Boxed Milk

By Carolyn Shearlock © 2012 • all rights reserved

Boxed milk doesn't have to be refrigerated until it's opened, making it perfect anytime you'll be away from stores for an extended time -- or if you don't have a refrigerator!

If you’re going to be away from grocery stores for more than a few days, boxed milk can be a lifesaver!  It’s widely available in developing countries where there’s less refrigeration, but you can get it in many stores in the US — if you know what to look for!

Boxed milk doesn't have to be refrigerated until it's opened, making it perfect anytime you'll be away from stores for an extended time -- or if you don't have a refrigerator!I took this photo just a couple of days ago at my local Walmart Supercenter and I’ve bought boxed milk at other Walmarts across the country when we’ve taken some extended camping trips.  It’s typically in the baking aisle, of all places!  I’ve also seen it in various other chain groceries and even once in a convenience store along the ICW.

So what’s so great about boxed milk?  Well, you’ll notice that it’s on regular shelves.  It doesn’t have to be refrigerated until you open it.  Unopened, it’s good at least three months — and I’ve used some that was over 6 months old with no problems.

Use it just as you would regular milk — which is what it is, except that it’s been ultrapasteurized and packaged in a TetraPak, which totally prevents air getting to it.

Back in the days before Dave developed his milk allergy, I used boxed milk 100% of the time on the boat.  We used it on our morning cereal and in cooking.  Dave occasionally drank a glass with a sandwich.  Some people say they notice a slight difference in the taste when just drinking it; Dave didn’t.  And I never noticed any difference in cooking or on my cereal.

You can store the boxes just about anywhere — we had some very shallow lockers behind the settees that were just perfect for stacking these in.  They fit into lots of other small spaces — just make sure to remember where you’ve stashed them all.

Here in the US, almost all the boxed milk I’ve found has been the Parmalat brand, available in 2% and whole milk.  In Mexico and Central America, there were numerous brands available and Nestle made a skim milk called Svelty.

Boxed milk doesn't have to be refrigerated until it's opened, making it perfect anytime you'll be away from stores for an extended time -- or if you don't have a refrigerator!The tops shown in the photo are the most common.  You flip the plastic back and pull a foil tab off to open the box, then flip the plastic top back to close it — it sort of clicks into place.  On a boat, though, that little plastic flip top can easily jostle open in the refrigerator or cooler.  If you’re going to be in fairly protected conditions, you can just put a piece of duct tape over the top; I usually transferred the milk to a old clean juice bottle with a screw top.

In Mexico, we sometimes ran into boxes that were just “cut to open” and these had to be put into another bottle to store.  Occasionally, we’d find boxed that had a screw cap on them — although these usually cost a little more and were harder to store since the caps protruded.

Before opening a new box, be sure to shake it up well in case any of the milk solids have settled.  And then just use as you would any other milk!

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  1. Relinda Ted Broom on Facebook says:

    We have been using boxed milk for several years on Ten-Ten. We also have them in or huricane supplies at home. We find them in Publix. We get the small single serving boxes..They are great..

  2. We also use box milk on Tropical Hideaway. We get ours at Costco’s and you can get it in regular, chocolate and vanilla.

  3. Charlotte says:

    This is popular back home in Scotland, but I hadnt seen it here. As we dont use milk in tea of coffee we never seem to have any around when we want cereal, or when someone comes over who takes it, so thanks for reminding me about it.

  4. Great to know more places to buy it — where I am, the single serving boxes are only chocolate and are sold next to to the NesQuik!

  5. I should also mention that you can also get “boxed” soy milk, rice milk and almond milk — location varies, it’s often in the juice or cereal aisle but not always.

  6. Failed to mention that the boxed milk we use is soymilk.

  7. The boxed milk I had was in The Phillippines, and it tended to taste a little flat and slightly metallic. I don’t know if it was a regional thing or what, but it definitely didn’t taste quite like regular pasturized milk. It could have been that I was specifically looking for the difference in taste, or that I don’t drink a lot of milk anyway. I would totally use it in cooking, but if you absolutely *need* your milk, I’d say boxed still tastes better than dry (at least in my experience.)

  8. Waterwoman says:

    Used box milk all the time while we were in Mexico. Svelty was pretty good.

    Does anyone know if there is a distributor for cream other than the Nestle Media Crema? We don’t use milk due to health issues, but cream is ok. Would love the boxed milk idea with cream! Otherwise, I guess it is Nestle or nothing for long term storage.


    • Carolyn Shearlock says:

      Once in a while in Mexico and Central America, we’d run into others but not often. I remember one was from New Zealand and full cream, but don’t remember the brand name.


  9. Candy Ann Williams on Facebook says:

    BTW, Carolyn, I really do like the Nido Whole powdered milk you recommended..I keep it all of the time!! AND my husband mounted my new fans, and even he loves them ( and he has an aversion to fans-LOL). Thanks for all of your tips!!

  10. Chuck Burns on Facebook says:

    All the boxes I have come with a stamped expiry date… Does it really mean anything? I have sailed from San Francisco to Fiji to Australia with these as our milk supply and they lasted a very long time even in the tropics

  11. Immo Weichert on Facebook says:

    I grew up on UHT/boxed milk. Until I left home in the mid 90s I never knew anything else. I haven’t seen an unopened box go off, even months after the expiry date. BTW, the tetrapack’s inside makes a great waterproof notepad for passage plans etc. .

  12. The worst that happened to us (with a couple boxes left from a previous owner that I discovered, several years after their use-by dates) was that the milk solids had settled to the bottom of the box.

