Basic Grocery List: Why and How to Include Milk, Cheese and Yogurt

milk, yogurt and cheese -- keys foods for grocery lists during coronavirus timesfor a covid-19 grocery list

My basic grocery list includes milk, cheese and yogurt. They also are on my list of “Basic Kitchen Foods for COVID-19 Times. Their nutrition, versatility and storage options make them key foods in my kitchen. 

“National Dairy Month” is a perfect time to recognize these protein-, calcium- and overall nutrient-rich dairy foods.

Following are some of my favorite quick recipes for milk, cheese and yogurt. I try to serve some form of these foods three times a day as recommended by USDA MyPlate guidelines for the Dairy Group.  


Various forms of milk are available for your basic grocery list. In addition to regular liquid milk, there are instant nonfat dry milk, “shelf stable” milk and evaporated milk. 

If you have unpleasant memories of “powdered ” milk, you may be pleasantly surprised at how quickly it reconstitutes and how the taste has improved. For the best flavor for drinking, mix powdered milk a day in advance and chill it overnight. Or, add chocolate or other flavoring and you may barely notice a flavor difference. Many people find it convenient to keep powdered milk on hand for cooking. In cooking, the the flavor often tastes the same as regular liquid milk.   

Though it’s quality may be affected slightly, you can freeze milk and find it is still suitable for many uses.

Recipe 1

3-Ingredient Berry Dairy Good Smoothie

Cool, refreshing, and quick ... smoothies are great for breakfast, a light meal, a snack or split one for dessert! Using frozen fruit in this recipe thickens the smoothie without diluting the flavor.
Prep Time5 mins
Active Time0 mins
Course: Breakfast, Snack
Keyword: berries, quick, smoothie, yogurt
Yield: 1 person
Author: Alice Henneman


  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup yogurt, any flavor
  • 1/2 cup frozen berries


  • Wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Add the above 3 ingredients with the liquid added to the blender first, followed by the yogurt and the berries added last. Blend until smooth.
  • Add more milk if you want a thinner smoothie or more frozen fruit for a thicker smoothie. if desired, sweeten with about a teaspoon of sugar or honey.


Recipe 2

Funny Face Pudding

Funny face puddings are a fun way to encourage younger children to include milk in meals. If feeding less than 4 people, decorate the puddings that will be served immediately. Cover the others, refrigerate and eat within 2 days for best consistency and flavor.
Prep Time5 mins
Active Time0 mins
Course: Dessert, Snack
Keyword: kid-friendly, milk
Yield: 4 1/2 cup servings
Author: Alice Henneman


  • 2 cups cold milk
  • 1 package (4-serving size), any flavor instant pudding


  • Wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Mix pudding according to package instructions.
  • Refrigerate for about 30 minutes to allow pudding to thicken.
  • Decorate just before serving. Let children create their own pudding funny face with such add-ons as raisins, grape halves, apple wedges, orange slices, blueberries and bananas.



cheese storage bin for refrigerator “Cheese to the rescue!” is a common refrain around my house. A cheese stick or two satisfies my hunger for a small snack! Sliced cheese transforms into a quick grilled cheese sandwich. A block of cheese can be diced and tossed into salads for added protein and nutrition. Grated cheese can be tossed on many things (pasta, casseroles, omelets) to add extra flavor appeal and nourishment.

Cheese has such a prominent place in our meals that I purchased a storage bin just for cheese in my refrigerator.

Cheese and Saturated Fat

But, you may be wondering … is cheese too high in saturated fat to be included on a basic grocery list? Newer research on dietary fat is focusing on whole foods (i.e. the food matrix) vs. single nutrients, such as saturated fat.

Recent research suggests that full-fat-forms of dairy products, particularly yogurt and cheese, do not increase the risk for cardiovascular disease. The research also suggests that fermented dairy products, such as cheese and yogurt, may have positive effects on a person’s metabolic heath (blood pressure, blood glucose levels, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol  [“good” cholesterol], triglycerides and waist circumference.) Check with your healthcare provider if you are on a diet limiting these foods before you make any dietary changes

Recipe 3

Cheesy Broccoli Baked Potatoes

This recipe serves up a delicious and colorful topping for baked potatoes.
Course: Side Dish
Keyword: broccoli, cheese, milk, potatoes
Yield: 4 people
Author: Adapted slightly from a recipe by Potatoes USA


  • 4 medium russet potatoes
  • 1 cup milk, divided
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 cup cooked small broccoli florets
  • Salt to taste
  • Tiny dash cayenne pepper (optional)


  • Wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Rinse potatoes well under running water and scrub with a clean vegetable brush to remove any dirt; try not to break the skin. Remove any bruises or discolored spots with the tip of a knife. Pat dry with a clean paper towel.
  • Microwave potatoes according to the manufacturers' directions.
  • Heat 3/4 cup of the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until steaming, about 4 minutes.
  • Stir together flour and the remaining 1/4 cup milk in a cup until smooth. Add to the hot milk, stirring constantly until the mixture boils and thickens. Remove from heat and stir in cheese. Season with salt and cayenne.
  • Distribute broccoli over the baked potatoes, top with the cheese sauce and serve.


