First off, three gallons of milk in 1/2 gallon jars crammed into a Coleman cooler are really heavy. I haven't weighed the cooler when it is full of milk, mostly because I'm a little scared to find out how much it weighs. That and, once I get it home, I just want to get it unloaded and not think about having to carry it again for another week. The last time I was picking up my cooler, another raw milk drinker was there emptying her cooler into canvas grocery bags. Maybe I'll try that, but something tells me I'm a little too impatient on a Monday after work to take more than one trip to the car. It's a bit ironic that the pick up point for this raw milk is chiropractic office, don't ya think?
As a family we are consistently using three gallons of milk weekly; this is at least 50% more than when we drank grocery store milk. Mostly, we drink it straight or in coffee. (We don't use half-n-half any more.) We use a small portion in cooking (the usual stuff: pancakes, waffles, casseroles, clam chowder and ice cream). We've been eating less cold cereal lately; we eat more yogurt and oatmeal.
Yogurt is a tricky thing. I've made yogurt successfully twice (using Vanessa Barrington's method which involves cooking the milk at 185 degrees F for five minutes), but whenever I make a quart of yogurt we feel like we have to ration the milk on Sunday and Monday. The farm is currently not selling any more herdshares, but if they were we would probably buy another, so that we could have a gallon to make yogurt with. (Who am I kidding? We'd probably buy two more and try making our own cheese as well.) Since another gallon isn't an option right now, Jason and I decided to go back to buying Mountain High Plain yogurt or buying organic milk from the grocery store and making our own.
Speaking broadly, there are two features of pastured, raw milk that commercially (or commercial-organically) produced pasteurized milk lack: 1.) It is believed that there are good enzymes and bacteria in raw milk. These are said to aid with digestion, reduce allergies, boost the immune system and generally aid good health. 2.) Pastured milk is thought to have more nutrients and a more healthful fat ratio, due to the natural diet of a variety of grasses, than milk from cows fed "feed" (which may include alfalfa, but tends to include corn and soybeans, things that cow stomachs aren't designed to process). The cooking involved in yogurt-making certainly would kill all of the beneficial enzymes in raw milk, but some enzymes and beneficial bacteria are introduced when culturing the milk to make yogurt. Unfortunately, there is no similar way to make up for the lost nutrients and inferior fat ratio of a commercial cow's grain-based diet.
We had no trouble meeting our normal food budget in January. The issues we had in November and December may have been due to holiday cooking. Some of our other food choices (such as using more old-fashioned oats, fewer boxes of cereal and planning more meals ahead of time) may also contribute to the balance.
It's too soon to be too confident, but Grace, my eczema-and nasal-allergy-prone kid, seems much less itchy on days when she drinks at least two full cups of raw milk.
One other indirect result of our raw milk drinking is that my research about raw milk has encouraged me to prepare and serve more fermented foods. My favorite is the curtido that I told you about earlier this week. Gracie prefers carrots sticks prepared similarly to these (shredded) Ginger Carrots.
I've updated my Homemade Ice Cream Page to include two new flavors: Coconut Chocolate Chip and Caramel Brownie Sundae.
February 6, 2012 UPDATE: (Three days later) It's milk delivery day again and there's a whole gallon of milk left in the fridge! I started a half-gallon batch of yogurt this morning. It's inoculating in the Crock-Pot now.