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Confessions of a Cheese-aholic

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When I shared my surprise grocery budget buster (CHEESE!) it seemed like a LOT of people could relate!

So in the spirit of my money saving tricks series, I wanted to give a little update on how we’ve been doing with cutting back our cheese consumption (not that these are “tricks,” but you get the point)….

First, I’ve made a big list of our family’s favorite go-to dinner ideas. I used to have a list I kept of meals, more for inspiration than anything else. But it got lost awhile back and I never made a new one. This was an important first step because of a couple reasons: (1) it still gives me inspiration when I need a quick dinner and it seems like there’s “nothing to eat” (even with a full fridge/freezer), and (2) I can reference it to find lots of meals our family loves that do not include cheese. This coincides nicely with this month because I happen to be trying to do a clean eating thing, so a lot of our normal meal rotations (enchiladas, lasagna, etc.) that are cheese-heavy aren’t being consumed anyway. We’ve been doing lots of grilled meat, steamed veggies, and a slice of homemade bread/toast. Simple, easy, and delicious (healthy, too!)

Second, I’ve tried to use cheese as more of a “garnish” than a main component of a meal. Instead of making homemade macaroni and cheese (emphasis on the cheeeeeese), I might make a homemade pasta salad with just a sprinkling of parmesan on top. It helps that its so hot out right now because we’ve been craving “lighter” foods anyway.

And last, when I do indulge in cheese (which I have tried to do more sparingly than in the past), I have actually measured it out. This was a tip I got from you guys (in comments on the first post) and it has really helped. It’s so easy to just “eyeball it” and round up on cheese portions! This has really kept me in check.

The other day I allowed myself a little snack of brie with crackers. Instead of taking half the block of brie (like I wanted), I sliced off just the tip (heh), wrapped back up the brie, and put it away. No cheating with extras!

IMG_3360Excuse the horrific photo! We all know photography is not my forte!

Of course, now that I’ve written this whole post about cheese…..I want some! Ha!

Overall, though, I think we’ve done well limiting our cheese consumption. I’ve gotta tell you – I think the girls have taken it harder than me! Allow me to share a little (true!) story….

One day I was in the kitchen trying to get dinner together. One of my daughters has really taken an interest in cooking and will often come into the kitchen with me, push her little toddler chair over, stand on top of it, and watch me prepare food on the counters (chopping, mixing, etc.). So, I thought nothing of it when, one evening, she pushed her chair over to see what was happening. I had left the cheese unattended on one counter while I was turned around (my back to her) chopping up veggies on the kitchen island. I scooped up the veggies and turned to go back to the rest of the dinner stuff. Imagine my surprise when I turn to find dear daughter had the entire 1 lb. block of cheese and was gnawing chewing on the corner of the block. I had to laugh at all the little teeth marks. When I took it away, she started shrieking “SHEESE!!! SHEESE!!!” (toddler translation:  cheese! cheese!) while reaching for more!

Since then I’ve had to carefully guard the cheese during any dinner prep!

Although we haven’t had a great deal of cheese in our meals lately, we really haven’t missed it too much. I think it has certainly helped our grocery budget, too. Of course, this month we seemed to run out of every personal hygiene item in the world (seriously – shampoo, conditioner, face wash, body wash, toothpaste, deodorant …ran out of everything at once!). I hate eating up our grocery budget with non-food items, but it only happens once every few months (and generally we don’t run out of everything at once!). Since my envelope mishap I’ve been guarding it closely so we’ll see how the rest of the month goes.

Here’s one last cheese-related trick/tip for you….

A long time ago I learned that you can substitute cottage cheese in place of ricotta for lasagna! Cottage cheese is much cheaper than ricotta and when its cooked, you seriously cannot tell the difference at all! I’d share credit, but I cannot even remember where I learned this (I’ve been doing it for years and no one is the wiser).

Share your tips with me! I just saw Jordan (from this blog) share a tip on Facebook about making homemade macaroni and cheese using sweet potato puree, which makes it healthier and also cuts down on the amount of cheese used.

What have you done to save money on groceries lately?

 


9 Comments

  • Reply the spunky banker. |

    All this talk about cheese is making me really hungry! The plus side is that I have a HUGE bag of individually wrapped pieces of cheese in the fridge at work so I can just run back there and grab some.

  • Reply adam |

    a couple months in and it feels familiar – bloggers are struggling for topics related to their debt and finance. Gone are the Sunday group posts, and Jim is now only posting once per week.

    I am not judging or criticizing – I remember how hard it was coming up with topics that were new and fresh and interesting after the first couple months. But it doesn’t matter much. All the bloggers are focusing on paying down debt and that’s the best thing about being a part of things here!

  • Reply Den |

    We love cheese too and use it in a lot of recipes. I buy on sale and freeze for later….it crumbles more after it’s been frozen, but that works out fine for cooking. I’ve also taught my kids to slice it thinly to enjoy on crackers – no need for a big hunk of cheese!

  • Reply Helene |

    I’m hitting farmer’s markets whenever possible for fruits and veg. So much cheaper than stores, at least by half, and fresher too.

    Cheese-a-holics, I hope you know that Walmart sells a lot of great cheeses for cheap! Same with BJ’s, but of course not everyone wants a pound or two at a time. I have found fresh mozzarella cheese and also smoked gouda at Walmart for literally half the cost of the exact same product at Harris Teeter and Food Lion.

    Not that I’m knocking HT, I love that store. 😛

    • Reply Ashley |

      Hmmm, I’ll have to check that out! Is the quality good, too? I’ve got goat cheese logs from Costco in the past for a total steal (can’t remember price off the top of my head, but I’ll note it next time I’m there). Its great quality, tastes very fresh, and cheaper than just about anywhere (but I’ll have to check Walmart)

      • Reply Helene |

        Super walmart near me sells some of the exact same brands of cheese my grocery stores do but the difference in price is staggering. For example, I like BelGioioso fresh mozzarella cheese. I like the little ‘pearls’ that come packed together in a ball … all summer long I eat cherry tomato/basil/mozzarella combinations. The ball o’cheese pearls is $3.49 at my Walmart and the EXACT same item, same weight and everything, is like $5.99 at Harris Teeter.

        Last week for a pasta salad I needed smoked gouda, which I knew would be expensive. I had a food lion giftcard to use up, so I spent $7.95 on a block o’ gouda that wasn’t even 1/3 lb. I went to super wally a few days later and found a package of smoked gouda (different brand) that was twice the weight for like $5. I was so mad at myself!

        Now granted, it doesn’t always work. Some brands my store sells are the same price as at wally. And so if they go on sale, the grocery store is the cheaper place. You know how that goes.

        I find in general that I will always check walmart for some of those specialty things first before buying. Because you never know.

  • Reply scarr |

    I have been buying whole chickens a lot lately. There have been some excellent sales on whole, organic chickens at a few grocery stores near me so I have bought one or two a week. We save so much money when I buy whole chickens as I am able to make just about anything with it so we don’t get sick of chicken.

    Haven’t curbed our cheese expenses yet. Cheese just gets me. JUST GETS ME!

So, what do you think ?