The Professional Hack For Scoring Fancy Cheese On A Budget

Cheese is one of the great culinary unifiers, satisfying everyone from kids noshing on boxed mac and cheese, to adults taking a vacation detour to visit the town where Camembert was invented. And regarding the charcuterie board era that we're currently in, cheese has become even more of a must-have.

But shopping for quality dairy products can really turn your wallet into a slice of Swiss cheese. Particularly if you want to make up a cute little cheese board, and those wedges of goat cheese, gouda, and brie start to add up. (And that's before you start looking for baguette, quince jam, and cornichons.)

Thankfully, there's a great hack for getting nice cheese without spending all of your money, and as a bonus, it's also anti-food waste! The next time you're at a cheesemonger or deli counter, ask if they have a bin of off-cuts to score discounted — and still delicious — cheese.

There's nothing off about off-cuts

Food waste has become a massive problem in the United States, with thirty to forty percent of our food supply trashed instead of eaten. A large part of this waste comes from food discarded for aesthetic reasons — not being the right size or shape to entice customers — though much of this food is tossed before customers even get the chance to look at it. This has spawned several grocery delivery services, like the recently-merged Imperfect Foods and Misfits Market, which sell boxes of "imperfect" or "misfit" foods for a hefty discount.

But good old-fashioned cheese counters have been doing this for ages. When a wheel of cheese is pre-cut to sell, there will always be little scraps or oddly shaped cheese bits that can't be magically transformed into an aesthetic triangular or rectangular block. These bits usually get thrown into an off-cuts bucket full of perfectly good, weirdly shaped cheese.

How to use off-cuts

So the next time you're at the deli counter, it's worth checking to see if they sell their off-cuts. This probably won't work at a store that only sells pre-cut blocks of cheese, but if you see a deli counter, especially one with whole cheese wheels behind it, you're on the right track.

This is a great way to sample new cheeses without having to go in on a whole block. Or make your own four-cheese blend by getting a few different pieces, shredding them in your food processor, and using the shredded cheese in a salad, on a nacho plate, or on a pizza.

You can even make a cheese plate with these scraps; it just might not look the way you thought it would. Chop your weird cheeses into bite-sized pieces, and serve them in a ramekin with toothpicks, or mix them into antipasti with chunks of cured sausage and olives.