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Milk Alternatives: Soy Milk, Rice Milk, Oat Milk, Almond Milk, Cashew Milk, Coconut Milk

Updated on June 10, 2014
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Dr. Penny Pincher founded the popular personal finance blog Penny Pincher Journal in 2013 and has published two books about saving money.

Milk Alternatives

Cow’s milk has great nutritional value- protein, amino acids, calcium, and much more. Some people do not tolerate cow’s milk and are interested in alternatives to provide the nutrition of milk. Some people are interested in health benefits from other types of milk or simply want to try something new. Alternatives to cow's milk include other types of animal milk and milk made from plants such as grain milks and nut milks.

Skim, 1%, and 2% milk varieties

Cow's Milk Varieties- skim, 1%, and 2%
Cow's Milk Varieties- skim, 1%, and 2% | Source

Animal Milk

Cow’s milk is available in several varieties with different butterfat content. Butterfat is the fatty portion of milk. Varieties of milk are known as skim milk, 1% milk, 2% milk, and whole milk. I always wondered if I get 1% milk, what is the other 99%? The percent indicates the percent of butterfat content. Skim milk contains almost no butterfat, 1% milk contains about 1% butterfat, 2% milk contains about 2% butterfat, and whole milk contains 4% butterfat .


  • Skim milk contains less than 0.5% butter fat
  • 1%: about 1% butterfat
  • 2%: about 2% butterfat
  • Whole milk: about 4% butterfat

Milk varieties with more fat tend to cost a bit more that those with less fat content.

Milk Prices by Variety of Milk

Milk Variety
Des Moines
Los Angeles
New York
Skim
$3.33
$3.12
$3.77
1%
$3.53
$3.41
$3.96
2%
$3.67
$3.36
$3.90
Whole
$3.91
$3.41
$4.06
Nationwide Milk Prices, February 2013

Organic Milk

Organic milk is produced without growth hormones and is from cows that are allowed to graze. Organic milk has more milk flavor than regular milk. Some organic food experts say that if you have to pick only one organic food to eat, milk is a great one to start with. Organic milk sells for about $5-6 per gallon depending on the brand.

Organic Milk

Organic Milk Varieties: Lactose Free and Fat Free
Organic Milk Varieties: Lactose Free and Fat Free | Source

Powdered Milk, Evaporated Milk, and Condensed Milk

Powdered milk or dried milk is made by evaporating the liquid from milk to produce a powder that can be stored for a long time without refrigeration. Water is added to the powdered milk to reconstitute the milk. The main advantage of powdered milk is that unlike fresh milk it can be stored for long periods of time. I could see how it would be handy to have powdered milk in the pantry and be able to mix up some more milk rather than running to the store to buy a gallon.

Evaporated milk has about 60% of the water removed and can be canned for long term storage. Water is added to produce milk.

Condensed milk, also known as sweetened condensed milk, typically consists of evaporated milk with sugar added and is used for baking.

Goat Milk

Goat Milk For Sale
Goat Milk For Sale | Source

Other Animal Milks

Other animal milks have distinctive flavors are becoming more popular. These include:

  • Sheep milk
  • Goat milk
  • Buffalo milk

These milks cost about twice or more as much as cow’s milk. These milks may have more fat than cow's milk.

Plant Milks- Alternative to Animal Milk

Plant milks are high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, are low in saturated fat and cholesterol and are lactose free.

Grain milks and nut milks may not require refrigeration until opening, depending on the packaging.

If you have allergies or issues with cow’s milk, there are a number of milk alternatives to choose from.

Typical cost for plant milk: about $1.50 to $3.00 per 32 oz container (that’s $6 to $12 per gallon).

Soy Milk

Soy Milk For Sale
Soy Milk For Sale | Source

Grain Milks

Soy milk and rice milk can now be found in many local grocery stores. This milk is made from soy beans or rice. Does it taste like cow’s milk? Not really. But it is healthy- especially soy milk- and actually tastes pretty good. Some plant milks come in flavors such as vanilla and chocolate. You can use plant milks on cereal or drink it straight just like cow’s milk. I actually like the flavor of soy milk better than cow’s milk. A newer entry to milk alternatives is oat milk. Eating oats can lower your cholesterol- studies have shown that drinking oat milk provides similar benefits.

