Using color and texture to make economic meals more appealing

Food Psychology

by Nikki Willhite

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When money is tight, a lot of us have to eat very economical meals that may not be our "favorites." However, using food psychology, we can make them a lot more appetizing. What am I talking about when I say "food psychology"? I am talking about color and texture.

I spent several years in college learning about color in my interior design classes. Turns out that you can use these same principles when it comes to making food more appetizing.

One budget meal we all make is macaroni and cheese. Whether you make it from scratch, out of a box, or heat it up in the microwave from the freezer, it is pretty plain.

Picture yourself seated at your dining room table, and someone bringing in three plates of food, all with macaroni and cheese. However, here is the difference:

  • Plate #1: The macaroni and cheese is served with applesauce and corn.
  • Plate #2: This plate has macaroni and cheese, carrots and cherry flavored Jell-O.
  • Plate #3: This plate has macaroni and cheese, peas, and cherry flavored Jell-O.

Which plate would you choose? Why? Most of us would choose plate #3. The reason is color. Plate #1 is filled with food that are all the same color. This makes the food look boring and unappetizing. Plate #2 has a more subtle problem. The orange of the carrots clashes with the red cherry Jell-O. Plate #3 has a nice blend of yellow, green and red. This makes all the foods look more visually appealing.

This is food psychology. Color impacts every part of our lives, and that includes our feelings about our meals. This is why parsley is often used to garnish food in nicer restaurants (this utilizes both color and texture).

Below is a budget recipe. If you serve it with food that enhances the meal, you will find it more appetizing.

Homemade Macaroni and Cheese

1 package macaroni (16 ounces)
1/4 cup milk
2 T butter or margarine
2 eggs
16-ounces cheddar cheese (sharp)
salt and pepper to taste

Cook macaroni according to package directions and drain. Mix together the eggs, milk and seasonings. Layer the macaroni, covering it with the egg mixture and then the cheese. Leave enough cheese so that the top of the casserole is completely covered with cheese, so it won't dry out. Finish off the top with the butter, cut into slices. Bake in a pre-heated over of 350 degrees until cheese is melted and bubbly for approximately one-half hour.

Reviewed May 2017

Nikki Willhite, mother of 3 and an interior design graduate, has been writing and publishing articles on the topic of frugal living for over a decade. Visit her at - where you will find hundreds of frugal living tips and articles. Frugal Happy Families- more than just money! Article first published at

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