Grated Cheese: Buy It vs. Make It
Once upon a time, I was on a road trip up the coast from Los Angeles with my sister and her epically picky kids. The youngins refused so many restaurants that I nearly ate the spare tire. “My children,” I swore, “will eat everything, from kale to chopped liver, as a direct result of my sure-to-be-superior parenting.”
Well, hardy har har, the joke’s on me. While the rest of the family dines on actual food, both my toddlers, in turn, have gone through phases where they’d only eat mac and cheese, toast with cream cheese, pasta with butter and Parmesan cheese, and yogurt with a side of cheese. The point is, my family goes through a lot of cheese. A lot. And two of us are allegedly lactose intolerant, so go figure.
(For those of you playing the home game, my nieces grew out of their aversions, and my daughters often cite texture rather than taste, so I think this has more to do with development than stubbornness, and I’m willing to wait it out.)
At any rate, my point — and I did (do!) have one — is that in an effort to keep food moving from fridge to oven to table, I have been taking certain shortcuts, and these shortcuts often leave me feeling limp with guilt. So I had to tackle this one: If I buy pre-shredded cheese, am I just draining the family bank account?
So I tried shredding it myself, and I priced the alternatives. The answer is going to surprise and delight you, if you’re as lazy as I am. (Come to the dark side. It’s dark and cozy here.) (The dark side is just under the duvet cover, duh.)
The difference in effort here is significant. I mean, there are ways to make shredding cheese easier. For semi-soft cheese (including soy cheese), 15 minutes in the freezer is the path to non-chunky results. A little oil brushed or sprayed onto the grating surface can also make things go more smoothly. And, of course, the use of a food processor is key. But you’re still setting aside precious time to grate, bag, and freeze cheese. I find this stupid and boring and messy, not to mention painful and bloody. It really has to be significantly cheaper for me to go this route. Which leads me to…
Are you ready? Regular store-brand mozzarella came in at 34 cents per ounce at my local grocery store. (I’m talking mass-produced mozzarella, not farm-fresh boccaccini.) The same brand of shredded cheese ranged from 41 cents per ounce for an eight-ounce bag to (drumroll, please) 24 cents per ounce for a jumbo bag. At that price, I can freeze smaller amounts of the shredded cheese for later use and still come out ahead. (As always, factor in the price of freezer-safe zip-up bags. They often cost as much as 14 cents a bag!)
Soy cheese had the same conclusion. The only place where I came out ahead in grating my own was with the very, very hard Parmesan, and that’s only cheaper if you spring for the refrigerated tubs (as opposed to the cardboard shaker-jars). And even then, with a bottom price of 50 cents an ounce (for the lowest-end wedge) and a top price of $1.29 an ounce (for the fanciest refrigerated tub I could find), if you’re not using a lot of Parmesan, who cares?
In this case, I compared the same brands of shredded and non-shredded cheese. For the kind of cooking I use shredded cheese for, I would never spring for anything fancy. So taste is just not an issue here.
Go ahead and splurge on shredded cheese! It’s not really more expensive. Yippee!
What’s the verdict? Check out all our Buy It vs. Make It comparisons!