I try to play it cool around cheese boards.
But the bite-size pieces and delectable accompaniments beckon me closer at parties. I casually carry on conversation while covertly helicoptering in their radius.
I have just enough self-control to prevent myself from devouring the entire board in one comical mouthful.
Ordering a quality charcuterie board full of cured meats, cheeses and complementary accessories at a restaurant can run anywhere from $30 to $100 for a small but delectable portion.
My expensive tastes and waning willpower inspired me to craft my own meat and cheese boards. Not only do I get my fix more cheaply, I can shamelessly gorge myself within the privacy of my own home.
Assembling them has become a proud pastime. I make them for parties, potlucks and pleasure.
If you do it right, you can look super fancy while being totally cheap. No one has to know.
So in honor of National Cheese Day (June 4), here’s how to impress everyone for $25 or less by going to Aldi to make a legit meat and cheese board.
How to Make a Charcuterie Board for $25 or Less
Here’s a little secret: Meat and cheese boards are super easy to make.
The staples to a proper charcuterie board are cured meats with sides of cheeses, and accessory options like fruit, nuts, crackers, spreads and pickled things. Think of it as a glorified snack tray and choose what appeals to you.
I accrued the essentials for this board at Aldi, but you can find affordable options at discount stores like Trader Joe’s and Walmart.
Here’s my Aldi shopping list:
- 1 16-ounce jar of kosher baby dill pickles: $1.29
- 1 jar of Spanish Manzanilla olives: $1.19
- 1 box of rosemary and olive oil crackers: $1.89
- 1 French baguette: $1.69
- 1 8-ounce package of Genoa salami: $2.59
- 1 4-ounce package of prosciutto: $3.29
- .5 pounds of red grapes: 90 cents
- 1 McIntosh apple: 36 cents
- 1 18-ounce jar of apricot preserves: $1.79
- 1 8-ounce package of fresh mozzarella: $2.39
- 1 7-ounce round of smoked Gouda cheese: $2.99
- 1 4-ounce honey goat-cheese log: $1.99
- 1 10-ounce block of aged white cheddar cheese: $2.49
I had leftovers of everything (except pickles), so I could easily top off the board when items got low.
How to Choose Items for Your Charcuterie Board
I buy what I like since I fully intend to devour whatever I create, but that doesn’t have to be the case if you have guests’ tastes in mind.
Or you can let money do the talking and buy what’s on sale, in season or the cheapest. It’ll look fancy regardless. Promise!
Dress up a cheaper board with “remainders” or leftovers of pricier cheeses, which you can find at specialty and gourmet groceries that have a dedicated cheese departments.
You can use a large cutting board, serving platter or another portable tray as the base for your board. I prefer my $20 Ikea cutting board because it has a large surface area to work with.
These can get pricy if you’re not careful.
Common charcuterie board meats include prosciutto, Genoa salami, pepperoni, pancetta and Sopressata (an Italian salami).
I compare volume and price and choose what gives me the most for less.
Prosciutto disappears from the board first and it’s the most expensive, but I get it when my budget allows because… yum.
Pepperoni and salami generally yield more pieces per dollar. Explore what pairs well, and ultimately get whatever gives you the most bang for your buck, or taste buds. People will eat it regardless.
It’s good to have a range of cheese from mild and medium to sharp, with about three to four different cheeses on the board.
You can’t go wrong with mozzarella, goat cheese or a white cheddar. They’re all affordable and have agreeable flavors compared with pungent cheese like blue or Gorgonzola. But if those are your jam — add ’em.
To get the most fromage for your buck, buy cheese by the block rather than sliced. You can also use the block with a grater and further save on the cost of pre-packaged shredded varieties.
I try to include a goat or sheep cheese for those with milk intolerance, but it really depends on your situation.
Personally, I don’t fret too much over flavors and buy what I like — or what’s on sale.
This is my favorite part because anything goes (short of barbecue ribs).
Complement sweet with savory to delight all palates. I usually add almonds, dried or seasonal fruit, jelly, mustard, pickles and olives to the mix.
Include anything you have on hand, like candied nuts, banana chips, pretzels, cherry peppers, honey or cucumbers.
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Use food as decoration to dress up the board. Lay out whole fruits or blocks of cheese.
Separate select items like olives or jams into ramekins, aka small serving bowls, if you have them.
Overlap, stack or spread out your masterpiece. It’s your creation, and there’s no limit to what you can do — aside from physical space.
Layering can make it appear more bountiful, but may not appeal to those with dietary restrictions.
I adjust arrangements differently for personal and party use, which basically means I throw everything together for myself and strategically place pieces for everyone else.
Prepare and pre-cut ingredients at home, but assemble the boards at your destination. Otherwise, they don’t travel well.
Craft small or large boards depending on the occasion. You’re going to be a favorite at gatherings either way.
Happy Cheese Day!
Stephanie Bolling is a former staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She promises to play it cool around your cheeseboard. Read her full bio here or say hi On Twitter @StephBolling.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.