Monday, February 27, 2012

30 Pounds of Cheese


We like to purchase our favorite cheeses (Cheddar, Colby-Jack, Mozzarella) in really large horns (as in 15 pounds or more) from a local Amish store.
Why?
Because it's cheaper.
Waaaaayyy Cheaper.

We cut the cheese down into smaller wheels. We wrap some of the wheels in double plastic wrap, place in freezer bags and freeze and rest of the wheels are shredded right away and packaged in quart freezer baggies. We then freeze most of it, saving a smidge out for immediate consumption.

The cheese is cheaper because we purchase it in larger quantities. But even so, purchasing a one pound wheel at the Amish store is usually 1-2 dollars cheaper than the "regular" grocery store.

Let's do a comparison:
Just last week I popped into Wal-mart and purchased a 16 oz. brick of cheddar cheese for $4.23.

When we went on our quarterly shopping trip to the Amish store back at the beginning of January, here's what we  purchased:
Colby Jack cheese- 15.21 pounds at $1.95 per pound $29.66
Cheddar Cheese 14.82 pounds at $2.39 per pound $35.42
Mozzarella 3.03 pounds at $1.99 per pound $6.04
That's just over 33 pounds of cheese for $71.00.

Let's look at the cheddar- 14 1-pound bricks of cheddar at Wal-mart would tally up to $59.22.
We bought almost 15 pounds for $35.42. That's a savings of $23.80. I could purchase almost 25 pounds of cheddar at the Amish store for the price of 14 pounds at Walmart-- that's almost double the cheese! Now, I know Wal-mart sells the cheddar in larger bricks with a bit more of a price break but it still doesn't compare to the Amish store price.

So How does it freeze? Fine. Sometimes it's a bit crumbly when you go to slice it, so that's part of the reason why we shred more than half of it before we freeze it. We've also found that letting the wheels of cheese sit out a bit on the table before cutting into slices reduces the amount of crumbs. Overall, we'll put up with a lot of crumblies because of the great price.

How does it taste? Excellent. First of all, the cheese is made locally and the flavor is amazing! We haven't found a taste difference in freezing it at all. We can easily go through 30 pounds of cheese in 3 months so it doesn't sit in our freezer for very long tempting freezer burn.

Packaging: How do you package it for the freezer? As I mentioned above, we cut it down into smaller wheels. We quadruple (or more) wrap each wheel in plastic wrap and then place 2-3 wheels in a gallon size freezer bag, push the air out and freeze. For the shredded cheese- we fill quart size freezer bags full to the top with the shredded cheese, push out any excess air, close and freeze.

Brick vs. shredded: Why don't you buy shredded cheese? Have you ever looked at the ingredients list for shredded cheese at the store? Cellulose is a main ingredient. It helps bulk up the cheese and prevents it from sticking together in large clumps. Cellulose is essentially wood pulp. This lends me to picture a pile of sawdust in my mind. While cellulose isn't harmful to ingest at all (its a source of fiber which helps boost fiber content in many foods without drasticly increasing calories), I don't want to pay for sawdust. I like knowing when I shred 8 ounces of cheese that I am getting 8 ounces of cheese- nothing more, nothing less. Pure cheesy-goodness.

We have found that it doesn't take up a lot of time to shred your own cheese. You should have a nice cheese grater though. We found when we first started shredding our own cheese that one of those dollar store versions just won't cut it (pun intended). We have a nice four sided one we picked up at Goodwill and our favorite grater which we picked up for less than $5 at Ikea last spring (seen in photo above). We also have an old grater that fits over a mixing bowl that was my grandmother's. When we come home from our quarterly Amish store shopping trip, we immediately beginning slicing and shredding. It's actually a fun family activity. We are all in the kitchen together slicing, shredding and repackaging the cheese as well as breaking down other items into smaller packages.

I know that not everyone has an Amish store within a thirty minute drive to purchase such wonderful cheese... perhaps one of the big warehouse places like Sam's or Costco sells larger quantities of cheese at greatly reduced prices and you could pick it up there. Or maybe you just don't need that much cheese? Ask a couple of friends if they'd like to go in with you to purchase the larger amount. We used to go in with our friends and purchase a case of butter at our local creamery at a great discount. Alas they don't sell butter to the public any longer. Bummer. I encourage you to push your frugal boundaries and think outside the box [store] for finding great deals.

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