Food manufacturers continue to come up with products that will save us time, and I bow down to them for that! One beautiful invention is pre-shredded cheese. I’m going to come clean – I hate to grate. I’ve had one too many experiences of a knuckle or two getting grated along with the cheese. Not a good flavor combo. But there’s the Great Debate of time vs. money. The thought is that buying pre-shredded takes more of a chunk out of your budget, but grating your own takes more of a chunk out of your time. Money in your pocket? Time on your hands? What do you want more of?
But once I started doing a little research, I realized that there are a few other things to consider that I hadn’t thought of.
VARIETY: You can get pre-shredded cheese in more “exotic” options, like Mexican cheese and pizza cheese that combine several different types of cheese. Seems like it’s more efficient to buy a small amount of mixed pre-shredded cheese than to buy several different blocks of cheese.
TASTE: There is a huge debate about whether block cheese tastes better/fresher than pre-shredded. I personally think self-shredded block cheese tastes a bit better than the pre-shredded, but many people say they can’t tell the difference. Sounds to me like it’s a personal preference, and you’ll have to decide for yourself on this one. (Blind taste test anyone?)
ADDITIVES: Pre-shredded cheese has some extra ingredients (i.e. chemicals) to keep it from clumping and deter it from molding as fast. Potato starch, cellulose, calcium sulfate and natamycin are the additives in my pre-shred. Does that creep you out? Then buy block cheese and grate away! You can avoid those added chemicals and build muscle too!
EEWW, MOLD: If you get some green fuzzy spots on your block cheese, it’ll be fine to just cut those spots out. If penicillin starts growing in your pre-shredded cheese, you should really toss the whole bag out. What a waste. There is also debate about which form of cheese goes bad quicker – after all, pre-shredded does contain a mold inhibitor additive. I didn’t have time to do a laboratory test on this one. But really, this shouldn’t be a problem if you follow the storage tips below.
STORAGE: Freeze your cheese!! That may be a surprise to you. Cheese freezes easily. (Plus that’s just fun to say.) When you see a good deal on cheese at your grocery store, buy a lot of it and freeze it! Now, the pre-shredded is going to store a lot better in your freezer. It’s more compact, and it comes in smaller amounts, so you don’t have to pull out as much out when you need it. Or you can cut the block cheese up into smaller sized servings before you freeze it. Either way, make sure whatever you store the cheese in is air tight. (The bag that the pre-shredded comes in is air tight, so you can save some $ there.)
TIME AND MONEY: If you choose to grate your own cheese, well, you have to buy a cheese grater. Obviously you don’t need to get a grater if you buy pre-shredded. Also, you need to wash the grater after you use it which requires more of your time and money (water, soap, duh).
PRICE PRICE PRICE!! So we assume that pre-shredded cheese costs more than block cheese. Makes sense, right? Well, I just got back from doing some research at a couple of my local grocery stores and what I found BLEW ME AWAY! There was NO DIFFERENCE in price between shredded cheese and block cheese! In fact, at one store the shredded cheese was on sale and was substantially CHEAPER than the block cheese. Really!
Where you save money is in the AMOUNT that you buy. The per ounce price of cheese is a lot less when you buy larger amounts. For example, the price in one store was 43.7¢/ounce for 8 ounces of cheese (both block and shredded), and 28.1¢/ounce for 32 ounces of cheese. That’s a big difference. So you’re better off purchasing larger amounts of cheese. It won’t go bad if you store it correctly (freeze it) and you’ll save a lot of money. On the other hand, don’t buy more than you’re going to use. That’s just a waste. You don’t really want to keep cheese in the freezer much longer than 6 months or so.
So did you think I was going to give you a definitive answer on whether to buy pre-shredded or block cheese? Sorry. Just the facts, Jack. You’ll need to decide for yourself. Me? I’m a pre-shredded gal. How about you?