Maybe nonfat dry milk powder seems like something only your grandmother would have in her kitchen, or maybe you view it as something you should only use during a zombie apocalypse. In any case, nonfat dry milk powder should have a place in everyone’s cabinets, and here’s why.

It’s shelf stable. Powdered milk is pasteurized skim milk with the water removed. No refrigeration is needed; simply store it in an airtight container in a cool dry environment for 12-18 months (6-12 months for instant). However, while it’s easy to keep on hand for emergencies, don’t let it get shoved to the back of the cabinet and otherwise forgotten. Use it!

Milk powder is versatile. Pull out your box of powdered milk and reconstitute it with water for oatmeal or mashed potatoes. Use it to make mixes, such as hot cocoa, dried pudding or dried soup mix. Add it to meatloaf and baked beans for a nutritional boost. Powdered milk is not a substitute for cow’s milk; it is milk! Therefore, it’s just as nutritious.

Milk powder can be purchased as regular or instant. Instant nonfat dry milk powder has larger flakes and easily dissolves in cold water, while regular nonfat dry milk powder is slower to dissolve, requires more stirring but uses less water. Nonfat dry milk powder is certainly economical, only costing about 25 cents per cup. Surprisingly, however, it’s not any cheaper than regular liquid milk. In fact, liquid milk only costs about 14 cents per cup, when using the average price of milk at $2.38. Notably, you can often get a gallon of milk for much less than this. Regardless, dry milk powder is a nonperishable, nutritious staple when your liquid milk spoils or simply runs out.

No-Bake Breakfast Bar

1½ cups crunchy honey oat cereal, or other cereal (granola, 3 large shredded wheat, bran flakes, etc.)

1 cup peanut butter

⅓ cup nonfat dry milk powder

¼ cup honey

½ cup unsalted nuts or raisins

Place cereal in a quart-size plastic bag and seal, pressing out air. Crush cereal with a rolling pin or pound with the flat end of a meat tenderizer. In a medium bowl, mix crushed cereal and remaining ingredients together. Firmly press mixture in an 8-by-8-inch pan. Cut into squares to serve.

Yield: 12 servings

Nutrition facts (per serving): 170 calories, 11 grams fat, 100 milligrams sodium, 14 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams dietary fiber, 6 grams protein

Adapted from University of Missouri Extension

Smith, a registered dietitian, is a nutrition and wellness educator for the University of Illinois Extension, McLean County. Contact her at 309-663-8306.