Recipe 4

BBQ Chicken and Cheddar Foil Packet Dinner

Besides the great taste, I like that there is little cleanup after serving this recipe for dinner!
Prep Time15 mins
Active Time37 mins
Total Time52 mins
Course: Main Course
Yield: 4 servings
Author: National Dairy Council (ingredient substitution suggestions added by blog author)


  • 3 tablespoons barbecue sauce (may substitute salsa)
  • 4 small boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (1 pound)
  • 2 small unpeeled red potatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1 red or green bell pepper, seeded and sliced
  • 1 green onion, finely chopped (may substitute 1 tablespoon finely chopped sweet onion)
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese (may substitute regular Cheddar cheese)


  • Wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Place a foil sheet, approximately 12x12 inches, on a work surface. Spoon about 1 teaspoon of the barbecue sauce in the center of the foil sheet. Place one chicken breast half over barbecue sauce and spread another teaspoon of sauce over chicken. Top with a quarter of the potato, bell pepper and onion. Sprinkle with a little of the salt and pepper.
  • Fold foil in half to cover contents; make narrow folds along edges to seal. Repeat with remaining ingredients to assemble three more packets. Place packets on a baking sheet and bake for 35 minutes.
  • Open foil packets with scissors and carefully pull back edges (contents may be very hot). Sprinkle a quarter of the cheese over the top of each chicken breast half and return to oven, unsealed, for 2 minutes or until cheese is melted. With a spatula, transfer the contents of each packet onto individual serving plates, if desired.


Photo of recipe courtesy of National Dairy Council.

Recipe 5

Grilled Cheese and Tomato Sandwich

Enjoy a hot and healthy meal in a hurry with this grilled cheese and tomato sandwich.
Prep Time5 mins
Active Time10 mins
Total Time15 mins
Course: Main Course
Keyword: bread, cheese, tomato
Yield: 1 serving
Author: Alice Henneman


  • 2 slices bread, preferably whole grain
  • 2 slices cheese If you're limiting sodium intake, use Swiss cheese.
  • 1 thin slice large tomato A knife with a serrated edge works best for slicing tomatoes.
  • Olive oil, margarine or butter


  • Wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Use a pastry brush to spread one side of the 2 slices of bread with olive oil. Or, use a knife to spread with margarine or butter.
  • Lay 1 slice with buttered side down on a cutting board or other surface and top with a slice of cheese, followed by a tomato slice and ending with another cheese slice. Cover with second slide of bread, with olive oil or buttered side up.
  • Grill both sides of sandwiches on medium heat until golden brown and cheese starts to melt. Use a double-sided, hinged indoor grill, a panini press; a griddle or a frying pan.



My refrigerator always contains at least one large carton of plain yogurt and several small cartons of flavored yogurt. Plain yogurt is so versatile. Use plain yogurt in dips, on baked potatoes and in smoothies and parfaits, to name a few options. The American Heart Association gives a “quick tip” of mixing one-half low-fat Greek yogurt and one-half mayonnaise to reduce saturated fat and calories when using mayonnaise.

In addition to eating it straight from the carton, flavored yogurt makes a quick ready-to-go fruit salad dressing. Other quick uses include parfaits, smoothies and handy ready-to-eat snacks. As you can store yogurt longer than many forms of liquid milk, it helps you obtain adequate dairy group servings before shopping again for groceries. 

Yogurt also is included on my basic grocery list because of its potential benefit as a source of probiotics or “good” bacteria. Probiotics may help boast overall health, according to the Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics. 

Recipe 6

Berry & Nut Yogurt Parfait

For a 4th of July treat, include both blueberries and raspberries. Make half the recipe for a snack-size serving.
Prep Time5 mins
Course: Breakfast, Snack
Keyword: berries, yogurt
Yield: 1 person
Author: Alice Henneman


  • 1 cup yogurt (plain, vanilla or berry-flavored)
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries or raspberries or a combination of both
  • 1/2 cup sliced, unsalted almonds
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons honey or maple syrup (optional)


  • Wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Layer yogurt, berries, and almonds in a glass container in the order given.
  • Layer with a drizzle of honey or maple syrup if desired.


Alice's tips: This parfait may be prepared about an hour before serving and kept refrigerated.

Recipe 7

Salsa Yogurt Dip

Mix one part plain yogurt with one part salsa and you're done!
Prep Time5 mins
Course: Side Dish, Snack
Keyword: salsa, yogurt
Yield: 2 1/4 cup servings
Author: Alice Henneman


  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/4 cup salsa


  • Wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Mix salsa and yogurt. Refrigerate or serve immediately.
  • Serve with cut vegetable strips of carrots, celery, pepper (green and red), kohlrabi and florets of cauliflower and broccoli. Avoid leaving at room temperature more than 2 hours, TOTAL time.


For More Recipes… 

Milk, cheese and yogurt are in my basic grocery list because they can contribute to so many quick meals and snacks. For more recipes ideas and to go beyond the basics, check out these recipes from the National Dairy Council.

For my complete list of foods from all food groups, visit “Basic Kitchen Foods for COVID-19 Times.

Thank You’s 

A special “thank you” to Beth Bruck-Upton and Caryn Kuslieka, registered dietitian nutritionists with Midwest Dairy, our local affiliate of the National Dairy Council, for reviewing this article. Beth and Caryn serve my state of Nebraska. And a “really big thank you” to Dairy farmers throughout the nation who are helping meet dairy demand during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Midwest Dairy has donated $500,000 to food banks across the Midwest region to support the purchase of dairy products for families in need. In addition, they have offered refrigeration grants to pantries to support proper storage of perishable dairy foods. They also have helped to provide emergency grab-and-go cooler storage to support alternative meal service during school closings.

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This site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice. Talk with your health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. 


©2020 Alice Henneman

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