Frugal food makes me fat!

alisandeJanuary 27, 2004

This isn't a money-saving tip; it's a request for some. When my children were growing up we ate a lot of what I call "ethnic peasant food"...delicious, economical international meals that were often based on rice and legumes. I did all my own baking, and since we had our own tofu business I had an unlimited supply of the freshest product. We also had a huge vegetable garden and orchard. We ate very well, and spent relatively little on food.

But at some point I discovered that while my DH and kids thrived on this high-complex-carb diet, it put weight on me. Worse, it raised my triglycerides to dangerous levels. I also have to keep my saturated fat intake as low as possible. So now that I'm living by myself with my income considerably reduced I need to eat good quality lean proteins, soy "dairy" products, vegetables, and fruits. I buy chicken and fish only when they're on sale. I get the cheapest canned fruits (the "irregular pieces" are more interesting than those pricey uniform slices, BTW). I get canned tomatoes, grapeseed oil, spices, and herb teas at Big Lots. I cook the occasional turkey and freeze meals from it. Any other ideas?



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Yes, I'll add some. But first I want to know if you were eating whole foods--whole grains, wheat flour, and brown rice? The reason is that these foods don't break down like the processed foods do.

For breakfast, I'd cut out expensive things like bacon and sausage (which are not so healthy for you) and replace with oatmeal, yogurt and home made granola (check dollar stores for oatmeal and nuts).

If cooking with meat--extend with oatmeal and mashed beans--you won't notice any difference in a casserole.

Replace beans for a lot of meat if you can digest it.
Dried beans are the cheapest thing you can buy for the protein. BTW--if you replace the water you cooked them in you won't have as much trouble digesting.

I'll get back later...

    Bookmark   January 27, 2004 at 6:34PM
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Thanks, MTM. Yes, I was eating whole foods. In fact, I used to grind much of our flour myself. We belonged to a food co-op, and were vegetarians for years.

I never eat bacon and sausage. I inherited poor fat-clearing genes, and must avoid saturated fat. I do eat fat-free plain yogurt for breakfast, even though I'm allergic to one of the proteins in dairy food and can't overdo it. I mix it with wheat germ.

Over the years I've done a lot of experimenting with foods and have learned that even those low on the glycemic index can put weight on me and raise my triglycerides. I can handle oat bran but not oatmeal. I can enjoy garbanzo beans occasionally, and lentils rarely, but the rest of the beans have too high a carb load for me.

My diet is very limited, but I'm used to it. My concern now is cost. I'd eat fish every day if it weren't so expensive.


    Bookmark   January 27, 2004 at 6:53PM
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Well, you have me stumped. I wonder whether your doctor can refer you to a nutritionist to help you choose more things to eat.

I'm assuming you are using things that help good cholesterol like olive oil in place of butter, margarine or other oils?

Yes, fish is expensive--how about canned salmon for salmon cakes?

Can you please describe your tofu making business. This interests me greatly...

    Bookmark   January 28, 2004 at 9:22AM
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Yes, I use only olive oil or grapeseed oil. I can't remember the last time I ate butter. I get the olive oil at Sam's Club and the grapeseed oil at Big Lots. Love canned salmon (and it's healthier than the fresh farmed variety), especially in salads. I buy it at Sam's, too.

The tofu business was wonderful for us. My DH. a Ph.D. chemical engineer, wanted a manufacturing business that would allow him to work close to home. (He had been commuting to another state.) I, missing the fresh tofu I'd enjoyed in New York City, was making it in my kitchen and finding it way too labor-intensive. So I suggested tofu manufacturing as a possibility, and soon after he attended a three-day tofu workshop in Boston given by William Shurtleff, author of The Book of Tofu This was back around 1980.

He came home armed with some books, and started up his "tofu shop." We ordered organically grown soybeans from Iowa and nigari from Japan. It was the best tofu anyone around here had ever had. They still talk about it. My DH and one worker made 1500+ pounds a week and sold it to health food stores. We also had a small facility in another part of the state where several women made products from tofuÂpot pies, tofu eggless salad, desserts, etc. We eventually added several varieties of tempeh to our product line, making it here. I gave tofu cooking demonstrations all over the place, and developed a bunch of tofu recipes for Rodale Press.

