Waste Free Cheese

Package free cheese bought from The Dairy in Ponsonby Central

Upon making the switch to plastic free/ zero waste I quickly learned that cheese can be rather difficult to source without the pesky packaging. We started making our own cheese initially, soft cheese is very easy to make, however one gets sick of soft cheeses after a while and we only had the option of supermarket homogenised milk in plastic bottles. If we lived closer to a farm then we would probably continue on with the cheese making, but at the moment it’s a once in a while thing. We used to have a flatmate that worked with a cheese maker, so we would get our cheese direct and in paper or foil packaging, again it was mainly soft cheese though. Since starting this journey my partner and I have majorly reduced our cheese consumption, so cheese has become a treat. After much trial and error I have found where to purchase plastic free cheese and started to make ‘vegan’ cheese.

Where to Buy Package-Free Cheese in Auckland:

Your local farmers market: I have found local cheese which is sold by weight at farmers markets before.

Paneer bought from Khyber Spice Invader in my own container

Local Indian store: I have found loose paneer and feta at Indian stores before. Specifically Khyber Spice Invader in Royal Oak, we buy loose feta and paneer by the block for around $5 each. I take my container and get them to weigh it and they deduct the weight of the container (they don’t have a proper way to do this as yet so make sure you ask). I have also used my reusable plastic Kids Konserve lunch wrap with a napkin to carry it.

Feta cheese bought in a Kids Konserve plastic wrap from Khyber Spice Invader

 

Local cheese shop or deli: these have become a rarity in this age however we did find one in Auckland which very easily and happily sold us zero waste cheese. The Dairy in Ponsonby Central sells cheese by weight from the block. They have a massive selection of cheese (they even have a cheese room!) which is all NZ made. The shop itself is fairly waste free, they have a compost collection, recycling and a jar refund scheme for their fresh local jams. Unfortunately the cheese legally has to be wrapped in plastic in the display case, but it is mostly package free or wrapped in paper in their cheese room. The staff are very happy to sell the cheese directly in to your container, and with no stickers even (disclaimer: it turns out we knew the cheese monger, as we had previously given her a ride to Splore and volunteered on the zero waste team with her!). It is pricey this way, but the cheese it totally worth it. One of the cheeses we chose, a cheddar called Cymglyn, was the “most sustainable” with low food miles (Eketahuna) and from a farm of just 4 cows each with names.

The lovely Rae at The Dairy in Ponsonby Central knows a lot about cheese!

 

One of the cheeses we purchased.

The supermarket: I have yet to have any luck with this, I asked at one Countdown and they seemed open to the idea of selling their cheese loose but it would have to be on delivery day and pre arranged, as they chop it down and plastic wrap it. NZ Ecochick has done it before with no issues, check out her blog post here.The fancier supermarkets such as Nosh and Farro have deli counters which sell unpackaged cheese, we haven’t tried there yet though.

Bin Inn or bulk stores: Bin Inn Takanini have large cheese wheels which they will happily cut up and put straight in a container, bonus: they sell cumin cheese!

Start or join co-op: I have heard of co-ops or even just large families who purchase a cheese wheel and then split it between themselves. Cheese wheels are usually just wrapped in wax.

Make Your Own Cheese:

Homemade ricotta and whey

Soft cheese is fairly easy to make, I won’t go in to detail as there are heaps of recipes and “how to’s” online. We usually made ricotta, paneer or labneh, which are the easiest of cheese varieties to make. Unfortunately we had to buy our milk in plastic bottles from the supermarket as we live in Central Auckland. You can purchase milk fresh and package free straight from the farmer’s gate though. The leftover whey was used in soups, pizza bases, as a fermenting starter, given to the cat, or frozen for later use.

As we don’t buy dairy milk anymore, I frequently make vegan “cheese.” The key ingredient is nutritional yeast which can be bought in bulk from Bin Inn or organic stores.

Here are some of my favourite vegan cheese recipes: 

Vegan nacho cheese

Going Zero Waste’s Best Nacho Cheese pictured above on rice & beans and mentioned previously in my zero waste nacho post
Almond Parmesan, I keep this on hand in the pantry to sprinkle over dinner or popcorn
Cashew Cheese, there are many variations of this one as cashews and nutritional yeast are a fairly common vegan cheese blend. There are plenty of recipes out there. Macadamia is also a common nut for vegan cheese.

Revive Cafe Cheesy Cashew Sauce:
I found this in one of the Revive Cafe books, it’s great on broccoli.

  • 1 cup cashews
  • 1 tsp cornflour (cornstarch)
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups water

Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Gently heat in a frypan/saucepan on a low heat until it thickens in consistency.

And here’s 25 more vegan cheese recipes! There are also some amazing vegan cheeses using Aquafaba (chickpea brine) in the Vegan Meringue group on Facebook.

Please let me know of any where else to buy package free cheese, or any other great vegan cheese recipes!

Bonus:
Check out the cool bins at Ponsonby Central!

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  6Comments

  1. cweir   •  

    Yes cheese is hard. We still buy cheese in plastic, buying expensive cheese for kids toasties is not worth it, sorry kids! I have bought from Nosh before using a besswax wrap which was fine, although they may have used a plastic sheet for weighing *sigh. Your bean dish look amazing! Zero waste pot luck soon I reckon. Great post btw!

  2. zerojourney   •  

    Cheese has been a nightmare in terms of plastic free alternatives. I live in a small city, so even most of our grocery stores don't have a cheese deli. I haven't tried to make my own. Any failsafe recipes?

  3. Amanda Chapman   •  

    It's so interesting that for so many zero wasters cheese is number one on their list of difficulty to source,all over the world. Honestly ricotta is super easy to make. You just heat the milk to the right temperature (about 90 degree C), put in some citric acid or lemon juice, leave for 20 odd minutes so it separates and then using a slotted spoon scoop out the curd. You can then leave that to drain even more, or press it in to a shape for paneer.

  4. Amanda Chapman   •  

    I totally understand!! At least we have soft plastic recycling now. A plastic sheet to weigh, oh come on Nosh. My friend was working at Farro Fresh deli a while back and she said I can zero waste cheese there, but same deal it's pricey. I'm still trying to get it from Countdown like Madeleine does!
    Keen for a pot luck! I once went to one with a completely dumpster dived dish, everyone loved it haha! Thanks Candace

  5. Sarah van Boheemen   •  

    Hi Amanda, love your content!
    My name is Sarah and I am working on a campaign called Love Food Hate Waste (www.facebook.com/lovefoodhatewastenz) We would like to invite you to our launch event. Can you please email me sarah@wasteminz.org.nz so I can send you an invitation. Thanks.

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