Frugal Sources for Lowfat Foods

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The Problem

I am so tired of going to shop for healthy, low fat food for my family and spending every cent I have. I need to watch the fat intake for one of my children. She has a medical problem and can't digest fat as well as others. I feel that this is positive, because it make the whole family eat healthy. Do you have any advise on how to save on buy this expensive food?? I have such a hard time paying for it! Thanks!

Go Veggie!

To the woman who wanted to feed her family low fat healthy food inexpensively- the way to go is vegetarian -beans, grains, veggies, fruit are low-fat and extremely healthy. There are a number of recipe sites and newsgroups that deal with eating lowfat veggie. has lots of recipes. Books dealing with this are written(available in the library) by Gabe Mirkin, Dean Ornish, Dr.MacDougall, Steve Raichlen, etc. These are healthy ways to eat better, eat much less fat, save money and save your life.
Andrea K

Just Cook Lowfat

You can eat low fat and not have to "buy" low fat. I cook from scratch and just cut down on the fat I put into the recipies. I brown meat for stew in water or vegetable broth rather than oil. I cut fat from meat as much as I can before cooking. I use a colander in the microwave to brown ground beef this way. The fat drips out the bottom and isn't absorbed into the food. I still buy non-fat mayo, but I've found that learning moderation in fat intake is cheaper.


First, don't buy prepackaged low fat *anything*! Most substitute sugar for fat (in baked goods) or starch and water for fat (in main dishes). Second, get a good basic cookbook (More With Less, for instance, or some of the newer heart-healthy ones -- check at the local library instead of buying them), and start cooking fruits, vegetables, pastas, and rice. Switch to low fat or nonfat dairy products. Use tomato sauce instead of cream sauces on pasta and in casseroles. Use meat and cheese as a flavoring, not as a main source of calories. Also take a look at the vegetarian cookbooks at the library. Perhaps your family isn't ready for this big a leap, but the recipes will give you ideas on how to reduce the amount of meat/fat in the recipes your family likes.

Buy Raw Foods

Yes, we, too are limited to a 10% (or less) fat intake in our diets due to health problems. We have found that if you don't buy the "low fat"-"no fat" processed foods and just simply buy the raw fruits and vegetables. The most expensive it really gets here is for some of the macrobiotic stuff like the tofu and the "Smart Dogs" by Lightlife. We have found that it's so much better (not necessarily easier) but cheaper, too, to just make the stuff by scratch.

There are always quick little tricks to the trade here also, like getting the frozen vegetables instead of doing it all by hand if you're going to cook it anyway. Otherwise, stick to the raw stuff on sale or in bulk. Sam's is really good for this, especially their fruits. BJ's for their vegetables. (I wouldn't suggest the salads in a bag, though. They dunk the stuff in a bleach solution before bagging them. That's how they're able to last so long on the shelves.)

Adapt Your Recipes

You can adapt most baked goods by substituting something for the butter or oil called for. For example, in a sweet, such as brownie, use prune puree or mashed bananas or apple sauce instead of the fat. If the recipe calls for 1 cup butter, use one cup of applesauce. You may need to play with this, but it does work. For savories, such ar corn bread, etc, I use canned creamstyle corn.

You can also do without eggyolk in cooking. There are 5 grams of fat in each egg yolk! For each whole egg, use 2 egg whites instead. Or if the egg is used to bind as opposed to helping the product rise, you can use 1/4 cup soft tofu.

In recipes that call for sauteeing onions and garlic, etc, in oil before adding other ingredients, leave out the oil, you can sautee in a small amount of broth, wine, balsamic vinegar or apple juice. These liquids add wonderful flavor and no fat.

Gravies or white sauces turn out very well using skim milk or skim evaporated milk for a richer taste.

For a great bread or cracker spread, drain one can of any white beans (navy or northern are good) put into food procesor and blend until smooth, adding the saved liguid as required for proper consistency. To flavor, add a few cloves of roasted garlic or a tablespoon or horseradish. Or add your favorite herbs. Salt and pepper to taste.
Jan G

Avoid Processed and Canned Foods

Several years ago, my husband and I were in an occupation that focused on greasy, fat-laden meals. We were "introduced" to the concept of lowering the fat in our diets. Upon examination of our fare, we discovered that many of the foods we ate were processed and/or canned. Processing and preparation of foods typically adds in fat, salt, and sugar that average consumers might never otherwise put in homemade recipes. It has been my experience in pricing some types of foods, that "low fat" foods (SnackWell's, for example) are *higher* priced than their fattier couterparts.

Here are some ideas that we put into place for our family:

  1. Read package ingredients labels, and adapt. I made my own version of a tuna noodle casserole by studying a picture on one Stouffer's frozen entree package. You can make your own low-fat, beef-flavored soups from beef broth thickened with corn starch. The beef soups we make rival Campbell's.

  2. Start with basic ingredients, not the processed ones. Add more raw fruits and vegetables to your diet. Consider meals from dry beans a couple of times per week. Dry beans are cheap, and you can flavor them the way you want. Consider adding non-instant rice to your diet. Potatoes can be microwaved in about 15 minutes, depending on the number. (For two, 4 to 6 medium potatoes rounds out a nice meal.) Try a couple of "meatless" dinners per week.

  3. Buy generic or store brand products whenever possible. Take a calculator with you to the store to compare products on a per-unit basis; sometimes the "store brand" is *not* the best value. Additionally, sometimes the larger "bulk" size is not the best value.

