Saturday, October 20

Saving With Vegetables

Carrots!  Munch, Munch.I've explored the idea of saving money by cutting food costs more than a few times.

For example, I've talked about cheap staple foods such as rice or beans, low priced meats such as ground beef, eating less overall via calorie cycling, and I've posted lots of example recipes.

Today I'm going to give another perspective on improving health while saving money. As we all know, many people, whether living frugally or not, could use a bit of help managing their health. Perhaps they could stand to eat more vegetables, improving their nutritional status, while losing a little bit of weight. Well, guess what, that's today's topic.

When you have a casual meal what are the most expensive parts? Usually it will be the chicken, fish, meat or whatever your main source of protein is. Other dishes, containing vegetables, rice, potatoes or beans can be a lot cheaper. However, the food you don't need to cook and that you don't eat is the cheapest of all.

What? Have I gone crazy again?

No, no, bear with me. Remember growing up and having a salad before dinner? There are a lot of good reasons for doing that. Perhaps many of you still do. I can pretty much guarantee that tons of people living alone, or that tons of people that don't like vegetables, or that tons of people who don't have a lot of patience with cooking no longer do that.

Perhaps this is a result of our time constrained convenience driven lifestyle.

In cany case, when we start a meal with foods that are not calorie dense, such as vegetables, we not only get some good nutrition at a low price, but we start the process of filling up before we start scarfing down all the high calorie and high price items. If we do things right there is a good chance we will start to feel full soon enough to end up eating less altogether. If you are one of the masses with pants that are a bit too tight -- this is a great strategy.

It's a way to feel full, to enjoy your meal, while not spending as much on food, while cutting a few calories, and improving your nutritional profile. Of course, you do have to make sure you don't slather on too much oily dressing, cheese, or other high calorie or high expense add-ons.

Now, if you are like me, a complete salad is sometimes too much time and effort. You have to buy all the ingredients, keep them in the fridge, chop them up, and so forth. Sometimes that just isn't going to be convenient. I'll give you two options to help you get around this problem:

1) Make a huge portion of salad and keep it in the fridge for several days. For example, shred some lettuce, slice some green peppers, onions, radishes, carrots, celery, mushrooms, or whatever you have and throw them in a container you can seal. Pour on some ranch dressing mix, dry, from the package, and maybe some apple cider vinegar. This tastes great, the vinegar keeps it fresh, and you have it available for snacking any time.

2) Buy some carrots, or some other vegetables that are nearly ready to eat, and keep them on hand. Simply snack on a few carrots before your meal, perhaps while cooking it, to help you fill up a bit faster. You may want to switch around which vegetables you are filling up on, but you won't be able to use time and convenience as an excuse with this option ready and waiting.

There you go! Save money, lose weight, and improve your nutritional status. Don't say I've never done you any favors...

Oct 2007 MyPoints Update

Try MyPointsIt's time to blog about my progress with MyPoints again.

Woohoo, I'm up over 800 points now!

I'd have to look to be sure, but I think at 2000 points I'll qualify for a small denomination gift card...

Monday, October 15

Baby Aspirin and Fish Oil?

Fish OilToday's post is a bit of a health tip. I guess it's somewhat of a mind meld between the fitness site I'm working on and thoughts of frugality. How many of you have joint discomfort? I don't mean outright pain, but occasional discomfort presumably caused by inflammatory conditions.

Sometimes my knees bug me. I've been taking concentrated fish oil, which everyone knows is very good for you for many reasons, as it helps deal with issues of inflammation. This has been working well for me. However, one of the people on my new fitness site pointed out some studies concerning aspirin and fish oil.

To make a long story short, high quality fish oil can be expensive. Especially if you are taking a reasonable dosage for specific benefits. It might, and I have to stress that it is too early to make conclusions, just be able to reduce the amount of fish oil you need to take and save you some money while providing increased health benefits.

When it comes to health issues, as I have no credentials, I enjoy speculating. In this case, I can't help but wonder if the synergistic effect between aspirin and Omega-3's begins to explain some of the cardio-protective health benefits often associated with low dose aspirin?

UPDATE: The fitness site idea has long since vanished. Sorry for the broken link that was up for a while.

Saturday, October 6

How To Stretch Ground Beef

Mmmm. Ground Beef!I was looking through my log files a moment ago and found that a visitor had arrived using this search term. Being a ground beef afficionado, and knowing it might represent someone who is facing a lean stretch, I thought I'd try to address this question. As always, any comments or suggestions are very welcome.

Anyhow, a simple suggestion if you only need to make some ground beef go further due to an unexpected guest, is to add beans. Kidney beans, romano beans, mixed beans, it really doesn't matter. A little bit of garlic, cayenne pepper, hot sauce or whatever and you are good to go. Mushrooms also go well with beef if you happen to have some around. I don't cook it often but a meatloaf would be another way to get a bit of extra mileage also.

If you are trying to stretch ground beef as far as possible due to a lean period, then I'd opt for something like chili. Ground beef, lots of beans, spices and the big stretcher, scads of rice. Cook the beef and then just dump everything into a large pot and simmer it all as long as needed. I've made various posts about how cheap rice is and how convenient a rice cooker is - so check out the post categories and I'm sure you can't miss that. You could also add a bit of ketchup, BBQ sauce, onions, peppers, leftovers, soup, or whatever else is handy and available.

A big pot of chili can be split up and frozen in meal sized containers. Perhaps serve something like a good splat of chili, a side of baked potato and some vegetable greens to round out the plate. Cheap, cheap and cheap, with lots of nutritional value as well.

A different direction to go would be to make some gravy with your ground beef. You'll end up with something approaching a stroganoff, it really doesn't matter much if you are following any formal recipes, just that it tastes good and is healthy as well. Because this is very rich tasting you can dollop some on top of something that would otherwise be too plain, such as a plate of rice. Again, a little bit of fruit and/or vegetable on the side and you've got a full belly on the cheap with good nutritional value.

I hope my visitor was only looking to stretch a meal for an unexpected guest or two, but given the background of my blog I thought I'd play it safe. Good luck out there!

P.S. Once you have chili, try one of my simple favorites. Butter some toast and then slather some leftover chili on top of it. You can warm the chili up if you want, but it tastes great right out of the fridge too. How's that for convenience?

Friday, October 5

New Fitness Forum

Join Fitness-IWell, I've been a bit busy lately, so I haven't been able to put together a frugality minded post. However, let me tell you a little bit about where I've been putting much of my spare time.

This is a brand new independent fitness forum that I'm in the process of launching. If you are interested in getting in shape, perhaps losing weight, or maybe even gaining muscle, then sign up here and post your questions. We have some knowledgable people (including myself) who are sure to step in and offer some advice. These people might be a bit "dedicated" to health and fitness, but please don't be intimidated.

I promise to be nice to you!

Of course, you can also discuss sports or just about anything else, though in general, the site is for fitness minded people.

I hope to see you there!