My family is obsessed with dairy. We’re a small family of three and can easily go through seven gallons (yes, seven!) of milk a week, but that’s nothing compared to our cheese intake. I feel safe saying that I could eat cheese for every meal and never be tired of it. On the other hand, I may get tired of paying for it. Cheese isn’t super expensive, but when you go through it in large amounts like we do, you look for any ways to save you can. Here are a few of the tips I’ve managed to pick up along the way:
Grate It Yourself
Block cheese is almost always cheaper (by a few cents, anyway), so I buy it in huge sizes and shred it as soon as I get home. I then put it in two-cup increments for fridge/freezer storage and then use it as needed. Also, buying blocks helps avoid the fillers in shredded cheese, so you end up with more.
Buy Ends and Scraps
Our deli will sell us the cheese ends and scraps for a far cheaper price. I take those home, shred what I can, and then use the ends for things like lasagna or sandwiches. Places like the Cheesecake Factory have been known to sell theirs as well. My sister will go to her local restaurant once every 6 months and stock up on their scraps.
I find that it is cheaper to buy low-fat cheese compared to regular cheese, because it doesn’t sell as often. My family never noticed a taste difference, and it works just as well in cooking.
Use Those Coupons!
Coupons for cheese aren’t as rare as you may think. For example, I get coupons in my newspaper for cheese every week. The savings aren’t amazing on their own, but I save them for sales or take them to a local grocer that doubles and get more for my money. When that doesn’t work, I write the manufacturer. For example, Kraft sends me high value coupons — if not coupons for free product — once a month since I emailed them about a bad experience with their product. Also, consider smaller companies like Cabot. Small businesses are willing to give you a better deal in hopes of making you a long-time customer.
We love the taste of sharp cheddar cheese, but it’s only available in our deli. We found through trial and error that Colby has an equal taste for a better price. Ultimately, we end up using less of the Colby because it doesn’t take as much to get to the taste level that we want, so we don’t have to buy it as often.
If you can only find your cheese in the deli, consider having it sliced as thinly as possible. You’ll get all the taste with a fraction of the calories, and you’ll save some money.
Some people don’t think you can freeze cheese, but they usually are just going about it the wrong way. The trick is to learn which cheeses freeze which ways. For example, when we freeze American cheese, it crumbles rather than retaining its texture. So, we use it for melting or for toppings on salads.
Make Your Own (Really!)
That’s right–you read it right. You don’t need any lavish machines or a herd of cows to make your own cheese — just a few simple, easy-to-find ingredients, and 30 minutes of your time. You’ll invest a little bit of money up front, but you’ll get enough uses out of your ingredients to save money. And who wouldn’t love saying they make their own natural, healthy cheese!
1. Heat a gallon of whole, organic milk (not ultra-pasturized) in a pot until it reaches 55 degrees.
2. Dissolve 1 ½ teaspoons of citric acid (found at any health food store) in ¼ cup water and then add it to the pot.
3. Dissolve ¼ teaspoon liquid rennet (found at grocery stores like Whole Foods in the spice section) into ¼ cup water and add to the pot when the temperature reaches 88 degrees.
4. When the milk reaches 100 degrees, it will be thickly curdled and pulling away from the sides of the pot.
5. Scoop out the curds into a microwave safe bowl and squeeze out the whey (it’s clear).
6. Microwave for 35 seconds and repeat until you have bendable, stretchable pile of cheese that you can now salt and shape to your liking.