I would be lying if I said that I preferred making plant-based milk at home vs. buying a carton. Mostly..because I really dislike cooking? Yup, the truth is that I don’t enjoy cooking on a daily basis. And I’m not a lazy person! I really like to experiment in the kitchen when I can take my time. And I absolutely love to eat. But I find cooking every day to be depleting and tedious. I’ll take cleaning the house over cooking, any day. (Is that just me?!) But if I don’t cook, I don’t eat sooo..c’est la vie!
I am a night owl but I’ve been forced to become a morning person because of my job. (The 5:45am alarm never seems to get easier.) So I often skip breakfast because I’m slow at getting ready in the morning. Eeehhh. I’ve been trying to simplify my routine and prioritize time to eat by opting for quick, hassle-free breakfasts: cereals, overnight oats, smoothies. None of these meals take me more than 5 or so minutes to prep and flax milk or flax flour tastes great in all of them!
My feelings about cooking and the convenience of buying milk made it difficult for me to want to make plant-based milks at home. And I felt guilty about the carton even though I could recycle it. So earlier this year, I did the math for homemade almond milk and flax milk compared to store-bought alternatives. Let’s just say there is an obvious winner. But aside from money, there are other pros/cons.
A few reasons I liked buying milk in a carton:
But there are drawbacks:
At the end of the day, making milk at home means no container, no preservatives, no chemicals, no risk of plastic leaching. And if you have access to bulk nuts and seeds, then you can make milk without producing any waste at all. The short shelf life of homemade milk can sometimes be a bit of a nuisance—it only stays fresh for 3-4 days in the fridge. This forces me to make small batches. It can feel like a drawback to not have the milk stay fresh in the fridge for several weeks. I have to remind myself that good, fresh food isn’t going to last nearly as long without adding preservatives or chemicals. The incredible convenience of super markets + grocery stores makes it easy for me to forget about the possible breakdown of the nutritional integrity of my food!
So why flax milk?
Let’s talk money. Last year I started making my own almond milk. The process is simple: soak almonds in water for 12+ hours, blend nuts with fresh water, strain out pulp, sweeten milk if desired, skim off foam, store in glass bottle in the fridge. A 32 oz batch of almond milk required 1 cups of almonds and ~4 cups of water. On average, 1 lb of almonds in the state of Virginia costs 12$/lb and contains approximately 3 cups of almonds. That meant it was costing me an average of $4 to make 1 quart of milk, $8 dollars to make a 1/2 gallon. I can buy a 1/2 gallon of almond milk for $4, half the cost. So homemade is not always more cost effective! For a while, I oscillated between buying almond milk in a carton and making it at home, depending on my travel schedule, what my expenses were in a given week, and if I had almonds on hand in the pantry. I had to keep in mind price, health, shelf life, waste. I was annoyed that I had to choose between a cheaper, less healthy, more wasteful option or a more expensive, healthier, waste-free option.
I’ve tried most plant-based milks on the market: almond, soy, rice, cashew, coconut, flax. Last year, I randomly decided to buy a carton of flax milk instead of almond milk. I was instantly hooked. I prefer flax milk to other milks because I think it has the most neutral taste and has the closest flavor to fat free cow’s milk. Once I discovered flax milk, I found a recipe online and realized that it was even easier to make than almond milk because you don’t have to soak the seeds in advance. I went to the grocery store and was delighted to find that golden flax seeds are only $3/lb and 1lb contains 2 cups of flax seeds. For a 32 oz batch of flax milk, I use 1/2 cup of flax seeds and ~4.5 cups of water, costing me a grand total of ***drumroll please*** $0.75! A 1/2 gallon only costs $1.50 to make but it costs $5 at the store. Making flax milk instead of almond milk saved me $6.50 per 1/2 gallon! Homemade flax milk has a nuttier flavor than the store bought version but I still prefer it to almond milk. So I’ll be sticking with homemade flax milk from now on.
Above: Bulk golden flax seeds, second-hand glass bottle with fresh milk, metal funnel, and cotton flour cloth.
I had blood work done this spring for the first time since transitioning to a plant-based diet. All of my values were great except for a slight deficiency in Vitamin D. I was given the choice of taking a daily supplement or increasing my intake of Vitamin D fortified foods. Flax milk is fortified with 25% of your daily intake of Vitamin D, so I opted to buy a carton and bask in the sunlight everyday to get my levels back up into the normal range. When I finished my 1/2 gallon, I cut out the spout and fit it onto a small Ball Jar! I use this container to take salad dressings or other condiments to work for lunch. I recycled the rest of the carton. Now it’s back to homemade!