Cheap Cheese, Please!
While we may be eating less of it at our house these days, cheese is still a major food staple for many North American families. Not so long ago, it represented roughly 30% of my family's monthly grocery budget. It’s more of a party, accent, or holiday item now, but I still like to save what I can as a matter of principle. Here’s how I get the best cheap cheese for my money. (See also: Quick, Easy, and Festive Cream Cheese Appetizers)
If you’re serious about reducing your bottom line with cheap cheese purchases, then you’ll need a few shopping strategies up your sleeve in order to succeed. Here are a few of my favorites.
Buy the Block
The more any food item has been prepped for your convenience, the more it will cost you. That’s why when I was still buying large amounts of cheese, one of my top bargain picks was the large packages of block mozzarella available at Sam’s Club and similar stores. In fact, I’m still prone to purchasing one of them if I’m having a large gathering. You can cut it up into string cheese snacks, make homemade fried mozzarella stick appetizers, or prepare simple snack kabobs with toothpicks or miniature barbecue skewers.
Also, if you like the idea of doing a food topping bar, you can prepare a few different kinds of pizza sauce, chop up a few toppings, and mix up some homemade pizza dough. Then, just shred a moderate batch of the cheese to finish off the individual pies. You can use this same cheap cheese strategy with other flavors as well, such as cheddar.
Discount retail options exist for more than clothing and auto parts. I have several favorite bargains at Save-A-Lot stores for example, including the occasional cheap cheese purchase. They have a number of affordable dairy deals, including several suited for international cuisines. Quesadillas, tacos, party dips, and more can be pulled off by shopping there, and they are certainly not the only discount chain at your disposal. Others include Aldi, local cooperatives, and even Walmart.
Those who have been reading my Wise Bread work from the beginning know that I’m a huge fan of bulk buying in order to save money. If you’re looking for cheap cheese in particular, then this strategy works especially well for you. For example, when shopping at Costco or Sam’s Club, you’ll not only find giant bags of shredded taco cheese and restaurant-sized packs of low fat Swiss for your brown bag lunches, you’ll also find great deals on gourmet cheeses as well. For instance, a pound of Pecorino Romano is nearly half the price I’m able to purchase it for at my local grocery store. Ditto with Brie, feta, and French goat cheese.
Now that you’ve got all of that great-tasting, cheap cheese home, what do you do with it? Well, here are a few recipes to get you started.
These are so easy and simple to make. Not only are they a huge hit if you’re cooking for kids, but grownups tend to like them too, especially if you’ve got a homemade salsa on hand for dipping. What’s more, quesadillas are also a very flexible food since you can stuff them with whatever you want. These simple cowboy quesadillas are great, and a spinach and sundried tomato version works well for brunch or a happy-hour-at-home menu.
Baked Into Breakfast
Melted into a baked dish, cheese makes a hot breakfast even better. There are several inspirational ideas for breakfast casseroles available. My favorites include Bisquick breakfast pies, baked grits, and savory stratas.
Canned Salmon Party Spread
This is a huge hit at parties whenever I make it. It’s one of my favorite ways to use canned salmon, along with affordable cream cheese. The recipe pairs well with club crackers, cucumber slices, and pita crisps. Serve with white wine and a fruit tray for a simple pre-theater event at home.
For date night, grown-up gatherings, and family nights alike, fondue is tough to beat in the fun department. This fondue recipe is designed for finicky family palettes and can be served with vegetables, pre-cooked shrimp, and crusty loaves from your collection of homemade bread mixes. Personally, I think fondue works well at any time of year. During the summer, buy your bread instead of making it to avoid heating the house up with the oven. When it’s cold, such as after a day of family sledding, bake up a loaf for extra warmth and a great smell that will have you salivating.
Incorporating cheap cheese doesn’t have to mean a chintzy menu. There are plenty of stylish options at your disposal.