Dairy is one of the harder things to prep. Its inherently perishable nature means that we have to be inventive with our prepping
Milk prepping comes down to two main options: powdered or UHT.
I’ve opted for powder, for a couple of reasons
- Powdered takes up less space in my cupboard
- Powdered has a longer shelf life when unopened – UHT will be good for about 6-9 months, whereas I have powdered milk with a best before date that’s well over a year away
- Powdered doesn’t go off when it is opened, whereas UHT goes off in the same way fresh milk does. I live alone and often don’t get through a single pint before it goes off; if I bought UHT milk in one litre cartons I’d be wasting a lot.
You have choices
- Full fat milk – look at Nido brand, available on Amazon and at Asda in the world foods aisle.
- Skimmed milk – Marvel can be found in a few different shops, but is cheapest at B&M. Some supermarkets, including Tesco, do their own brand version.
- Lactose Free – can be found online
Another option is tinned evaporated milk – it can be poured directly into tea and coffee, effectively diluting it, for an entirely palatable result.
Can be frozen and defrosted as you need it
I’ve discovered Carnation Extra Thick Cream, which is sold in tins in larger supermarkets alongside the Evaporated and Condensed milks.
Eaten with a spoon, it has a slightly odd texture, but when I tried it alongside a long life sponge pudding I didn’t notice it at all.
I’ve even tried it in cooking and made a successful Homity Pie.
You can also get shelf stable squirty cream (refrigerate after opening)
I’m yet to come up with a really good prepping option for sour cream. You can find a long life version in the Mexican section, but when eaten alone it has a slightly gritty texture, though that’s not noticeable when served as a topping.
When used in cooking, natural yoghurt can often be used as a substitute.
It is possible to make your own at home, but it requires milk, starter culture (or a preexisting batch of live yoghurt) and a bit of skill.
The foolproof alternative is Easiyo. You have to buy the maker, which is essentially a large thermos that you put a pot inside, but after that you just need the special sachets and some hot water.
It’s always worth checking around for the best special offers on at the moment – the Easiyo website, Amazon, Lakeland and the Range all sell it. When on special offer, you can typically find a starter set (maker and two sachets) for around the £10 mark.
Each sachet makes 1kg yoghurt (you can do half a pack at a time) and comes in a variety of flavours, including natural and Greek, through to more unusual flavours like creme brulee.
Full price it works out slightly more expensive than buying a supermarket own brand (~£2.49 per kg for a natural flavour), but when on special offer it is usually on a par (one current special offer brings it down to £1.66 per kg). It has the distinct advantage of taking up little space and having a shelf life of up to two years. I have seen reports that it will still work fine well past its best before date, but haven’t tested it.
Given the diversity of cheese, there are a few different approaches to use simultaneously
- Hard cheese, such as cheddar and parmesan can be frozen and defrosted without affecting quality
- Blue cheeses such as Stilton can be frozen, but make sure you defrost it slowly in the fridge to prevent it becoming crumbly.
- Halloumi has a shelf life that is 9-12 months long when kept in the fridge
- Fondue cheese can be purchased in a shelf stable packet, but is both specialist (not very versatile) and expensive
- Dried hard cheese is shelf stable and widely available
- Cream cheese can be frozen, but like most soft cheeses the texture is affected and it becomes grainy, so its uses are limited. It does, however, have a reasonable shelf life in the fridge. I haven’t bothered to prep cream cheese.