Sunday, August 01, 2010

Low carb on a budget.

With the lousy economy and poor job market many of us are having trouble stretching the food dollar and stick with a low carb. Hey, let's face it, carbs are cheap!! You can buy a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter for less than $10 and make, what, 10-12 sandwiches? A couple of boxes of cheap pasta and some jarred sauce can feed a lot of people....again, for less than $10. But these foods are not good for you and you will end up spending more in the long run when you figure in the cost of medications and physician appointments for treating your high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes!

Here are some tips for low carbing on a limited budget.

1. Watch the sales. Almost every food store has weekly specials. Check them out. You may find your self buying meats you've never tried but you may find you link them! Fruits and vegetables go on sale too, so be sure to check them out!
On sale at Food Lion* this week:
  • Boston Butt steaks - $1.99/lb
  • Chicken breasts, frozen - buy 1 get 1 free
  • Fresh Chicken Leg Quarters - 10 Lb. Bag/$.69 Lb.
  • Whole fryer chickens - $0.57/lb (Whole, cut up are $0.87/lb)
  • New York Strip Steaks:Value Pack, Boneless - $5.99 Lb.

2. Check out the in-store specials! You can often save 10% and more on meats that are marked down...either as an unadvertised special or ones that are reaching their expiration date (but still quite safe to eat!).

3. If possible buy in bulk! If you have the storage space, buy family packs or buy several meals worth of an on-sale meat/fish/fowl.

4. Try to invest in a stand-alone freezer. A brand new upright freezer at Sears goes for $149 (1.3cu ft) to over $1400 (21cu ft), but a quick search of Craig's list (for Raleigh, NC) shows a 13cu ft for $100 and another for just $50! Chest freezers tend to be a bit less expensive and actually save money on electricity. If possible try to get a manual defrost as they use less power and your foods will stay fresher. If money is really tight try to put aside $10 a month and in a few months you might be able to buy a used freezer. You will likely get your money back by being able to bulk shop within 6-12 months (less if you are feeding a large family).

5. Try to invest in a vacuum food sealer. These are not too expensive, but the bags can add up. Look on Craig's list and EBay for good buys. Vacuum sealing foods prevents freezer burn, so you will save money by not having to throw out food due to freezer burn.

6. Check out your local farmer's market. Many of the farmers at the markets have fantastic prices, but not all of them, so be sure to wander around and look for the best prices. You may also be able to "bargain" with the farmer if you are interested in buying large quantities, especially if it's close to the end of the day!

7. Switch to water for cold drinks. If your tap water doesn't taste good, or you're concerned about it's purity, invest in a filter. One that mounts on the faucet can be purchased for about $20 (replacement filters run about $10 each and they last 2-3 months, depending on your use). Water pitchers with the built in filters run about $10-20. If you can't or won't drink plain water, add a few drops of lemon or lime juice (the plastic lemon and lime juices in the produce sections are usually 100% juice, but do check the label!). Food stores also sell their brand of sugar free drink mixes for just a few cents for each serving.

8. Add bulky low carb salads with your meals. A small head of lettuce with a few slices feeds several....add cucumbers, tomatoes, or what you like for usually just a few cents per serving.

9. Don't forget about eggs!! A dozen eggs are inexpensive and can fill you up. Eggs can also be used with ground beef to stretch it a bit. In my opinion, eggs are pretty much the perfect food!! All that nutrition packaged in a tasty, versatile package! Having "breakfast for dinner" is a great choice.

10. Learn to cook! While convenience foods are often very convenient, you can usually save money if you make it yourself! If time is an issue try "batch cooking" on weekends or your days off. With batch cooking all you have to do is thaw and heat.

11. Make friends with a butcher! If you're lucky enough to have a local butcher, go in and ask about special deals you might be able to get. Soup bones add a lot of nutrition and can sometimes be had for low prices. See if you can get some of the fattier cuts of meat for lower prices....the time the butcher saves in trimming the meat might make it worth a few cents a pound!