  13. We have recently had Parmalat (Zymil) spoil on us in less than half the predicted shelf life. When we asked the New Zealand supplier for assistance, the response was instant and generous. Unfortunately it turned out ours had come from Italy. When we queried them (in English and Italian) a response was not forthcoming. The spoiled milk also destroyed our sourdough starter.

  14. Talked with a Kiwi cruiser and he said it was available in New Zealand.

  15. Available all through out the MED: Spain, France, Italy, Malta…

  16. Nancy Orloski says:

    Ready for our first long term trip (the ICW from NJ to Florida, leaving in about a month, no laughing from real cruisers please). We plan to stay on the hook as much as possible so I tried a box for the first time for my milk drinking husband. He said it was good. That’s good enough for me. We will be stocking Parmalat for the trip. Thanks for the idea and all the encouragement!!! Love your site.

  17. “Gossner” from NZ or Aus. is another brand avail..

  18. Boxed milk is available pretty much throughout the South Pacific; we lived on it and the heavenly full-cream powdered milk (Anchor brand) from NZ.

  19. Bahamas

  20. Grenada, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, British Virgin Islands, Dutch Lady brand & some others.

  21. I believe we’ve found boxed milk in every grocery store inn every country in the Eastern Caribbean, PR and DR. But, I don’t think we generally found it in the Bahamas.

  22. In Australia we call it UHT which stands for Ultra High Treated.. We have always had it in the shops here and is a great substitute for fresh and tastes so much better than powdered. It has a shelf life of up to 12 months so is ideal to have on board for extended cruising.

  23. And for those of us who drink soy milk its available too.

  24. Everywhere in the Med

  25. Walmart has Almond Milk in boxes.

  26. The boxed milk in Greenland, remarkably enough, is even less expensive than what I’ve found in the United States. On average it was about 2 USD, but we often found sales where, if you bought 12 or more, it was fifty cents. The brand (Arla) also seemed to taste better than Parmalat. It was a welcome surprise that offset the eight dollar broccoli and prohibitively expensive alcohol!

  27. WOW! Thanks to everyone who has added info on where it’s available — I often get questions and it’s nice to have a list from people who have actually BEEN there!

  28. Also readily available in Turkey and Israel. I have also discovered “half and half” in these shelf stable boxes and it is great, but I have only found it in St. Thomas, USVI, sigh… I think it is a Canadian product.

    • Half-and-half is readily available in Mexico — called Media Crema — in 1 cup boxes. In the US, Trader Joe’s has true whipping cream in little boxes. I know, those won’t help where you are 🙁

  29. Even though I cruise in the US I still stock up on Parmalat (from Walmart – baking isle). It is my emergency back up if I can’t easily get refrigerated milk.

  30. Shelf stable whipping cream is also widely available in France and other Mediterranean European countries, as well as “light cream” (“creme legere”) but there’s nothing quite like half n half:-) We go cruising to try new things, though and survive just fine without all those “home” things! .

  31. We purchase similarly boxed soy milk, almond milk and rice milk. The stated “use by” date on those is often up to a year out. (I have a milk allergy)

  32. I get this at Dollar Tree stores for $1 🙂 different brand from Aust.

  33. We use this all the time and it really does actually taste great!

  34. Love Parmalat on the boat, and on my pantry shelves, for not having to ‘run out’ in bad weather! Maybe some day, they’ll think of a way to process cream for the same benefit? I love putting a drop of cream in my sauces! Liquifying Coffee Mate almost works…. :/

  35. I’m going to use this tip for our cruise on Superior next month! Thanks!

  36. We use UHT milk and cream in Australia even when not cruising. We like the convenience…especially the cream.

  37. We have been using almond milk in the boxes for several years. We are sailing in the USA and Canada and have no problem locating it.

  38. We have started using Nestle’s Sunshine powdered milk. This way we are not storing liquid. First found it in the Marquesas and throughout French Polynesia. It is harder to find as we sail west. Found it in Tonga and a little here in Fiji. It is much more expensive in Fiji so stock up with the big cans in FP.

  39. takes getting used to,Cooked milk is not my favourite,Some dried milks can taste great.

  40. Taste it before you buy in bulk. Some brands taste just like fresh milk and some taste cooked. Parmalat is NOT my favorite.

  41. Finally found some in our local grocery store!!

  42. I just wanted to say that I really enjoy your posts. They are on the same level as Practical Sailor in their usefulness. Thank you.

  43. Boxed milk was a life-saver for us in the Bahamas. We loaded up at the Dollar Tree in Marathon for one dollar per box!

  44. Our experience with the boxed milk we purchased from Dollar Tree here in Bellingham, WA was that it doesn’t taste like the fresh milk you buy that isn’t shelf stable. It had an off taste we just didn’t care for at all, even in our coffee. Is there a better source for this kind of milk or should we expect it to taste like it does?

    • I’m guessing that if it was from Dollar Tree, it may have been sitting around for a while and the solids may have settled. We never noticed a major difference in taste when we bought it in groceries, and be sure to shake it up well before putting in the refrig to cool.

  45. We use it all the time in the Caribbean. Too hard getting to grocery stores, and it’s a great size for the boat fridge.

  46. In our experience, powdered milk has a much better taste. We use it with water from the watermaker, tastes more or less like fresh milk.

  47. We use it all the time. Could find it easily in SE Asia too.

  48. I thought the Dairy Pure brand (whole milk) tasted fantastic once it was chilled.

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