" who "eats meat once a year..."

I'm not sure I buy that either but if I was going to eat meat only once a year it sure as hell wouldn't be turkey.
posted by 6550 at 1:01 PM on January 27, 2007

This place sells all sorts of (mostly) soy and rice -based powdered drink mixes. Most of them work out to be about a dollar per quart mixed. Can't vouch for them as I've never tried their products.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:03 PM on January 27, 2007

xueexueg has it exactly right. My dad works from home and does that since it doesn't take a lot of hands-on time. If you use a mesh french press as a strainer instead of cheesecloth it's a little grittier, but I figure you get more of the fiber.

It is quite tasty, especially with a little bit of honey or sugar in it. You can also consume it hot with salt and chili oil instead of sugar.
posted by porpoise at 1:04 PM on January 27, 2007

I usually eat my oatmeal with protein powder, as suggested above, but i like to use milk to make it creamier... or you could add twice as much powder. Either way - 1/4 a galloen of milk lasts me at the very least a week.

On the other hand, it does not smell very good. A if you go for cold cereal, you need to use a power shaker / blender to get homogeneous protein shake.
posted by ye#ara at 1:14 PM on January 27, 2007

One cereal that works great without liquid is Heritage Flakes. They sell large bulk bags of Heritage that are cheaper than most General Mills or Post cereals.
posted by allterrainbrain at 1:59 PM on January 27, 2007

i can see how water on cold cereal is unapealling, but i think water works fine for oatmeal, especially if you put some fruit or other flavored things in.

and i second making soy milk. we have a soy milk maker that does it all automatically, which cost $80 but quickly payed for itself. you have to add surprising amounts of sugar and salt if you want it to taste like commercial soy milk or anything like milk, though, because milk is naturally sweet and most commercial soy milks have plenty of additives. i also like oatmilk.
posted by lgyre at 2:46 PM on January 27, 2007

Googling "x milk powder" and "powdered x milk" (with quotes where x is the ingredient variant) will net many, many options. Pricewise, I dunno, I'm not so interested as to do the math. These products, anyway, exist. One that looked most accessible on the retail level was called "better than milk," it looks like this Amazon deal came in about a buck a quart, not counting shipping.

If you could get access to bulk product (like this for example, looks like food service supply but who knows) it would obviously take the price down. Given the heavy subsidy and massively greater production base on cows milk, honestly I think your price goal is probably optimistic unless you want to get into stuff like crazy bulk.

You can make these things yourself as well, a cost conscious friend made her own soy milk for years. Google "x milk recipe" you will get plenty of options, or go hang out at the "milk is evil" type websites, they're all way into milk substitutes.
posted by nanojath at 3:29 PM on January 27, 2007

So, are you looking for a milk substitute in function, or a milk substitute in taste/form? Because you said that you have a lot of bulk grains that you want to eat, but without milk.

I think your best bet is to forget the dried cereal + milk template. There just aren't a lot of cold liquids you can pour over grains besides milk.

Instead, start with some kind of porridge recipe and add flavor. butter + grits. Maple syrup + oatmeal or cream of wheat. Rice porridge + mushrooms. Actually rice porridge + asian vegetable is a common breakfast in asian cuisine, and about the farthest from the american milk based breakfast as you can get.
posted by cotterpin at 7:01 PM on January 27, 2007

Re:portability, have you looked at something like this? Granted it doesn't solve all your problems (i.e. you still have to freeze the freezerpack the night before to keep it cold), but it's one solution.
posted by IndigoRain at 8:52 PM on January 27, 2007

Tahini + warm water + blender = yum. Takes a bit of practice to get the proportions right (hint: you don't need that much tahini).
posted by flabdablet at 9:35 PM on January 27, 2007

while on a bike trip i discovered that apple juice is wonderful on muesli (and is much easier to transport and keep than milk).

in NA it's hard to find good muesli - but all you need is a combo of the following:

* rolled grains (e.g. oats, rye)
* raisins (flame or thompson, yum.)
* other dried fruit (e.g. apples, dates, etc.)
* sunflower seeds

I mention this because it's super-cheap to buy these raw ingredients, and so maybe you can save addl money by not buying expensive packaged cereal.
posted by kamelhoecker at 9:05 AM on January 28, 2007

I add OJ to cereal as well. Yum!
posted by gaspode at 11:26 AM on January 28, 2007

Bulk Rice Milk is just rice.

Buy a big bag of rice. Blend it up a few cups at a time. Let soak overnight. Now you have rice milk.
If desired add vanilla or almond milk (same process with skinned almonds).
posted by Four Flavors at 11:00 AM on January 29, 2007

I buy ultra-pasteurized milk (Parmalot). I discovered it a few years ago when I was without electricity for 10 days after Hurricane Wilma and I've been using it ever since.

The cartons can be stored without refrigeration for 6 months or so, but they need to be refrigerated and used within 6 days after opening.

It tastes exactly like fresh milk and it's the most convenient way to always have milk available at any time.
posted by mike3k at 9:33 PM on August 21, 2007

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