Saturday, May 16, 2009

Eating what you want for less

I love dairy products. Part of this is a legacy of growing up the daughter of a dairy farmer but I also really enjoy dairy foods. Give me a glass of milk with my meal, cheese on whatever I can, sour cream in dishes, ice cream for dessert, yogurt for a snack, cream cheese in sweet or savory dishes, butter spread on freshly baked bread or toast, heavy cream whipped to top my pies, and half and half in my cream sauces. My position is dairy is about 50% of my diet. This may not be the healthiest especially the items made of cream and full-fat milk but they are very satisfying. However, they are also quite expensive. How do I afford my dairy habit?

1. I buy in bulk.
Not all items are amenable to this and you will need a chest freezer or similar to store your purchases. However, I have found that purchasing three pounds of sliced American cheese is cheaper than a single 12 ounce package (and has less plastic as well). Furthermore, the sliced cheese can be frozen. The same holds true for cream cheese, 1% milk and butter. For the sliced American cheese, butter and 1% milk, I noticed no change in taste or texture. For the cream cheese, the texture become more grainy when used but loses no flavor. If you purchase shredded cheese, that can also be frozen and thawed when needed.

The bulk buying comes when you know the price is good and you have room to store it in your freezer. For the American sliced cheese, I keep out one pound and store the other two. Milk needs to have liquid removed from the top prior to freezing but stores fine. Of course, a good price on ice cream means you can stock up.

2. I buy whole cheeses rather than presliced or shredded.
Aside from American cheese that I use in toasted cheese sandwiches, I buy cheese by the pound and shred it myself. When the price of dairy went up last year, I found this saved me money so I could still buy cheese in the same amount. Preslicing and shredding are conveniences and the price reflects that. By slicing the cheese and shredding it yourself, you save money with only a minor time investment.

3. I go with what tastes good and has a reasonable price.
I will buy cheese from a lesser known cheesemaker that costs less and continue to do so if I like the flavor. I select milk from a smaller dairy because the milk is 10 cents cheaper than the big name. I comparison shop and chose based on both price and flavor. Your price point may be different from mine but I have found little difference in taste but a great difference in price per pound of cheese.

These strategies keep me well-stocked with dairy products and add to the quality of the food I make and eat. Not everyone shares my love of dairy but these principles can help you with your preferred food group like meat, wine, fruit and vegetables. Do you have any tips on saving money on your desired foods?


  1. Hi FP, I just wanted to let you know I'm still reading, although it's a read and run. It's a hectic time of the year. Keep writing.

  2. @KateT,

    Thanks for your encouraging words. I appreciate you letting me know people like reading my posts and will "keep writing".