My son, Frankie, is almost 15 months old. We weaned him from breast milk about a month ago because my donated freezer stash ran out, so I figured this would be a good time to wean him onto something else. He was on donated milk for almost a year! Incredible, eh? Well, I think so. It was a miracle, actually, and an answer to my deep cry out to God in prayer. You can read why we needed donated milk here.
First off, let me start this by saying I am NOT a professional, nutritionist, or medical provider. I am just a mom who has done extensive research in what to use as a milk alternative. I am also just going to address dairy-free alternatives and what has worked best for my family.
I am very confident in my children's nutrition and that they are eating a balanced diet. So, milk, for us, is just a compliment to their diet; a treat. I don't count on it for calcium, protein, or Vitamin D. In fact, there are many days that we go without milk. Even Frankie only gets milk twice a day now. When we weaned him from breast milk at 13 months old, he was drinking about 30 ounces of breast milk a day. So, my challenge was to get him used to the taste of water now. I kept offering less and less breast milk and more water and coconut milk. Coconut milk is what we chose to wean onto. I didn't expect Frankie to just stop drinking milk when that is all he had for nearly 14 months. I looked at all my choices: hemp milk, coconut milk, almond milk, soy milk, raw milk, and store-bought organic milk. Coconut milk seemed to be the most nutrient-dense, dairy-free choice.
The hardest part about choosing coconut milk was the fact that EVERY single store-bought coconut milk had some terrible ingredients in the carton. The worst of these is Carrageenan. As quoted here off Cornucopio.org, “Carrageenan, a seaweed derivative used as a stabilizer and thickener in foods, has been found to be contaminated with a substance (degraded carrageenan) that is classified by the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer as a “possible human carcinogen.” Research funded by the National Institutes of Health raises serious concerns about harmful effects of carrageenan as an inflammatory agent on the human gastrointestinal tract.”
Homemade Coconut Milk
Method #1: Using Coconut Shreds
Cost: $2 for a half-gallon
So, I tried a few methods of making my own homemade coconut milk. The first way that I experimented with was using Bob's Red Mill Flaked Coconut Unsweetened, 4 – 12-Ounce Bags to make the milk out of. This was MESSY and not so easy. However, the milk tasted amazing and it was pretty cheap. I used this recipe here and quadrupled it to make about a gallon. It cost me $2 to make a half-gallon of fresh milk…$4 for ALMOST a gallon. However, you need to make sure you get high quality unsweetened coconut shreds because with shredded coconut, the majority of the time the milk has already been expressed out of the shreds. Also, you may want to invest in a “nut bag” to help with the squeezing the milk because this is very messy.
Method #2: Using Whole CoconutCost: $4 for a half-gallon
The other method I did was I used a whole coconut and followed this recipe. According to this recipe, one whole coconut makes a about a quart of milk. The average coconut is around $2 so this method costed me about $4 for a half-gallon of milk…twice as much, however it was delicious! It was much richer than just using the coconut shreds and I could have probably diluted it a bit more with filtered water. However, we liked the richness of it and so did Frankie!
Method #3: Coconut Milk Tonic (using canned milk)
Cost: $4 for a half-gallon
The last method that I tried was this one. It is taken from the book, Eat Fat, Lose Fat. Here's the recipe:
14 oz can of full fat Native Forest Organic Classic Coconut Milk, 13.5-Ounce Cans (Pack of 12)
2 1/4 cups filtered water
1 tsp vanilla extract
Mix all ingredients together in a medium saucepan over medium to low heat until all the dolomite is dissolved. Serve immediately or refrigerate.
I didn't have any dolomite powder and am confident that my kids are getting enough calcium from other foods so I didn't add this. I just mixed everything up in a half-gallon mason jar and shook it! The milk separates from the water as it's sitting in the fridge so you have to give it a little shake every time you use it. We really like this one too! It was rich, creamy and frothy! I even used it in my coffee a few times.
WHICH METHOD DID I LIKE BEST?
Taste-wise: Method #2, using a whole coconut was the best with method #3, the tonic following very closely behind.
Conveniency: Method #3, the Coconut Milk Tonic was the most convenient and easiest to make. Method #1, using the shreds was messy, took forever, and the taste didn't even come close to the other two methods. The reason why, is because the process of making coconut shreds, takes a lot of the “milk” out. So, you have a much more watery taste to the milk.
Cost-wise: Obviously, the shreds was the cheapest.
WHICH METHOD DO I NOW USE?
I am using Method #3 and mixing it with a clean Almond milk that I found. Kroger is now making Almond Milk and the ingredients look pretty clean to me. It has no Carrageenan in it and the half-gallon only costs $2.50. So, I am mixing this 50/50 with my Coconut Milk Tonic. This way, it's not costing me $8 a gallon to make the Coconut Milk Tonic. It's only costing me about $3 to make a half-gallon of the coconut/almond mixture. Geez, I hope I didn't just confuse you!