Pre-shredded cheese: just one of the countless convenience items lining grocery stores shelves that saves you time and energy. Thanks to this baggie full of goodness, you can make nachos, pizza, or lasagna in a jiffy. However, if you want to save money and cut back on the chemicals, might we suggest shredding your own? Yes, there is a trade off – you’ll need an extra piece of equipment. This basic cheese grater will do the trick for $5.44, but you’ll make that money back in no time since buying blocks of cheese is much more economical.
The Cost Breakdown
Tillamook Medium Cheddar – Shredded– $4.99 for 8 oz ($0.62/ounce)
Tillamook Medium Cheddar -Block -$6.89 for 16 oz ($0.43/ounce)
In the example above, you’ll save about $0.20/ounce, meaning for every pound of cheese you shred yourself you’re saving $3.20. If a typical family of four goes through a pound of cheese every two weeks, that adds up to to$83.20 in one year year – that’s some serious cheddar!
Same Cheese, Different Ingredients?
If the cost savings alone aren’t reason enough to swap (at least occasionally), consider that when you pre-grate cheese you are creating a LOT more surface area per ounce of cheese. That means more opportunities for the cheese to a) clump back together (initially), b) dry out (eventually), and c) grow mold (over time).
In order to keep your shredded cheese perfect, companies must add some preservatives and anti-caking agents. Some of the less troublesome ingredients companies may use are potato starch or cellulose powder (to keep the cheese from clumping) and natamycin (an anti-fungal that is mostly considered safe, although it is on Whole Food’s list of “unacceptable ingredients for food”).
While these chemicals aren’t likely to cause our bodies any harm, they do affect the texture of the cheese (especially if you are melting it). The same chemicals that keep the cheese from clumping can also keep it from melting into the most delicious, silky, cheesy sauce. Don’t believe us? Try a texture test – buy the same cheese pre-shredded and whole, shred some of your own, and taste them side by side, paying attention to the mouthfeel of the cheese. We bet the grate-your-own variety will win every time.