Freezing Cheese

We love cheese!  However, with only three of us in the family, a block of cheese in the refrigerator can get moldy before we finish eating it.  We came up with a cheese storage method that reduces the risk of mold, but it wasn’t good enough for those times when we have either a large amount of cheese in open packages or some cheese that’s been handled or exposed to air (for example, left over from church coffee hour) so that it probably has more mold spores on it.

The obvious solution is to freeze excess cheese, killing the spores.  But when I tried it, I found that a thawed block of cheese has a different consistency than one that was never frozen–it’s much more crumbly and seems more likely to get condensation on the surface.  However, grated cheese survives freezing and thawing just fine!  Once thawed, it gets moldy or dried-out more quickly than a block of cheese because of the greater surface area.  (This is true of grated cheese that was never frozen, too, unless it’s the kind that’s sold pre-grated, which is usually sprayed with a mold inhibitor such as the antibiotic natamycin, which is thought to be safe, as well as some kind of anti-clumping powder such as potato starch that I’d just as soon avoid; I think home-grated cheese tastes better!)

To make the most efficient use of our cheese, I leave no more than 1/2 pound in the refrigerator after the package has been opened, unless we have immediate plans for it.  I grate the extra cheese and freeze it in portions we can use in recipes: 2 or 3 cups for a big batch of burritos, 1 1/2 cups for Cheesy Walnut Burgers, 1 cup for Stuffed Shells, 3/4 cup for Mac & Cheese.  As with our homemade frozen vegetables, having convenient ingredients ready to thaw helps us keep cooking at home even in busy times.

I use the box grater if I’m grating only a small amount of cheese, but when I have a lot I use the food processor’s grater attachment.  It grates the cheese very neatly, very quickly.  It’s especially efficient if I can plan such that I’m using the food processor to demolish some kind of vegetable first, then for the cheese, so that I only have to wash the parts once!

If you don’t have a food processor and have to do a lot of grating by hand, try reciting this poem to maintain your rhythm and entertain yourself:

Through three cheese trees three free fleas flew.
While these fleas flew, freezy breeze blew.
Freezy breeze made these three trees freeze.
Freezy trees made these trees’ cheese freeze.
That’s what made these three free fleas sneeze.
–Dr. Seuss

Free freezer bags can be gleaned from cereal or crackers: The bag inside the box usually is a tough plastic ideal for freezing.  Squeeze out the air and roll the empty top part of the bag around the filled part to keep air out.  Write the amount, type of cheese, and date on the bag with a permanent marker.  (Check dates when you are getting out cheese to thaw so that you use the oldest cheese first.)  I like to put all my small bags of cheese together in a larger bag to further prevent freezer burn and to make it easy to find the cheese in the freezer.

Now our small family can save money by buying two-pound blocks of cheese at Costco or GFS Marketplace (Costco has the lower price on cheddar; GFS has more varieties of cheese consistently in stock) without having to gorge ourselves on cheese several days in a row or let any of it go to waste!

Freezing cheese works for meez–I mean, works for me!  Visit Kitchen Tip Tuesday and the Hearth & Soul Blog Hop for more great kitchen ideas!  Visit Fabulously Frugal Thursday for more money-saving tips!

P.S. Today’s Works-for-Me Wednesday hostess’s post is about how to help the tornado victims in Oklahoma.  Thank you to all the thoughtful people who have contacted me because they remembered I have relatives in Oklahoma and were concerned about them!  All my relatives live at least 100 miles from Moore, so they are okay, but it’s very kind of you to think of them–and please consider sending donations to help the other people who did lose their homes.

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About 'Becca
author of The Earthling's Handbook, about the environment, parenting, cooking, and more!

15 Responses to Freezing Cheese

  1. This made me chuckle because there’s only two of us, and I can’t keep enough cheese in the house! Cheese is Mike’s favorite food in the world, and he puts it on everything, so I buy a pound brick and it’ll last maybe a week. But now he’s leaving for vacation, so maybe I should shred and freeze whatever cheese is left in the fridge until he gets back :)

  2. pmoppins says:

    When cheese goes on sale I stock up and freeze it for a cheese emergency. :)

  3. I have the same problem with cheese. My frugalness insists on purchasing the big brick but being single means I seldom can eat it all before it begins to mold. I freeze all my shredded cheese in one bag. It is easy to shake out whatever amount a particular recipe calls for. For slices I ask the deli to slice the brick. They do it at no charge, sometimes thay make you pay first.At home I cut my cereal box liners into 3″ squares and then seperate the slices and put them in a ziplock and then the freezer. I can pull out a slice at a time for a sandwich or salad.

    • 'Becca says:

      I never thought of freezing individual slices! By making them from real cheese, you’re getting a much healthier food than those individually-wrapped “American cheese food” slices. (When I was living in a dorm, I learned that those will keep without refrigeration for about 3 weeks. Creepy!)

      My frozen shredded cheese clumps together, at least in the middle, until it’s thawed. This may have to do with the temperature of the freezer–we always have trouble scooping our ice cream. When it’s time to replace the refrigerator/freezer, we’ll get one with separate temperature controls for the two sections. The one that came with our house has just one control for both fridge and freezer temp, and if we set it warm enough to keep the ice cream scoopable, we get sour milk and moldy food in the fridge….

  4. Jim says:

    This is interesting as I purchase grass fed, raw cheese and it isn’t cheap! Living alone I have the issue with frugality as it is cheaper in bulk, but once opened will go moldy before I can use it all. I also use it mainly grated on omelets and stuff.

    So, you have found that freezing cheese only changes the texture and not the flavor?

    • 'Becca says:

      Yes, the flavor seems just the same, as long as the bag is tightly sealed/wrapped to protect the cheese from air and moisture. If the cheese is grated, the texture seems almost the same, too, even if we’re eating it cold instead of melted.

      We are able to buy local grass-fed milk and organic yogurt and butter, but with cheese the difference in price has kept us buying the mainstream kind so far.

      • Jim says:

        Thanks Becca, I’ll have to try that next time I order some cheese. I know the stuff I buy is quite expensive, which is why I need a way to preserve it because I don’t use much at all. The problem that I have with the mainstream cheese is the cows are most likely fed GMO’s, which I know are almost impossible to avoid, but I still make every effort.

  5. Heather M says:

    Great tip I learned several years back. It’s so helpful if your family doesn’t eat a lot of cheese. Thank you for linking up with us for Fabulously Frugal Thursday.

  6. I second this awesome tip!! We freeze in 1/2 cup portions – it’s just the right amount for topping tacos or soups, and it’s so easy to pull out as many needed for the meal.

  7. biggsis says:

    Great advice – so disheartening to have expensive things like cheese go bad! And thanks for the link to our mac & cheese :-)

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