Monday, March 7, 2016

Why I don't mind paying $9/lb for cheese

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This past weekend we traveled to a nearby city so our sons could compete in an Awana tournament. Afterwards, we hit up a few of my favorite grocery stores to stock up on a few condiments and staples for our pantry. One of these places was Trader Joe's. When we lived in California, we lived within walking distance of one that was within walking distance of the beach. Now, we only get there every 5-6 months.

Because of the long lapse between visits, I've learned how to live without Trader Joe's <sniff> but one of the things I do like to buy there is their Pecorino Romano cheese. It's kind of like Parmesan, but made of sheep's milk with a different flavor. A good-sized wedge of it will be around $6, or $9/lb. Even though it is way more expensive than our normal cheeses, I have found it worthwhile to purchase, and here is why:

Real, concentrated flavor goes a long way.

In many recipes, you may use 8 oz of cheddar, while many recipes only calls for 1 oz of parmesan. The total cost of the cheddar at the price of $2.50/lb would be $1.25, while the total cost of parmesan would be only $.56.

The same goes for feta cheese, though I'm hoping to learn how to make my own soon using this recipe.

There are other flavor-boosting foods that I like to get every now and then for the same reason. Some of them are not that expensive, while others might look more expensive at the first glance. But like the cheese, a little can go a long way and keep you from feeling deprived. I'd much rather spend a couple of dollars on Kalamata olives than break down and eat out. It's kind of like preventative food care - a little attention to detail now can save you big money later.

If you keep these things on hand and use them prudently, you can really amplify the flavors of everyday dishes:

Kalamata olives
Fresh herbs (easy to grow as well) such as parsley or cilantro
Salty hard cheeses
Sriracha sauce
Chipotle chiles in adobo sauce

Are there any foods that you splurge on, and if so, why?


  1. I just stumbled across your blog while on Brandy's and what you are writing is just what I needed! I LOVE TJs and when I was traveling to/from CA a lot I would stop in one and get things to bring back. Nothing like having herbs, bath salts, cookies, etc. in your luggage when the TSA people are going through it all :). TJs just arrived here in CO and we now have one about 35 miles from us in a town we go to for speciality medical care. You are so spot on about what a difference a few unique ingredients can make when doing so much cooking from home. I do all on your list and include good vanilla, TJs large tubs of fresh basil, their twenty-one seasoning (makes scrambled eggs and other egg dishes palatable for me and when up for a huge splurge - a bunch of flowers when everything is so brown and ugly here in SE CO. One other thing I do splurge on is good wine. I've found a nice French Pinot Noir that when I get the case and have the 'good neighborhood' discount (it's a local way to get people to shop at local businesses) it $7.70 a bottle. A glass of that feels like a bit splurge for me. Oh - and I love good teas so I hunt for those at TJs, Ross and TJ Maxx where great teas can be found super cheap. Mary

    1. I have realized that I should shop at TJ Maxx a bit more for specialty foods too. I didn't think about buying tea there - my husband and I both love drinking it.

      Thanks for visiting!

  2. I don't necessarily by top-quality ingredients like cheese (though reading this makes me wonder why I haven't - you made some good points), but there are some things that I won't buy the generic version because I do think there's enough of a taste difference that the extra $ is worth it.

    1. I agree on the generic version - many are just fine, but there are some where the brand difference is worth it. Thanks for commenting :).

  3. One thing I buy that costs more is unrefined sea salt. In addition to health benefits, I just like being able to see the salt on my food... kinda weird, I know. The other thing we splurge on is eating out and/or junk food sometimes.

  4. I think the texture is also important, and sea salt can often provide that extra crunch. One thing we like to do sometimes when we get a "junk food" craving is to get the frozen appetizers at Dollar Tree. You would think that they are not that high quality, but the vegetarian samosas and their spring rolls are really good and the samosas have all-natural ingredients and are made in India. As an Indian food fan, it can often give me that "food fix" that I need!

  5. Where did you/do you live in California? I live in the beach cities area and we have, like every specialty grocery store under the sun! It's tempting to buy fun stuff. I don't buy much cheese simply because I'll eat it in one sitting. I mean is there anything more amazing than cheese (OK maybe chocolate). I splurge on getting my hair cut and buying healthy groceries.

    1. We used to live in the Bay Area - Alameda to be specific. I do miss the stores devoted to exclusively one food, like cheese, for example! If you are ever up there, check out the Cheeseboard in Berkeley. Getting hungry now :).


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