12.If there is a "warehouse" store near enough, get a membership! These are especially good if you have a stand-alone freezer! Prices are low and the quality is usually excellent.

Low carb on a tight budget can be tough, but it can be done!! Look for sites online that cater to busy moms and check out the recipes. Sometimes you can make substitutions for the high carb ingredients. The main thing about sticking to your budget and your diet is to plan! Check the ads and make a list. Plan out what you need for the week....or the next few days and buy accordingly. If you're lucky enough to have a freezer it is easier, but you still have to plan!

If you're tempted to give in an buy some "filler" carbs (pasta, bread, rice), remember that fat and protein fills you up faster and keeps you full longer! That $100 worth of pasta may fill you up, but it's likely you'll be hungry sooner than if you ate $100 worth of meat or dairy!!

What are you budget savers? Post them in comments so others can benefit!

*In Raleigh NC, the week ending 8/4/2010.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Low carbing on Memorial Day!!

Low carbing on Memorial Day!!

Memorial Day weekend is usually considered the first summer weekend of the year. Many people party and cook out. Perfect for those of us following a low carb lifestyle!

If you are hosting or attending a Memorial Day cookout, here are some things to consider:

Tossed salad, garden salad, Caesar salad, spinach salad! Lots and lots of salads. Some have mixed greens, others are all one type. Tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, onion and so much more! Hopefully assorted dressings, but if you're visiting someone, best to bring your own, just in case. We all know vegetables are encouraged on low carb, they are mandatory! Most salads contain the very types of vegetables we should be eating! Low sugar/starch vegetables are the ones we want....and usually the ones found in salads!

Potato salad, pasta salad....these are the ones you want to avoid. If you find that these are things you have to have, at least make and bring your own. Virtually all commercial brands contain added sugars. At least if you make your own, you can control the amount of added sugars....and if you can tolerate low carb pasta, you can cut more there! Some of us can tolerate higher levels of carbohydrate....and some of us can control ourselves to eat "just a taste". If you can tolerate them here are a couple of really easy recipes.

Potato salad:
For each pound of potatoes, any kind except Idaho, mix together 1 fl ounce Vinegar, 2 fl ounce oil, 2T mayonnaise. Cut (and if you want, peel) the potatoes into bite-size pieces. Boil in salted water until cooked. You want them done, but not overdone, so watch them. (overdone and the salad will have a more creamy consistency with smaller pieces of potato) When potatoes are cooked, drain well and add to a large bowl. (Rinse them if you want, but use HOT water!) With the potatoes still hot, pour in mayo mixture and stir well. Add a little salt and pepper, and some cut up onions to taste. Let sit in refrigerator until thoroughly cooled. Stir every couple of hours if you want. Stir well before serving.

Easy pasta salad:
Boil 1 pound elbow macaroni. When tender drain and rinse well with cold water. Let cool. When cool, add 1 can chunk light tuna and mayonnaise. Stir well and chill. You can add just about any vegetable you want to make it pretty and spice it up.

Main course:
Hamburgers and hot dogs. Although hot dogs are a highly processed food, they are usually fairly high in protein and fat, and low in carbohydrate. Calories for Oscar Meyer beef are about 14% protein, 83% fat and only 3% carbohydrate. Hamburgers, we all know, are a very acceptable low carb food!

Steak and chicken. Again....very low carb friendly!! Do avoid added sauces though, most are loaded with sugars!

Stuffed hamburgers:
For each person, use enough ground beef to make 2 good size but thin patties. In the center of one patty put chopped vegetables, cheese, bacon, or whatever you can think of. Keep filling in the center but well spread out. Put second patty on top and "seal" the edges. Thoroughly cook burgers on grill. These can be fragile, so take care when turning them! Top with a couple slices of tomato....or add more cheese and bacon!

