Friday, June 17, 2011

How to eat when you're really broke (Link to original article and Commentary)

I am blatantly linking to this article on MSN.  I know, I'm actually reading an article on MSN?  It came from a link on Facebook to Lifehacker so I would say it has a good pedigree.  The article makes a lot of sense too.
(Really, read this article.  It's very good.)
Too busy to read it?  Here's the Cliff Notes version:

If you are an America, you probably spend too much money per month on food.  You go out to eat too often and when you don't go out to eat, most of the food you buy is over processed, not nutritious enough, and goes bad in your refrigerator, freezer, or pantry before you eat it.

Here are their recommendations, and they are all common sense:

1. Eat mostly at home
I think about a grilled cheese sandwich.  In its simplest form, two slices of bread, a little butter, and two slices of American cheese.  If you make that at home it will cost you less that $0.40.  At most diners it's the cheapest sandwich on the menu at $2.00.

2. Skip the Processing
With all of my wife's allergies we have a general rule of thumb, if the ingredient list on the label has more than five items, it probably has been processed too much.

3. Demote Meat
Most dietitians recommend limiting meat portions to 3 ounces; I rarely follow this rule.  Most cultures use meat as a flavoring and not the main component of a meal.  If you purchase a pound of beef for $3.00 and have 2 - 8 ounce steaks, you have 2 - $1.50 meat servings.  That same pound of beef can be cut up and used into a stir fry where it can be turned into 8 - 2 ounce $ 0.38 servings.  OR skip meat altogether (Heavens NO!) for Lentils or Beans.

4. Promote Vegetables
Increase the amount of fresh seasonal and frozen vegetables.  But try to avoid canned since it normally has been processed with too much salt and sugar.

5. Go for the Grains
Whole grains are very filling, full of fiber, and fairly inexpensive.

6. Watch the Waste
Patrol your pantry.  Watch for dates.  Watch for rot.

7. Drop your Bad Habits
Reduce the amount of alcohol, tobacco, and soda you consume.  I think that would also mean no more lattes at Starbucks every day.

8. Get a Slow Cooker
Always a good idea.  I also recommend getting a pressure cooker/canner, especially if you have a garden.

9. Cook Once, Eat Twice
Make enough for left overs.  Good idea, but don't be afraid to take it a couple of steps further.  Growing up, my Mom's most successful diet weight-loss and financially involved cooking all day every other Sunday.  We would make 5 or 6 different main courses and then divided them into individual portions and freeze them.  With different schedules throughout the week, we could both have home-cooked meals that were healthy and economical.

10. Learn to Love Lentils
The article points out that lentils are fast to cook and are packed pith protein.  But other legumes are worth noting and cooking.  In fact if you have the pressure cooker I mentioned in #8, a pound of beans takes an hour to cook.  You can then can them yourself with less salt and processing than you would find at the supermarket.  The article also mentions brown rice taking 40 minutes to cook.  This is true, but you can take advantage of this by cooking things IN the rice, like lima beans or corn or chicken breasts or tomatoes, etc. etc.

11. Have Some Go-To Recipes
Ah! The ace up the sleeve.  I have several including the All purpose cream of the vegetable in the freezer soup and grilled cheese.  Or Shepherds Pie.  Fast dinner when you get home beats going out to eat.

Ya know what?  I think my article ended up being longer than the original!

Until next time, I wish you peace, love, and hollandaise sauce!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A post before dining...

So wasn't I just on a hiatus?

The stories of my return from hiatus were greatly exaggerated.

Life has a way of keeping you busy, but a guy's got to eat right?  So what do you eat when you are constantly on the go?  Fast food?  If you have to, you have to, but you can make some smart choices.

Let's take McDonald's as an example.  Without going into calorie counting and fat gram counting let's just assume from the outset that a Big Mac, Large Fries, and a Dr. Pepper probably have enough salt, fat, and calories to give your dietitian a coronary.

While you're at it, let's think about the cost..  That "Value meal" just ran you $6 or more.  What can you buy at the grocery store for $6?

  • A gallon of milk and a sack of cookies. or
  • A pack of hot dogs, buns, and ketchup, or
  • A pound of carrots, o head of lettuce, a tomato. and some salad dressing, or
  • Half a pound of Ground beef and hamburger buns, or
  • lunch meat, cheese, and a loaf of bread, or
  • 40 packs of Ramen noodles, or
  • A can of white beans, a pound of brown rice, a pound of frozen spinach, and a ham hock, or

The list goes on and on, but your time doesn't, so here you are in the drive through at McDonald's.  You don't want to spend an arm and a leg, you want to eat healthy, you want to eat tasty, and you want to be satisfied.  The Value menu is actually a pretty good place to start.

Start with ONE McDouble, McChicken, or if they have it, 4 piece chicken McNuggets.  Most people really don't need more than that... not even a big 'ol Sasquatch like me.  Then, and this is the hard part:

Skip the fries.

That's right, skip them. "But they're so good!"  Sure they are with all of that starch, hot oil, and salt, even kitty litter would taste good.  Just wait until they're cold; they won't be quite as good then.  Plus, Fries are what I call "Empty Calories".  You really don't get any nutrition for what you are eating.  Instead you should order a side salad.  In fact, order TWO.

WHAT!  Rabbit Food?  Yes, a side salad.  McDonald's makes a very good side salad with mixed greens, grape tomatoes and carrots.  Best of all, almost everyone loves Ranch dressing, so get it with Fat Free Ranch.  The Newman's Own is very good, it doesn't taste fat free, I promise.  The packet of Ranch dressing has a lot in it; you can DROWN your salad in it.

What about a drink?  This is the tough part for me.  If you can do it, just get a cup of ice water.  Sure it's cheap, but so are you.  If you have to order a drink, a bottle of water, bottle of milk (bonus points for nutrition!), unsweetened ice tea, black coffee, or diet soda.

Is this health food?  Not really, but it is healthier food.  You are limiting your carb intake by having one small sandwich.  You are having green leafy vegetables which are full of vitamins and fiber.  Do eat everything you order., don't waste.  Eat slowly and eat with friends if you can.  This isn't "Diet" food, this is "Eating Healthier" and saving money to download an extra app for your phone.

So until next time folks, I wish you peace, love, and hollandaise sauce!  (which seems really weird since we've been talking about eating healthy - go figure)