  4. Watch the butter, sour cream, and salad dressing. When I figured out that the primary reason I used butter (past tense) was to obtain the salty flavor, I just about quit using it. Now, in place of margarine, shortening, or oil in recipes, I substitute Butter Buds. Occasionally, I have to add more flour to thicken up recipes. I make a dynamite no-fat Ranch Salad dressing by using skim dry milk and fat-free mayonnaise. We use only fat free sour cream & cream cheese. Due to personal preference, the only dairy product we *don't* skimp on with fat is cottage cheese.

  5. For non-egg-based dishes, consider lowering fat by either throwing out yolks or using an egg substitute. In my baking, I use a product called "Ener G Egg Replacer", which we bought at a health food store. Since this is a starch product, do *not* use it when making waffles (we learned the hard way). (Do not use Egg Replacer in egg-based dishes.) Egg Beaters is 99% egg whites, homogenized, and processed. When we fix a 6- or 7-egg omelette or scrambled eggs, we lower the fat by ditching all but 1 or 2 yolks.

  6. Steam foods such as vegetables whenever possible, since boiling them in water tends to pull out the vitamins. Consider using a pressure cooker.

  7. Never, never, never buy potato chips, corn chips, cheese puffs, pork rinds, or other fried snack foods. Learn to limit candy bars and other sugary foods that give little nutritional value. Limit consumption of nut products (peanut butter, etc.).

  8. Serve water rather than soft drinks, soda pop, or dry mixes to which sugar must be added. Switch if possible to milk having lower fat content (gradual switching may be necessary).

  9. Lower higher-fat meat consumption, or switch to lower-fat meats such as fish. Purchase tuna packed in water. The taste of water-packed tuna is (in my estimation) better than oil-packed.

How well has this group of suggestions worked for my family? Taken in combination with an almost-daily walk of about a mile around our neighborhood, I've lost about 20 pounds and my husband has lost about 25 pounds, all in the last 10 months. I wish you great success!
Vicki S

Make Your Own 'Low Fat'

Don't buy the pre-packaged "low fat" foods like low fat devil's food cookies and etc. Make them yourself. In fact, if you read the ingredients the way most of them get around lowering the fat is by adding sugar! Substitute canned applesauce for the fat in baked goods like cookies, cakes, and muffins. (You can buy the canned prune puree for the same purpose, but it doesn't taste as good as applesauce.) You can even buy the individual applesauce snack packs to use when cooking. Most recipes only need 1/2 cup, so you don't end up wasting the whole jar if no one feels like eating any.

If your child can't have any fat, you can use applesauce for all of the oil/shortening in the recipe, but it leaves the baked goods a little rubbery. I like to use half fat, half applesauce. Ex. If the recipe calls for 1 cup of oil, I would use 1/2 c. oil and 1/2 c. applesauce.

If the item you are making is savory rather than sweet and wouldn't taste right with applesauce, use mashed potatoes instead. (An example of this might be a cheddar cheese herb quick bread loaf) I buy a bag of instant mashed potatoes and mix up 1/2 cup or so as I need it--again, there is no waste.

In the meat department, substitute ground turkey for hamburger. Your family will never know the difference, it is much lower in fat, and very economical. It's rarely more than $.99 a pound. Frequently, I buy it on sale for about $.69 a pound. Look for it in the frozen foods section.

For snacks, buy "light" microwave popcorn--exactly the same price as that full of fat. Eat more fruits and vegetables for snacks. Bread is also low fat and makes good snacks. Toast it and spread with jam (leave off the butter). Cereal is lowfat and makes a good snack also. Plain old Jello is also fat free. Make your own pudding and leave out the margarine. Instead of buying fat free ice cream, buy sherbet.

In recipes calling for eggs, just use the whites (the yolk is the part with the fat in it).

Instead of frying things, just spray a non-stick skillet with Pam. Food will not stick and will be much lower in fat.

Avoid SAD
(Standard American Diet)

In response to LB who wanted less expensive ways to eat low-fat and healthfully:

  • Eat more meatless meals. The highest fat and most expensive items you can buy are meats and cheese products. My family is vegetarian, we eat only natural whole-foods. If you eat this way you will find it alot cheaper than centering each meal around meat. Also much better for your health.
  • Stay away from processed, convenience foods. There are lots of new health foods available that are "instant", just add water, or pop in the freezer, but they are expensive. Buy your foods in the natural state prepare them yourself (rice, grains, beans, flours, fresh fruits and vegetables, etc.) If you cut out the convenience and junk foods, eating healthfully is much cheaper than eating the Standard American Diet (SAD).


7 Suggestions

These are some suggestions for the reader who has to buy both low-fat and low-cost:

  1. Buy fresh fruit and veggies for snacks. My kids don't get normally get typical American junk food so they get excited over bananas and apples.

  2. Several cookbooks publish low-fat salad dressing recipes. These are easy to make and a lot cheaper, not to mention, better tasting.

  3. Cook with nonfat dry milk. You can also substitute a white sauce made with nonfat dry milk and water plus the appropriate seasonings for recipes that call for condensed creamed soup.

  4. Purchase lowfat hotdogs, bacon, and kielbasa in bulk when they go on sale. Freeze the excess.

  5. Some grocery stores such as Kroger make an impresssive selection of store-brand low-fat foods that are just as good as Snackwells and Healthy Choice.

  6. Don't buy Eggbeaters. Substitute 2 egg whites for 1 whole egg. You can also substitute applesauce for vegetable oil in some baking recipes.

  7. Finally, if you eat healthily and non-fat, you kids will be more inclined to follow your example.

True or False

We're still paying off last Christmas and worry how we'll afford the holidays this year without charging it again! Tell us: Yes, we could use help getting out of the debt trap we're in! or No, debt is not a problem for us but I'm always looking for ways to trim my family's expenses further!

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