Alcoholic drinks are highly individual. Do remember that many low carbers report having less tolerance for alcohol! Most agree that a drink or two of alcohol is fine on occasion. Some even promote daily intake. Beer, even low carb beer, is probably not something you should be having....and mixed drinks can be loaded with sugar. But you can enjoy some wine....or bring your own sugar free mixers!

Non-alcoholic drinks are most likely going to be high sugar drinks, whether it's "natural" or "added" fruit drinks contain sugars. Soft drinks, diet ones, aren't going to add to your glucose intake, but excessive intakes of any soda is not healthy. Water is perfect! Lots of ice....with a sprig of mint, or a slice of lemon or lime....fantastic!

Well this is one area that most of us will agree is a mine-field unless we plan ahead and bring something "acceptable" for ourselves. If you tolerate fruits, you can usually find a bowl of fruit salad or chunks of various fruits. Dips are often nearby, but do be careful....again most people are going to make (or buy) the ones that are low fat and high carb. Bringing a dip that is low carb friendly is a good idea....and probably will be raved about. Just about any dip recipe can be adapted....use full fat milk, yogurt, etc and leave out the added sugars.

light and airy coffee cake, a beautiful low carb cheesecake, maybe even some ice cream are all possibilities when thinking of desserts to bring.

Most important, have fun! Enjoy your friends and family! Play with the kids! A little planning makes it all easier. I've never met a host that didn't appreciate someone bringing something extra or different. Talking to the host ahead of time is always a good idea. Find out what's going to be served and figure out what you want to eat. If you like something high carb and don't want to miss out on it, see if you can figure out a way to make is healthier!

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Strawberry Coffee cake

With strawberries in season here in North Carolina, you might be looking for a nice way to use them. Try this recipe.

3 1/2 ounces coconut flour, 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons
1/3 cup granular Erythritol *
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cold butter, cut into small cubes

1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg

3 ounces cream cheese
2 tablespoons granular Erythritol
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
1 egg white

1/3 cup pureed strawberries
3/4 ounce sliced almonds, 2 tablespoons

In a medium bowl, mix the almond flour, 1/3 cup granular Splenda and salt; cut in the butter until you get coarse crumbs. Reserve 1/2 of the crumb mixture for the topping and keep chilled until needed.

To the remaining nut mixture, add the baking powder, baking soda, sour cream, heavy cream, vanilla and whole egg. Beat on medium speed with a mixer until blended. Spread in greased 8-inch round cake pan.

In the same mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, 2 tablespoons granular Splenda or equivalent liquid, almond extract and the egg white on medium speed until smooth. Spread evenly over the batter in the pan. Top with dollops of jam. Sprinkle the reserved topping and sliced almonds over the top. Bake at 350ยบ 30 minutes, or until the cake springs back when lightly touched. Cool before serving.

Makes 8 servings
Can be frozen

Nutritional information with ingredients listed above:

  • Calories: 307
  • Fat: 29g
  • Sat Fat: 22g
  • Carbohydrate: 25g
  • Sugar alcohols: 16g
  • Protein: 5g

Special thanks to Linda's low carb recipes for this one! Changed a bit for ingredients on hand....and to use strawberries!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Low carb chocolate lava cake

I thought I had posted this already, but I sure can't find it. Recently I've had several people ask for the recipe, so here goes:

Chocolate Lava Cake:

  • 1/4c almond flour
  • Sweetener equivalent to 2T sugar*
  • 1T coconut oil melted
  • 2T dry coco powder, unsweetened
  • 1 large egg
  • Low sugar dark chocolate (ie 2 squares Lindt, 1/2 ChocoPerfection* bar)

  • 2T cream cheese
  • Sweetener equavalent to 2tsp sugar*

In a small bowl or large coffee mug, mix egg, sweetener, almond flour, coconut oil and coco powder until well mixed. It will be a bit lumpy. Add the chocolate in chunks/pieces to the top.

Microwave on high for about 1 minute (ovens may vary. It will puff up and look a bit moist in the center). Immediately turn cake out onto a plate or bowl (it sticks to the cooking bowl/cup, so turn out immediately.

