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How do I know when milk is bad?

Updated: Jun 30, 2023

Milk has become one of the most confusing food products on the market. There are more varieties than ever, and many are dairy free. Date labels on the milk cartons and bottles make things more confusing as they indicate quality, not food safety.

According to the FDA, who has regulatory authority over the inspection of milk, “Manufacturers generally apply date labels at their own discretion and for a variety of reasons. The most common is to inform consumers and retailers of the date up to which they can expect the food to retain its desired quality and flavor.”[1]

How long should milk last? Properly stored milk should last anywhere from a few days to a week past when it opened. Non-dairy milk may last longer.

Where should I store my milk? Milk should be stored in the coldest part of your fridge with the most consistent temperatures. Depending on the design of your fridge, this could be an upper or middle shelf, usually in the back. It is bad practice and not advised to store your milk on the door.

How do I know when milk is bad? Smell is the greatest indicator. If milk smells sour, off, or slightly acidic? This indicates that bacteria have grown to unsafe levels, it is unwise to consume. The color can also be an indicator, does the milk look yellow or slightly green? Then you waited too long to use it.

Milk frozen in ice cube tray

Can I freeze milk? Yes, while freezing milk changes the texture and quality, it can still be used for baking or in smoothies. Using an ice cube tray, fill each reservoir 3/4th of the way full. Freeze until solid and transfer cubes to an airtight storage container. Use within one month.

What else can I do to preserve my milk? Baking cakes, breads and other items that freeze well are excellent ways to use your leftover milk. Just bake and store in an airtight container. Frozen cakes and breads can usually last up to 3 months.

[1] (FDA, 2019)

Soured Milk Recipe (adapted from


  • 3/4 Cup Milk

  • 1 Tbsp. Lemon Juice (or Vinegar)

  • 1 Cup Flour

  • 2 Tbsp. Sugar

  • 1 tsp. Baking Powder

  • 1/2 tsp. Baking Soda

  • 1/4 tsp. Salt

  • 1 Egg

  • 1/2 tsp. Vanilla

  • 2 Tbsp. Butter, melted


  1. Mix 1 Tbsp. Lemon Juice (or Vinegar) and 3/4 Cup Milk

  2. Let Sit for 5 Minutes

  3. Mix 1 Cup Flour, 2 Tbsp. Sugar, 1 tsp. Baking Powder, 1/2 tsp. Baking Soda, 1/4 tsp. Salt

  4. Crack your Egg

  5. Melt your Butter

  6. Mix, Egg, Butter and Soured Milk

  7. Pour your Milk Mixture into Your Flour Mixture

  8. Mix Until Smooth

  9. Let Stit for 5 Minutes

  10. Warm your Skillet

  11. Pour Pancake on Skillet to Desired Size

  12. Once Bubble Formation Slows Down, Flip

  13. Cook, the Other Side

  14. EAT or FREEZE for 3 Weeks

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