  • Soy milk (actually considered a legume rather than a grain)
  • Rice milk
  • Oat milk

Almond Milk

Almond Milk Varieties- Vanilla and Chocolate
Almond Milk Varieties- Vanilla and Chocolate | Source

Nut Milks

Milk alternatives can also be produced by combining oils and liquids from nuts with water. These milks have similar health benefits to the grain milks and are high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

  • Coconut milk
  • Almond milk
  • Cashew milk

You can make oat milk, almond milk, and cashew milk at home using a blender.

Where can you buy milk alternatives?


  • Buy fresh cow’s milk at a local grocery store
  • Buy powdered milk or evaporated milk at local grocery stores or on the internet
  • Buy fresh goat, sheep, or buffalo milk at local health food or organic food stores
  • Buy milk alternatives at local grocery or organic food stores or on the internet

Penny Pinching Tips

  • Organic milk has great flavor and no growth hormones- but costs about twice as much as regular milk
  • Milk with less butterfat costs less- for example skim milk costs about 50 cents per gallon less than whole milk
  • Regular milk is a good value- a gallon of milk weighs about 8 pounds. At $3.50 per gallon, you are paying only 45 cents per pound.
  • Milk alternatives are interesting to try, but are more expensive than regular milk. Regular milk is a good deal if you are able to drink it.
  • Some milk alternatives may be stored at room temperature until opened (depending on packaging), so you can buy in bulk and keep a supply in your pantry and avoid extra trips to the store

© 2013 Dr Penny Pincher

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    • drpennypincher profile image
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      Dr Penny Pincher 3 years ago from Iowa, USA

      LWhip, I like the texture and flavor of soy milk best, myself. Coconut ice cream sounds great- I'll have to give that a try! Thanks for your comment.

    • LWhip profile image

      LWhip 3 years ago

      Thanks Drpennypincher - an interesting round up of milk varieties. My son (who is allergic to dairy) has soy, rice and oat depending on the taste profile of whatever we're doing with it. Homemade coconut milk icecream is a great go to as well.

    • drpennypincher profile image
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      Dr Penny Pincher 3 years ago from Iowa, USA

      CraftytotheCore, it seems like there are new kinds of milk available in the store all the time. Goat's milk has A LOT of flavor. I imagine buffalo milk would be more similar to cow's milk, but I have not tried it yet.

      MarleneB, I remember when rice milk and soy milk were the only milk alternatives that could be easily found in the store. I like the vanilla flavored rice milk on cereal.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 3 years ago from Northern California, USA

      Lots of great information here. I like the comparison charts. For the past 30 years I have been lactose intolerant and so I have had to drink alternatives to animal milk. My preference is rice milk. To me, it tastes exactly like regular cow's milk.

    • CraftytotheCore profile image

      CraftytotheCore 3 years ago

      I've never heard of Buffalo milk. My son is lactose intolerant. We usually buy him the lactose free milk. We have tried other options. I love almond milk personally, including the chocolate kind!

    • drpennypincher profile image
      Author

      Dr Penny Pincher 3 years ago from Iowa, USA

      claudyobcn, an interesting thing about milk alternatives is that you can make most of them at home using a blender and simple ingredients.

    • drpennypincher profile image
      Author

      Dr Penny Pincher 4 years ago from Iowa, USA

      Earlylearningweb- Thanks for your comment. It's getting easier to find milk alternatives even in small grocery stores. Bigger stores have lots of varieties and flavors to choose from now.

    • easylearningweb profile image

      Amelia Griggs 4 years ago

      Helpful hub for non-milk drinkers. I tend to buy the lactose-free milk due to lactose intolerance. Your list also has some good alternatives.

    • drpennypincher profile image
      Author

      Dr Penny Pincher 4 years ago from Iowa, USA

      Thanks, sarifearnbd!

    • drpennypincher profile image
      Author

      Dr Penny Pincher 4 years ago from Iowa, USA

      Thanks kidscrafts! I like coconut water, but I haven't had a chance to try coconut milk yet. It's on my list...

    • kidscrafts profile image

      kidscrafts 4 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      Great hub Drpennypincher! I drink almost no cow's milk. At one point I was drinking a lot of soya milk but I head it was maybe not so good for the health. So I switch between almond milk and coconut milk.

      Did you have try coconut milk with chocolat powder? Just delicious :-)

      I wish that all those kind of milk existed when my kids were young because I suspected that one of my kids had some kind of sensitivity to cow's milk!

      Thanks again for sharing your knowledge about the choice of milk we have now :-)

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