Dad Hack: Save money on breakfast with ‘sugar milk’

Editor’s note: This week we welcome our new crew of TODAY Dads, who will be regular contributors to TODAY Parents. We’ll introduce a new one each day with their best #DadHack, that time-saving trick or soul-saving strategy that makes parenting just a little bit easier. 

One would think a guy with five kids would have a whole slew of shortcuts to help ease the burden of parenthood. I do not.

This is not to say I am without creativity. It’s just my techniques lack a certain classiness. While many parenting hacks warrant viral validation via Pinterest, mine rank with the redneck who crafts a BBQ grill out of a ping cart. Effective? Yes. Share-worthy? Possibly after obliterating a case of Milwaukee’s Best.

Case in point: My teen son and tween stepdaughter are now of an age where they require deodorant, yet they are afflicted by some form of adolescent dementia that causes them to forget to apply said deodorant. The solution: Affix the deodorant to the door frame at eye-level using Velcro, and voila, no more stinky kids. It’s effective because it’s unorthodox.

The same could be said about one of my best Dad Hacks ever: The Sugar Milk Hack, a genius idea born out of economic necessity after losing my job. At the time, frugality ruled all matters, including milk consumption. Meanwhile, my stepdaughters viewed milk less as a part of a nutritious breakfast and more as a hydraulic lift mechanism facilitating better “scoopage” of the sugary frosted goodness. They routinely left behind a half-filled bowl of white liquid and the occasional Fruit Loop floating aimlessly like a forgotten pool toy.

I hate seeing food go to waste. So to see about $10 of milk a week being dumped literally down the drain was unacceptable. A solution presented itself in the form of a plastic pitcher and a clean dishtowel. Once the girls had abandoned their bowls, I would pour the excess milk into the plastic container, straining it through the dishtowel. Then the next morning, I would hand them the recycled milk to use on their cereal.

Ron Mattocks' Sugar Milk Dad Hack.
Ron Mattocks’ Sugar Milk Dad Hack.Today

My secret system worked perfectly for several weeks, and the kids were none the wiser. Or so I thought. Arrogance was my undoing, after I gave my youngest stepdaughter a glass of the reused milk as a substitute for the virgin stuff.

After a short sip she reeled back with surprise. “What is this?” she asked.

“It’s sugar milk, sweetie,” I answered, pleased with myself. Add the word sugar to anything and most kids will hear nothing else, scarf it up, and ask for more. My stepdaughter gulped the sugar milk and slammed the cup down, white drops trickling from her lips like blood around a vampire’s mouth after a kill.

When she demanded more, my older stepdaughter heard and asked for some, too. All was fine until she wanted to know what was floating in it.

Sometimes the dishtowel doesn’t catch all the leftover cereal particles (chocolatey cereals are the worst). They are camouflaged when mixed with cereal again, but alone in a cup those dark specks really stood out.

“That’s what makes the milk sugary,” I explained, as my stepdaughter swallowed a mouthful and declared it “disgusting.” Which is exactly the moment my wife walked in and I was busted.

“Sugar milk?” my wife said looking at me for details. My explanation that it was a game to get the kids to finish their milk didn’t pass muster, as the all-knowing older stepdaughter explained the trick to my wife.

In the mostly one-sided discussion that ensued, I agreed to halt production of sugar milk which, admittedly, bummed me out.

So, to all the parents out there searching for tricks, I say: If it requires a dishtowel to strain something, think twice. If, however, you can Velcro it to the wall, then you’re on the right track. 

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Ron Mattocks is a father of five, a blogger at Clark Kent’s Lunchbox and author of the book, Sugar Milk: What One Dad Drinks When He Can’t Afford Vodka. He lives in Indiana where he leads the secret life of a history nerd and is often made fun of for his love of Coldplay. Find Ron on LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, and Twitter