“Why is this cheese so expensive?” said my friend Jenny, frowning as she picked up a box of Camembert cheese at Fairprice supermarket.
We were doing some grocery shopping with her one-year old son Aidan and we were faced with a wide array of different cheeses, ranging from sophisticated French cheeses to slices of Kraft.
Being the food guru I was, I proceeded to explain to her that good cheeses contained just milk, bacteria and a coagulant such as acetic acid (from vinegar) or rennet (produced in stomachs of mammals to digest milk). According to ancient stories, cheese was first created when a trader put his supply of milk into a pouch made from a sheep’s stomach and he set out across the dessert. The heat from the sun, combined with the rennet in the lining of the pouch, caused the milk to separate into curd (cheese) and whey. So cheese has a very natural beginning.
One example of a cheese made like that is gouda, which is a Dutch hard cheese.
The ingredients of gouda are milk, salt, cultures, rennet.
PasarBella is a covered market selling an eclectic mix of organic vegetables, fresh seafood, soy candles and shabby chic furniture. The first time I went there, I didn’t buy anything because I went in the evening. This time, I made a trip in the day, which is the best time to go because all the stalls are open. I wanted to get my hands on good meat and cheese and I wasn’t disappointed.
“They have free-range meat!” I squealed in delight. There was also pasture-fed meat, which means that grass and other forage make up most of the animals’ diet.
We bought free-range beef and oxtail meat to make broth.
Our next stop was to The Providore, which specialised in artisanal cheese and charcuterie, as well as dips and olives. We bought some salami (not pictured here).
Apart from a deli, The Providore also has a dry goods section selling herbs and coconut-based products.
And for all the paleo people out there looking for coconut products but don’t want to order online from CocoNuture you can get your oil, flour and sugar from PasarBella.
Next up was The Cheese Ark, which was located in a temperature controlled room in an obscure part of PasarBella. The moment you step in, the smell of pungent cheese assaults your senses. Definitely not for the faint of heart.
Apart from cheese, The Cheese Ark also sells goat’s milk from local goat farm Hay Dairies. Goat’s milk may be better for people who have trouble digesting cow’s milk because it contains less lactose (milk sugar). In any case, your milk cannot get any fresher than this because Hay Dairies is located in Lim Chu Kang.
We bought 100 grams of buffalo cheese for about $15.
Apart from meat and cheese, there were also stalls selling organic vegetables. I always feel that the healthiest and most environmentally conscious way to eat vegetables is to eat local most of the time. So I was happy to skip the vegetable sections that imported Australian or American greens.
This is my haul from PasarBella consisting of free-range beef and oxtail meat, buffalo cheese, salami and (not so healthy) Cornish ginger ale.
That very evening, we made a stew using the free-range beef. The meat was so good it melted in my mouth.
PasarBella @ The Grandstand Bukit Timah
200 Turf Club Road Singapore 287994
Stalls : 9.30am to 7pm
Restaurants: 10am to 10pm
You know that feeling when you’re stuck in a cooking rut? You cook the same thing every day using the same ingredients and your taste buds become numb. This is made worse when you’re on a restricted diet because there are so many things sold outside that are not good for your health.
As such it’s important to experiment once in a while with new recipes. I’ve only made sweet muffins so when I chanced upon this savoury muffin – containing cheese, eggs and bacon, I knew I had to try it.
This is a recipe for paleo black pepper and cheese crackers. This recipe is not my own. I bought Peter Reinhart’s The Joy of Gluten-Free Sugar-Free Baking from The Book Depository recently. This book contains “80 Low-Carb Recipes That Offer Solutions for Celiac’s Disease, Diabetes, and Weight Loss”. Now Peter Reinhart is an expert bread baker who has written many books about bread making, including “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice”.
In his introduction, he said that had been overweight for 20 years. He weighed 214 pounds at the start of the writing the book but within two and a half weeks of eating a low-carb diet, he lost 14 pounds. He keeps his carb count to under 120 grams a day and sugar to about 15 grams a day.
His recipes rely a lot of nut flours and sugar substitutes. I’m not very keen on sugar substitutes after my disasterous Stevia experiment. So I chose a savoury recipe as my first since it would require little sugar.
I do a lot of grocery shopping because it is difficult to get paleo food at hawker centres in Singapore. I like to buy meat at the rotisserie as well as other snack staples such as avocados, cheese and nuts.
These food are not cheap. It’s not the same as buying a $3 plate of rice at the hawker centre. Adding to that problem is the issue of location – the nearest supermarket to my workplace is Cold Storage, which is more expensive than NTUC Fairprice and Giant.
In order to save some money while shopping for my costly groceries (I am addicted to cheese), I have utilised the strategy of getting instant cash rebates. This is achieved via two cards: the Citibank Dividend card and the PAssion card. The former is just another credit card from Citibank and the latter is a membership card for People’s Association (PA). It can also be used as an EZ-link card for public transport.
This is what I bought today (the brie was excellent, by the way):
If you notice, my initial bill was $20.81. Following the use of the Citibank card and the PAssion card, I paid $19.83, which amounted to a $0.98 discount. It’s not a lot but these cents add up when you buy a lot of (expensive) groceries.
The Citibank card works by giving me a 2% cash rebate. The PAssion card gives me one point for every dollar spent, and 150 points equates to a $1 cash rebate. However, you can still redeem your points even if you have less than 150 points, which was what I did in this case.
If I wanted to save even more money, I should apply for the HSBC Visa Platinum credit card, which gives a 5% rebate at Cold Storage and Giant. The only thing stopping me from switching is the lack of petrol rebates at Esso, where I usually pump petro for the car; the Citibank Dividend card gives a 5% cash rebate.
Do you have any money saving tips to help reduce grocery bills? I would love to hear your thoughts!
P.S. I have the crazy idea of making my own cheese. Will that be cheaper than buying it?
P.P.S. I know it’s quite easy to make your own yoghurt. My friend tried it and she said the taste was good, although it’s more work if you want very thick Fage-like consistency.