9 Reasons Why We Don’t Buy Shredded Cheese

It’s been a long time since we’ve bought a bag of shredded cheese.  Back in my single days, that’s all I ever used.  I’m honestly not even sure I owned a cheese grater!

Now, we buy only block cheese and shred it ourselves.

Here are six reasons why block cheese is better than shredded cheese.

  1. Less Chemicals, Part 1 – Shredded cheese is very convenient but in order to make a product that sells, the companies have to make sure that it stays in shredded form.  If you shred your own cheese, you’ll often note that it will very quickly start to clump together.  That’s fine if you shred and use, but if this happened while it was sitting on the shelves, nobody would buy it!  So, after they shred it, they coat it with chemicals to make sure that it does not clump up.
  2. Less Chemicals, Part 2 – Another problem with shredded cheese is that it is quite
    susceptible to mold growth.   Cheese in any form will start to mold when exposed to air.  Block cheese works great because there’s no air, but with a bag of shredded cheese, there’s just no humanly way possible to get the air out of the bag.  So, in order to lengthen the time before it starts going moldy, the companies, you guessed it, add more chemicals.  Now of course, they’ll tell you that the chemicals are perfectly safe, but why take the risk if you don’t have to?
  3. Shredded cheese is difficult to melt – If you’re using shredded cheese in a recipe that calls for nice, gooey cheese, chances are you’ll be disappointed with shredded cheese.  I’m guessing that the chemicals are doing what they’re designed to do, but it makes for terrible melting.  Block cheese that you shred yourself, however, melts just fine.
  4. Shredding cheese is easy – It’s really not that hard to shred cheese.  Grab a grater, open a block of cheese and away you go.  I do most of the shredding in our house, and an 8 ounce block doesn’t take but a couple of minutes. If you rinse off the grater right after you’re done, cleanup is a cinch.
  5. If you shred cheemb-2015-03-cheesese, you get to eat cheese! – I’m the go-to guy in our house when it comes to shredding cheese.  I actually like it, but my little secret is that I like doing it because when I’m done, I grab a pinch of freshly shredded cheese and enjoy it!  Few things top that.
  6. Block cheese is often cheaper – Depending on the cheese and the store, we’ll often find that you get an ounce or two less of pre-shredded cheese compared to what you get in for a package in block form, yet the price is the same.  To me, it’s worth getting the most cheese for my buck for the simple task of shredding it.

3 Other Things To Know About Shredding Cheese

The items above are full of some good information, but here are a few other things to know:

  • Block cheese keeps well – If you only need 4 ounces, there’s no need to shred a whole block. Simply cut off what you need and shred that, wrap the rest up, and put it back in the fridge.  That will keep the rest of the block lasting fresh for much longer than if you put the remainder back in shredded form.
  • Block cheese freezes – I actually did not know this but apparently you can freeze block cheese and as long as it’s not cream based (most isn’t except for, well, cream cheese, of course), the cheese will be just fine.  This is actually useful information, as we’ve generally shied away from buying larger bricks at Costco or when they’re on sale at the grocery store, for fear that we wouldn’t be able to use all of the cheese once opened.
  • Mold on block cheese isn’t the end world – If you get a little mold growth on the end of an open container of block cheese, you can simply cut it off and use the rest.  On shredded cheese, once you get mold started, chances are it exists through your entire package and needs to be discarded.  Waste less with block cheese.

Readers, for your cheese needs, are you a shred or block household?  What importance does convenience play?

Copyright 2015 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Pizza: Homemade vs. Carryout vs. Sit-Down

Pizza.  Who’s having it tonight for dinner?  Chances are, somebody reading this is already planning on pizza as tonight’s dinner.  And, now that I’m writing about it, chances are at least one more person will choose pizza for dinner.

It’s just that good!

Our family loves pizza, and we love all three kinds of pizza. I’m not talking three different brands of pizza, but I’m talking homemade, carryout, and sit-down. What’s our favorite?  Read on to find out.

To start off, here are some pros and cons of each.

Homemade Pizza

I never knew how easy it was to make homemade pizzas, but now we make a couple of different kinds.  In the cooler months, we’ll make a pizza in the oven using pizza crust yeast, which mixes in with flour and a couple of other quick, easy ingredients to provide crust.  In the summer months, we will get pita bread and make pizzas on the outdoor grill. Yum!

