The Milkman Saves Us (more than just money)

In my pursuit of frugal utopia, I’ve started to realize that the price I pay for an item at the register doesn’t always reflect its true cost. Take milk for example. If someone had asked me a few weeks ago how much a gallon of milk costs, I might have said, “about $4.” But now that I’ve given it some thought, I see that $4 is the wrong answer. A host of other factors have to be considered when determining the real cost of a gallon of grocery store milk.

First, there’s the opportunity cost. To get the milk, I have to drive my car to the grocery store, find a parking spot, navigate the metal cart through the crowded aisles, wait in line at the register, tell my son “no” to the half dozen items he will beg me to buy, push the cart across the parking lot to my car while trying to keep my son from running off, load up the groceries, drive home, unload. This is one of my most hated chores and it takes an hour or two of prime weekend time. If I didn’t have to go to the store for the milk, I could be using that time to do something I enjoy. So, for me, there is a big opportunity cost attached to that gallon of grocery store milk.

Second, are the costs to the environment that don’t show up in the dollars I pay at the cash register: the pollution wrought by commercial dairy practices; the diesel fuel burned to move the milk across the country to my grocery store; the noxious chemicals used to create the molded plastic container that my milk is shipped in; the energy spent to deal with my discarded milk carton which will be picked up by a garbage truck, carted to a transfer station, put on a barge, taken out to the middle of the ocean, and dumped. When you consider those costs, it makes my glass of grocery store milk a lot more expensive.

Third, are the costs to my family’s health. Many commercial dairy farms think of animals as machines that can be turbo-charged to produce more. The pixie dust they use to shift their cow-machines into overdrive is called Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH). It’s a synthetic hormone that forces the cows’ bodies to produce more milk than is healthy for them. This puts enormous physical strain on the cow, which leads to infection which is then treated with antibiotics. The hormones and antibiotics get in the milk and end up in our bodies. Consumption of milk laced with hormones has been linked to cancer. Canada and the EU have banned BGH because of the significant health risks, but the FDA has not. So chances are good that it’s in my gallon of grocery store milk, and there is also a chance that consuming it could contribute to a life-threatening illness like cancer. If you factor in the health costs, the milk becomes prohibitively expensive. Can you even put a price on health?

Finally, there is the quality of the product itself. The milk in the plastic, or waxy cardboard container isn’t very fresh; wasn’t produced by well-tended cows; and is bland, and vaguely plastic tasting. So for all the effort, cost to the environment, and risk to my health, I’m not even getting a very delicious glass of milk.

But there is a solution – the milkman. I met Tom during a Saturday visit to the farmer’s market. His booth featured local milk in beautiful glass bottles. As I stood there wanting to buy the milk, but thinking about how heavy the glass bottles must be, and if I bought them, I’d have to bring them back the next week, and so buying the milk would mean that every Saturday morning I would have to get in my car and drive to the farmer’s market to exchange my empties for full bottles of milk. As I was wrestling with this in my mind – thinking about the hassle, but still wanting to buy the milk – Tom said, “We deliver you know.”

It took a moment for me to process the implications.

“We also deliver eggs, cheese, butter, and other local farm products,” Tom added. It was one of those moments where the clouds open up and a beam of sunshine emerges.

“You deliver,” I said, not fully believing it. “To my doorstep?”

“Every Wednesday morning,” Tom said, and he gave me the website address for his company, The Hudson Milk Co.. I went home and promptly signed up for my first delivery.

Now every Tuesday night I put a cooler on my front porch with empty glass milk bottles and on Wednesday morning it’s magically filled (Tom delivers at 4:00 in the morning) with farm-fresh milk, cream, eggs, and cheese. The milk has no BGH so it’s healthier for my family. It comes from a local farm, so it hasn’t been shipped thousands of miles creating a monstrous carbon footprint. The pretty glass bottles get reused, unlike their plastic counterparts that end up floating (forever polluting) the oceans. I don’t have to go to the grocery store as often, and when I do, it’s just to pick up a few things. It’s no longer an epic chore. And best of all – the milk is fresh and it tastes great! It costs a few dollars more, but if you factor in the other costs–opportunity costs, health costs, environmental costs–it ends up being the cheapest milk you can buy — and the most delicious!

If you live in Westchester, NY you can ask Tom to bring fresh milk to your doorstep too. Tell him I sent you.

One Comment

  1. Jen Laskey says:

    That sounds wonderful, Kim!

Comments are now closed for this article.

Powered by WordPress | Deadline Theme : An AWESEM design