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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Monday, March 26, 2012

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Avoid Junk Foods

Frugal Kitchens 101

Over the years the food industry has pushed what many frugalistas term as junk foods at us.  Many think of junk foods as being candy, carbonated drinks and snack foods like potato chips, but the category of junk is considerably broader.   The problem is many families consume a fair amount of junk food on a daily basis without realizing it because some of them have been promoted as healthy.  Essentially many of these are foods that mimic or serve as substitutes for real foods.  There are a lot of issues associated with these types of foods.  First, they tend to be high in preservatives, artificial colourants and flavouring making them a nightmare for those with food allergies and food insensitivities.  They also tend to be high in sugar and/or HFCS, salt, fats and calories.  Simply put they are a poor nutritional value for your dollar while causing potential health problems.  Eliminating or greatly reducing your use of junk foods will save a considerable amount of money on your grocery bill.   Here is my hit list of some of the foods we consider junk foods:

  • processed cheese spreads, dips, and sauces- This included Cheez Whiz and similar cheese spreads as well as shelf stable cheese products.  In order to make the cheese spreadable the manufacturers add oil and to make them shelf stable, preservatives are added.  As with many convenience foods, HFCS or maltodextrin (a corn starch) is added.  While maltodextrin is considered safe by the FDA it does pass into the blood stream quickly resulting in enhanced habit forming tendencies. The biggest side effect to maltodextrin is developing food cravings for those products containing it, aka mainly junk foods.
  • processed cheese slices - In order to make processed cheese slices, oil and I do mean copious amounts of oil is added to cheese that is melted then formed into slices and wrapped in plastic wrap.  It is a dietary disaster aimed at fattening folks up while destroying the environment.  At one time cheese slices were less expensive that actual, non-modified cheeses but that is no longer the case.  In terms of convenience, it takes less time to actually slice cheese than it does to open that testy wrapping and if you really are pressed for time you can by non-modified cheese slices in the very same aisle as the processed cheese slices. 
  • aerosol anything - This includes whipped cream, cheese, and vegetable oils sold in aerosol cans.  The propellant is problematic for many with lung disorders and they are a respiratory tract irritant.   The cans themselves are not eco-friendly.  Besides, the food inside those cans have already been tainted with the propellant and if you think about it, none of the products they use it for were ever meant to be sprayed!  If you need an oil spray, buy a re-usable health mister (under $5) and fill with any edible oil desired.  It's low cost and considerably healthier for you.
  • margarine - Margarine actually was called oleo and sold with a little colouring capsule to give the yellow colour.  There are two problems with margarine aside of it being one of the most advertised fake foods there is on the market today as being a 'healthy food'.  It really is beyond junk food yet margarine has long been tooted as being a healthy substitute for butter!  Margarine is made with solidified vegetable oils, artificial flavours, artificial colours including Yellow Dye #5 and margarine does add calories.  You are further ahead eliminating margarine entirely.  If you need a spread try a little natural butter or other natural spread like cream cheese, homemade mayonnaise.  If you want a margarine substitute for topping vegetables try one of the following: a little butter, plain yogurt (lower in fat than sour cream), a little butter with parsley flakes or sesame seeds, salsa, old fashioned chili sauce,  or herb blends.  Trust me, your health with thank you for eliminating margarine from your diet.
  • artificial whipped cream - I admit to using CoolWhip from time to time but the bottom line is it really a junk food as is the powdered alternative.  It takes all of 2 minutes or less to whip actual whip cream from heavy cream without the added flavours, bulking agents, preservatives, additives or propellants.
  • imitation and artificial foods - Some foods and food ingredients are clearly labeled as being imitation (eg. imitation crab meat or seafood, imitation vanilla extract, bacon bits) while others a imitation by lack of the 'pure' notation on the label (eg. some apple cider vinegar)  and others simply contain too many artificial flavours, colours, salt and sugars to make them a good value for your nutritional dollar.  The rule of thumb is to buy the actual real food or ingredient and use less of it if you have to instead of settling for imitation or artificial.  For example, substitute real crab meat with tinned or frozen crab meat instead of imitation crab meat that has sugar, artificial colours and flavours added then use in a dip or salad to compliment the meal rather be the meat oprtion of the meal.

2 food lovers commented:

Leah said...

I just wanted to let you know that you have an untitled blog entry that seems to be selling stuff from another country. I enjoy your blogs. I work in a grocery store and I see people buying all of that stuff instead of making their own. Usually it is people getting government food assistance buying all of the convenience food. I do not feel that one needs to have soda, candy, cookies, and frozen meals to exist. I will also see people on benefits buying expensive steaks, seafood and lobster. Where can I sign up for free lobster? Oh, wait, we WORK too hard to qualify. You can delete this from your blog. Mostly, I just wanted to let you know about the other entry.

Garden Gnome said...

Hi Leah, I went through all my entries and couldn't find the comment you were referring to. The only comment that I found with a site url (non-clickable) leading to the sale of products is a business in Vaughn, ON where the replacement gasket for the Geneva pressure cooker can be found. It was a titled post though. If you can tell me what the untitled entry was about, I'll check further.

The problem is the food industry itself perpetuating the myth that it is too difficult or time consuming to make your own combined with commercials promoting some of these foods as being healthy for you. While the food industry cannot force someone to buy their products, they really do influence what folks buy. Unfortunately...