In separate bowl mix softened cream cheese with sweetener. Blend well.

Once cake is cooled off a bit, spread frosting over all and enjoy!

In the picture above I sprinkled a little shaved chocolate on the top...just to make it pretty.
*I use oligofructose, Sweet Perfection, which is mostly fiber. SweetPerfection measures the same as sugar and is almost 100% fiber. 1 cup = 127 g carbohydrate with 122 g fiber.. I also used ChocoPerfection dark chocolate bar for this recipe. Calculation is based on this sweetener and chocolate.

Nutritional Info
Servings Per Recipe: 1-2

Numbers Per Recipe:
Calories: 638
Fat: 53 g
Saturated: 24g
Carbohydrate: 43 g
Dietary Fiber: 33 g
Protein: 17 g

The cake part was yummy enough, but when you got a glob of the chocolate! YUMMMMM!!!

Recipe is for 1 serving. A lot of carbs, but most are fiber.

Number of Servings: 1-2 I've been known to eat the whole thing, but it is a lot. As a snack or desert, it's probably best to share.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Product review: Tropical Traditions Virgin coconut oil, (Gold label standard)

Tropical Traditions, Inc is located in Springville CA and you can access their site here:

Tropical Traditions has been posting notices on Twitter and Facebook asking for writers and bloggers to sample and evaluate their product at no cost. About 10 days after signing up, the jar arrived.

According to their web-site, their coconut oils are Non-GMO and certified organic. No solvents are used in processing. The Gold label is made by hand, in small batches, from fresh coconuts with no refining.

Coconut oil is largely saturated fat, medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs), which are felt to be highly beneficial to health. It is stable for long periods of time at room temperature, so needs no refrigeration.

When you first open the box and pull out the jar (which weighs over 3 pounds!) you notice the pearly white color of the oil in the glass jar. Coconut oil should be pure white when solid and clear when liquid. Coconut oil should become liquid at about 76 degrees (F). Because of the way it cools in the jar it has a pearly quality to it....but no grays or other colors are evident.

Opening the jar and smelling the oil isn't much. This particular brand does not have a strong coconut smell to it like some brands do, but it is a pleasant smell! (The web-site says there is a mild scent of coconut, but I couldn't detect it and neither could my son).

When you use Tropical Traditions coconut oil you will notice how smooth it is. Even when solid it has almost a creamy texture to it. Your spoon scoops out the oil with little effort. When you place it into an already hot pan it melts almost immediately into a clear oil. (Occasionally you will see tiny black flecks, which is normal as this is not refined)

Coconut oil has a higher smoke point, usually around 360 degrees and is very stable, so it an excellent oil to use for pan frying and baking.

There are a few things I make and do to test different oils.

First, I make candy! Yep, chocolate candy with nuts. Melt about 1 T coconut oil and add about 1/2 ounce of pecans or walnuts. When nicely browned, add 2 squares of 85% dark chocolate and a little sweetener (to taste). Mix well to be sure oil and chocolate is well blended with sweetener. Pour mixture onto foil or silicone and allow to cool. Break in chunks and enjoy! As expected, TT coconut oil blends well and doesn't have a coconut taste.

Second, I pan fry something. For testing this oil, I cooked hamburg patties, pork chops, steak and lamb chops. All browned nicely without sticking to the pan.

Last, I use the oil as a moisturizer! Put a little oil in the palm of your hand, then rub hands together to melt the oil. Smooth over face, neck, arms, etc and let sit for 5-10 minutes, then blot off excess oil with a tissue. Some oils will have hard pieces that don't melt well, or feels gritty on your skin, but Tropical Traditions is smooth and creamy feeling and melts quickly at skin temperature.

All in all, I'll gibe Tropical Traditions Virgin Coconut Oil a big thumbs up!

Disclosure: I was sent a 32 fl oz jar of this from Tropical Traditions at no charge so I could evaluate the product and post a review.