Spare Change for Milk Money


Milk money.   Remember it?  Usually taped inside your lunchbox or tucked carefully into your backpack so you could buy one of those little cardboard cartons of white or chocolate milk in the cafeteria.

I haven’t really thought about ‘milk money’ in years.  But this phrase was reborn in our family a few weeks ago by our youngest son.   It seems that kids can come up with wonderful ideas because they see normal, everyday things from a whole different perspective than adults.

I collect old milk bottles.  They remind me of an era gone-by when things were simple and food was fresh.  So I have a variety of those glass bottles around my kitchen.  I have one sitting on my counter which I throw stray coins in from time to time.  I didn’t intend for it to be a piggy bank but it just happened to be sitting there one day after I had picked up a few pennies off the floor.   Every time I found a stray coin either on the floor or in the cushions, I just tossed it in that old milk bottle.  I’ve been doing that for over a year now without much thought.

We save all our extra coins in an old milk bottle.

About two weeks ago our youngest son asked if he could have a quarter.  I told him to grab one out of the jar on the kitchen counter.  He left and returned empty-handed.  “What jar, Mom?”  I said, “Oh, that little milk bottle with the red writing on it.”  He scurried off and returned with a quarter in his hand and a question on his mind.  He said to me, “Mom, is that your milk money?”  “What?” I asked.  He said, “You know, the money in that milk bottle.  Is that what you use to buy our milk?”

What a brilliant idea!  Since we were in the midst of our month long Pantry Challenge, this was an exceptional discovery!  Why not use that money for our milk purchases?  I was shocked to count up $15 worth of coins in that little jar.  That was worth 6 gallons of milk to me!  So, after a couple of days, the boys and I counted out $4 of change to go get our 2 gallons of milk (we also had a $1 off coupon).  It was a fun and rewarding shopping trip.  Having only that change in our hands allowed us to only focus on buying the milk and not being distracted by other unnecessary grocery items!

Our youngest son, Gus, adds to our “milk money”.

It’s a great tool for the kids to actually see those pennies, nickels and dimes adding up to something.   Many times the kids don’t appreciate the value of a penny or nickel since nowadays they can’t buy anything for those amounts.  But for them to see, with very little effort, how a few pennies, dimes and nickels add up and are used for a very valuable commodity to our family is an absolutely priceless lesson!  Suddenly now they are more attentive in the parking lots to those stray pennies!

It took an 8 year old boy with an inquisitive mind to bring new life and meaning to our sweet little milk bottle and to resurrect the vintage term of “milk money” in our family!   Now if only milk was just hours old and still came in those cute little glass bottles!


Erin’s got tons of tips for saving money, couponing, sticking to a budget, and living sustainably in her blog archive.


Erin Eisenman-Turner is proud to be a native Missoulian. Along with her husband and three sons, they raise chickens, pigs, rabbits, and vegetables at Turner Family Farms in the Orchard Homes area. When the farm chores are done, the coupons clipped, and the blog written, you can find Erin exploring Montana, collecting antiques, and trying to maintain a well-run, happy, and organized home for her family.

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