My DH loved the business because it gave him an opportunity to distribute such healthy, high quality products. I loved that, too, and also the opportunity it gave me to get them (for free!) any time I wanted.

Was this more than you wanted to know about the tofu business?? :-)


    Bookmark   January 28, 2004 at 10:15AM
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No, not enough:) I'll have to email you privately tomorrow with some more questions if you don't mind (hopefully you won't).

I'm still thinking about your original question. You sound pretty savvy from your page so I don't know if I can think of anything you haven't already. But I'll try--this is an interesting problem (nutrition is a hobby).

    Bookmark   January 28, 2004 at 9:59PM
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No, I won't mind.

PS: Nutrition is a hobby for me, too.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2004 at 12:43PM
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Eggs? Cheap, low carb, low fat, although fairly high in chloresterol. There seems to be some debate, however, about whether the chloresterol in eggs in harmful.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2004 at 10:55AM
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raise your own fish? I was gonna put a wink here, but I wonder if there IS any way to raise your own fish.

Of course you probably wouldn't enjoy FISHING for them in the winter, but even if you only saved money at one time of the year...

When I lived in small-town Iowa you could buy a cow and have them butcher it for you and store it at the meat locker.

you're probably tuned into food co-ops, etc., in your part of the world. The only other thing I can think of is to find a chicken farmer in the neighborhood and swap something with him, like your fresh veggies for a chicken a week, or something.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2004 at 11:57AM
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So ... way back, you're from Iowa.

My ex- grew up in Iowa, attended Iowa State in Ames, about '55.

Then went to Cornell, where we met and she grad.

I remember Iowa with affection.

Anyone from Iowa can't be all bad.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   January 31, 2004 at 12:09AM
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Yes, you can fish farm in a small way. In a barrel, no less.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2004 at 9:48AM
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Eggs! Yes, I could do more with eggs. They're so versatile. I usually eat only the whites anyway, so the cholesterol isn't an issue. When I do feel inclined to eat a yolk or two, I tell myself the lecithin in the whites counteracts the cholesterol in the yolks.

Thanks, all!

PS: We do have a stream on the property, but so far all it's produced is leeches. A variation on escargot, perhaps?? :-)

    Bookmark   January 31, 2004 at 5:41PM
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Some time back, I think it was on this forum, someone posted a link for an e-book called something like "Opossum Living". It was an interesting and entertaining read. There the father-daughter family who decided to live out of the 9-5 job system were raising their own chickens and rabbits for very frugal meat in their basement.


    Bookmark   February 2, 2004 at 2:44AM
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Susan please read the information about the fish--it is all done in a barrel--looks simple! I'm going to try it one of these days and put a light over it so the japanese beetles will be fish food!

I'm the one who posted possom living and I still read it now and then to remember simplicity in all we do.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2004 at 10:16AM
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I know there are drawbacks, but if you are looking for a cheap, seafood based source of very lean protein, try surimi and kamaboko (the japanese-style fake crab). It's very inexpensive at my local Asian market.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2004 at 2:14AM
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A great frugal but delicious dish is homemade vegetable soup made with cheap soup bones. Bake the bones first to give them a little color, then put them into a large kettle well covered with water, add garlic, onions, seasonings, simmer until bones are falling apart, several hours. Then add your favorite vegs. I like chopped cabbage, celery, carrots, garbanzos, zucchini, potato, sweet potato, corn on the cob, tomato. You can add lean meat if you want, I now also add bouillon cubes, just watch added salt. Divide it into refrigerator containers, discard bare bones. When cool, remove any fat that accumulates on top. Then I freeze in pint or serving size containers. My kids and DH have always loved this. This is great with fresh rolls or bread and can feed an army with very little meat. You can also add tofu to increase protein. My mom used to make soup like this but she used chicken feet which she got free from meat processors nearby. They cooked up faster but the bones were also always free, sometimes they even had meat on them.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2005 at 1:19AM
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