Cheesecake is not expensive to make. It’s cheap. Really, it is — you just have to know a few handy tips to trim that price down. I make berry cheesecake for less than five bucks, and now you can, too, with these simple tips below:
1.) Cream cheese.
To begin with, cream cheese is sold in many different forms. Today, most people buy it in little tubs because it’s much less messy in the refrigerator when contained as such. Which, of course, drives the price up, as miniature plastic tubs are pricier to manufacture than, say, that plain old cardboard carton variety. (So even if you’re purchasing the cheese to spread on toast in the mornings, just save your money, buy the paper carton version and just store it in a tupperware container or spare butter dish when you get home.)
The paper/cardboard cartons (8 ounces) can often be had for a buck apiece, if you know when to look. They’re obviously going to be discounted fairly well on a regular basis at your local ALDI or Save-A-Lot, but you can often find name-brand (ahem, Philadelphia Cream Cheese) cartons in 10-for-$10 sales at your regular markets before any major holiday. I stocked way up during the Thanksgiving-Christmas season and am now enjoying the rewards. (Unopened cream cheese can hang out in your refrigerator for many weeks, so embrace sales when you see them.)
2.) Berry filling or topping.
Another quick way to run up a big bill on your cheesecake is to sink several bucks into fresh or frozen berries, which not only sell at a premium, but then require additional effort once you get them home (cooking, straining, squeezing, processing, etc.) before they can be incorporated into the cheesecake. Madness, i say!
Instead, I use 1/2 cup of plain old seedless fruit jam or jelly already found in my fridge (Black raspberry-flavored jam is always on hand at my house, but you can use anything from grape to strawberry to blueberry to whatever you find on the cheap shelf at ALDI. Seriously.) Not only is it much cheaper, as you probably already have it or would be buying it to keep around the house on a regular basis anyway, but it also saves you all of the time and trouble associated with turning regular berries into sauce anyway. Brilliant, if I do say so myself. 🙂
3.) Graham cracker crust.
It can be very tempting to buy that premade graham crust for $2 or $3 at the store, I know. I’ve also been suckered into purchasing that giant box of graham cracker crumbs in an expensive attempt to make my world seem easier. What a mistake.
When you consider how little graham (or cookie, or whatever you’re using) it takes to actually make a crust, consider whether it’s likely you’ll actually use that whole box of cookie crumbs before it expires, and decide whether you really want that box camping out in your cabinet space for the time until then. Chances are, you’ll see it’s not worth it — particularly when you read on and discover that most of these complicated instructions for melting butter and incorporating and mushing and sculpting a graham crust are total hogwash designed to make homemade dessert seem like a bigger deal than it actually is. Read on!
All you need to make a cheesecake crust is 1 tablespoon of some sort of cheap butter or shortening (I actually used tub margarine for mine) and about six graham crackers (or some vanilla wafers, or Oreos, or those cheap-but-wonderful generic “Iced Oatmeal Cookies,” or anything else you have on hand. Don’t go wasting money on a whole box of something when you only need a little bit. Chances are, something sitting around your kitchen will do.)
Instead of melting and incorporating, simply rub the blob of margarine around the bottom of your pan or springform with a couple of fingers until evenly distributed, and sprinkle bits of mashed cookie over it until it’s covered. One minute’s worth of work start to finish, and think of the money you just saved over one of those premade crusts!
I hope these tips come in handy for your dessert-making at home. They definitely help stretch the buck in my own kitchen. So, good luck, happy baking, and even happier tasting!