Sunday, January 27, 2008

Little Money Trick #3

I recently realized that something I do for health reasons, is actually a great little money trick.

At least once per week, I buy big bags of frozen corn, peas, and green beans. At least a cup of one or a mix of these is added to most lunch/dinner meals I tend to cook at home. Because I generally cook for just myself, I tend to eat a lot of pasta or pasta-based dishes. If I’m making something with a white sauce, I’ll throw in about a cup of frozen corn. If I’m making something with a red sauce, I’ll throw in about a cup of green peas. I also tend to eat (though I know they are high in sodium) the Stouffer’s meal-in-a-bag meals. With those, I always put in a mix of veggies – usually totaling more than one cup.

Now, I started doing this just to add more vegetables the meals I cook on my own. Because I usually only cook for myself, fresh vegs often turn before I can use all or part of them. As such, if I’m really craving a salad, I’ll go out for that. After a while, I realized that when I was particularly hungry, I was boosting the portion size from one serving to two, simply based on adding the vegs, and that I was snacking less after meals I’d prepared.

Some easy pasta mixes that I make:

Bow-tie pasta, marinara sauce, green peas
Campanelle pasta (bell-shaped), alfredo sauce, corn
White cheddar mac and cheese, corn, ham steak chunks

I usually just add the frozen veg to the water once the pasta is almost finished cooking, and the boiling water cooks it through enough so the vegs are warm-hot.

In the past, when I successfully planned my meals a little better, I would often lightly sauté mushrooms, garlic, and red peppers, add that to spaghetti noodles (with either just a lick of olive oil as the “sauce” or I would add the sauté mix to a little bit of alfredo sauce and let that simmer about five minutes), and then also add some corn.

For parents, I can imagine this might be an easier way to get kids to eat vegs, since it’s all mixed together. I’m not a fan of the recently-made-mainstream idea “hiding” vegs in food, and I cringe at the idea of spinach in my brownies!

So, something I did to ensure I ate more vegs when I cooked at home has saved me money (because I can cook larger portions for less money, and I’m more likely to have leftovers), has saved me from over-eating heavy meals, has provided a greater personal satiety to my meals, and has also been a factor in the weight I lost last year. I’ve found that I’m more satisfied once I finish the meal, and even if I had been hungry and then ate too much, at least I know it was only a large serving because of the vegs added to the dish.

This is really more than just a money trick – it’s a food trick, and a diet trick, too.

Please share any similar tricks that you have, too!

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