Pros:

  • It’s fun to make a pizza together.  Everybody gets in the game
  • It’s cheap
  • It’s customizable.  Every person can get exactly what they want and how they want it, even on the same pizza
  • It’s healthier (if you want it to be).  You know what’s going on your pizza so you can control what goes on, and we’ve found that things like turkey based pepperoni work just great, and make things a lot less greasy.

Cons:

  • Dirty dishes. One of the best benefits to pizza is typically less dishes, but you need a pizza dish, a bowl to mix the dough, something to roll it out, and a pin, all of which require washing.
  • Rolling out pizza dough.  The first couple of times rolling out pizza dough is interesting and it usually doesn’t come out very round.  The good news is that after a few tries, you get the hang of it!

Carryout Pizza (or Delivery)

mb-2014-11pizzaWhether it’s Little Caesars Hot & Ready or something a bit more upscale, there’s just something great about picking up a phone and a few minutes and a quick trip later, having a hot pizza in a box ready to drive back home and eat.

Pros:

  • It’s easy.  With Little Caesar’s, you don’t even have to call or wait.  Other places, you might have a quick phone call and a short wait, but it’s quick and easy!
  • It’s hot. There’s nothing like getting a piping hot pizza that can only seem to work after it’s been in one of the super hot pizza ovens that only pizza places have.
  • More toppings. Pizza places typically have more toppings available to choose from than you’ll find at home.

Cons:

  • Risk.  Every once in a while, opening the pizza box at home yields less than satisfactory results, whether it be overdone (or underdone), too much sauce, too little cheese or just made wrong.  Since it’s often more trouble than it’s worth, many times you end up stuck with it.

Sit-Down Restaurant Pizza

Who doesn’t love going to a restaurant that specializes in pizza, and will bring it to you?  We have several local places around Detroit, The Alibi and Buddy’s to name a couple, that make pizza an experience.

Pros:

  • Quality.  Typically, quality is top notch and a step above carryout or delivery places.
  • The other stuff.  Our favorite pizza places are also our favorite places for salad and bread sticks.  Typically, a place that does pizza well seems to find a way to do other things well, so when it comes to good things, you get two (or three) for the price of one.
  • Full service.  Going out means no dishes or tables to clean up.  It’s all right there!

Cons:

  • Cost.  The pizzas are more expensive, and you also pay for drinks, tip, and other things that can add up quickly.
  • Wait.  Your favorite pizza place is probably the favorite pizza place for a lot of other people, so you might have to wait…and be really hungry!

As you can see, all pizza options have their share of great things and maybe not so great things, but the one thing that trumps all is that in every scenario….you get pizza!

And, that is the number one thing.

For the record, our favorite out of all three…is all of them!  That sounds like a cop-out and it might be, but we love all three.  The difference is that on some pizza days, one stands out more than another, but overall, we love all three and would never dream of dropping any option out of our ‘rotation’.

Readers, who’s having pizza tonight?  What are your favorite pizza options, toppings, and all the rest?

Copyright 2015 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Red Lobster Appears Doomed For Failure

Ever since I was old enough to actually enjoy eating fish, Red Lobster has been a pretty solid option for getting some seafood.  We don’t go very often because we have a local place that we enjoy much better, but we’ve been a number of times over the years.

Recently, Red Lobster was sold by their former parent company, the Darden Group (who also owns Olive Garden as the most comparable type of restaurant), and the new holding company, Golden Gate Capital, just completed the sale, and has already announced some changes.

They boil down to two changes: They’re going to charge more money and they’re going to try to present the restaurant as more fancy.  Both of these things are with the intent to curb years of steadily declining sales.

After reading the article and absorbing the strategy, I think that Golden Gate Capital may have just wasted a whole lot of money.  Personally I don’t see things working out.  Here is why I think that Red Lobster may be doomed for failure based on the strategy and their history:

  • People love promotions – Red Lobster wants to get away from low priced specials and many promotional items.  On paper their reason looks good: Promotions like that tend to erode the brand, so why not end the erosion?  In reality, the damage has been done and it’s going to be next to impossible to unwind that clock.  People are used to promotions, and by eliminating them, the people that would have come in the door are now going to go elsewhere.  If you want to see how eliminating promotions works out, let’s remember the massive failure that almost sent an iconic department store chain into bankruptcy.
  • Chain restaurants aren’t fancy – Apparently laying food out on the plate is another big part of the turnaround strategy.  Instead of having the fish side by side with the other items (potatoes, rice, vegetables), the fish will now be placed on top of those items.  This will make the fish the centerpiece of the…..You know what?  I can’t even finish the sentence.  This strategy might make a difference in a high end restaurant with one or two locations, but for a chain restaurant with thousands of locations, this is not going to be a difference maker.
  • Things run their course – I was originally going to split this post into two parts, the reason I think the strategy stinks (which I did), and what they should do instead.  Then, I got to thinking that maybe there really isn’t anything much they can do.  Many things simply come and go in terms of popularity.  Maybe Red Lobster has been around for long enough that it’s simply run out of steam.  It happens.  Especially in the food industry where tastes change and what’s cool one day is replaced by the new cool thing down the street the next day.

Simply put, I think Red Lobster is going to continue on the downtrend.  I just don’t see how different pricing or plate arrangement is going to change that.

Readers, what do you think?  Is Red Lobster a brand that can be revived or is it a brand that has run its course?  What do you think about the new approaches?

Copyright 2015 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Trans Fats: When Zero Plus Zero Equals Heart Disease

Eliminating trans fats from food seemed to be the ‘big thing’ at the end of the 2000’s and the first part of the 2010’s.  And, if you look at most labels, you’d think that we were fairly successful at this.

Except you would be wrong.  Read on.

What Are Trans Fats?

mb-201311nutritionTrans fats are produced by hydrogenation, which is the process of adding hydrogen to vegetable oil.  The reason for doing this is to make the oil last longer.  Without hydrogenation, the oil would break down sooner, meaning the products in which it’s contained would not last as long.  So, the long and short is that hydrogenation was a pretty standard practice.

Why They’re Bad

This didn’t seem like any big deal except when it was discovered that hydrogenation was directly responsible for increased levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and heart disease.  Long story short, trans fats are terrible for you.

Where were they?

Pretty much everywhere.  Cookies, baked goods, chips, really anything containing oil that had a long shelf life were all fair game.  In addition, fried foods were often culprits,

Once this correlation was discovered and the alarm was sounded, there was a big wave to get rid of them.  Cities started banning them in foods.  Article after article was written.  The FDA even got in on the game and changed product labeling standards so that trans fat contents were disclosed as part of the standard nutrition label.

The FDA to the rescue…or not?

The new labeling went into effect a few years back and made ‘Trans Fat’ one of the items that was required in addition to calories, fat calories, sodium, and other items which are pretty standard.

I remember seeing a lot of the new labels and noticing that items contained trans fats.  Then, it seemed, one by one, products started getting re-formulated to where the Trans Fat listing was 0g (zero grams).

Understandably, they’d even tout this on the front of their product ‘Now Trans Fat Free!’

Except in many cases it’s not true.

See, the FDA allowed rounding.  And, they allow rounding down, so that if a serving of food contains anywhere less than 0.5 grams of trans fat, they can say that it has none.

What’s the big deal?

The big deal is that any amount of trans fat is bad.  It’s not like you can consume 10 grams per day before it starts being bad.  Even a gram or two per day increases the bodies chances of having higher cholesterol and heart disease.

Meaning, it doesn’t take long for a few servings of food that each have, say, 0.4 grams of trans fat, to add up into unhealthy levels.

All the while, people are eating them, oblivious to the fact that they’re harming their bodies.

What To Do?

Right now, you can see through the lies by looking at the ingredients list.  If you see anything that contains the word ‘Hydrogenated’ in any form, then there are trans fats in that product, regardless of what it says on the nutrition label.

You should probably assume that most fried food contains trans fats as well.  Even though many fast food makers ‘eliminated’ trans fats from their fries and other foods, they still contain enough trace amounts that it should be assumed you’re eating them.

How This Should Be Fixed

I believe that the FDA made a big error when they allowed for this loophole, especially given how little it takes for trans fats to cause health problems.  Honestly, the only way a product should be allowed to have a 0 g (zero gram) listing is if it contains none at all.  If it’s anything less than the 0.5 gram threshold, then it should have to be noted as such.  Manufacturers will complain that it’s hard to measure with accuracy at those levels, but even if the label read <0.5 grams (less than 0.5 grams), it still alerts the consumer that there are trans fats in the product.

This is important.  While I believe that every individual is responsible for their own health and understanding the things that they put into their body, this is so important that I don’t think that the current standards are inadequate for this product.

Think of it this way

Trans fats are a problem.  If they eliminated 90% of the problem but the other 10% is still causing problems, then the labeling should not allow the 10% remaining to stay in existence.

I’m making up those numbers, but I hope I’m also making my point.

Readers, do you look beyond the Trans Fat listing on the nutrition labels and into the ingredients list to get the true reading?  Did you know that this loophole is out there?

Copyright 2015 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.