One Mom’s Journey from Fat to Skinny to Confident


5 Ways to Stretch Your Food Dollar and Shrink Your Waist Line

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This post idea has been floating around the old noggin for quite some time now. As I was watering down some salad dressing the other day, I realized there are many habits I have adopted over the years that not only help me cut calories but save money as well.

Water down Juice and Sweet Drinks
Many juices are loaded with too much sugar (even natural sugars) and can easily be watered down to cut calories and increase volume. I really believe tastes are learned. Start with adding a 1-2 oz of water to a cup of juice and work your way up. I can now mix almost half and half and be totally satisfied. I’m getting double the juice for half the cost and half the calories too!
Always Ask for Thin Sliced
For awhile I was buying pre-cut packaged ham and cheese for sandwiches then I realized how thick the slices were, especially the cheese. Ordering cold cuts from the deli counter allowed me to request thin sliced everything. Now adding one thin slice of cheese and piling in the ham actually uses less and tastes just as satisfying! Of course I pad all my sandwiches with veggies as well. ;)
Bulk up Ground Meats with Vegetables
Whatever you are making, tacos, meat loaf, chili, even pizza! When you brown your ground beef bulk it up! Add veggies chopped small. Some, specifically mushrooms and zucchini, can barely be noticed and others add AMAZING flavor. Try peppers, onion, spinach, even kale! Just chop it up small. You’ll increase volume while reducing calories, increasing nutrients and stretching your meat!
Buy Meats in Bulk
This one may be a no brainer but buying in bulk is helpful in more ways than you may think. The per pound price is generally cheaper, saving you cash and allowing you to come home and separated it in servings sizes that make sense for your family. Having quick and easy protein sources available on hand also make it easier to whip something up on those days you feel pressed for time. For ground meats I use this technique saving space and making defrosting cinch!
Stretch Salad Dressings
I rarely buy creamy dressing as I normally make my own. I’m a simple oil/vinegar base type of girl but this summer I bought a bottle of Poppyseed dressing and fell in love. It was sweet, creamy and thick. Boy was it THICK. Once I used a bit, I decided to add a splash of water to the bottle to help it pour. I shook it up and realized I couldn’t even tell I watered it down. As I used more, I added more water. I’ve had a full bottle of this dressing even after of 3 months of using it! Of course there is a point were you will make it too watery but any water you add will stretch it further saving you cash and calories. Note: I do something similar with BBQ sauce as well. Adding a bit of Worcestershire sauce to thin it out and add flavor.

Do you have any tips that help save cash and calories?

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There are 12 comments so far.


    December 1, 2010

    Fantastic :)))
    I never thought of watering my juices or dressings before ;)


    December 1, 2010

    I am really into freezing foods. Our CSA gave us an abundance of some veggies certain weeks and I chopped them up into different sizes and put them in baggies. I didn’t realize how much easier cooking would become by quickly being able to add a handful of frozen peppers to something. I froze spices (basil, oregano, parsley) and break off a small chunk when I need it. I also like to freeze individual portions of desserts. For example, when I make a whole cake (not frosted or filled), I slice up individual pieces, wrap in saran wrap, and place in a large ziploc bag w/ an index card of calorie count/description/date — this way I can easily reuse the ziploc). I also freeze individual portions of casseroles in ziplocs or glass tupperwares.

    I’m also a huge fan of pizza, patty melts, and french fries. Like Roni, I now make a lot of these on my own which lets me control what I put in while satisfying my craving.

    Lastly, I discovered tomato paste and it goes in and on everything because it’s so sweet and it’s just tomato pulp. I use it to thicken stews, in homemade salad dressing, I coat my pizza with it (then season w/garlic, basil, etc), on english muffin pizzas, and of course, to thicken sauce. It’s a healthy and inexpensive thickener.


    December 1, 2010

    I think that eating more vegetarian meals saves me the most money. I still eat meat from time to time, but it’s no longer a standard part of my weekly grocery trip. I also take a look at the discount produce bin at the grocery store, sometimes there are good deals if I can cook the vegetables that very day.

    These are some important tips that can be repeated indefinitely. It’s the little things that add up in savings as well as in calories.

    Great advice Roni! I bulk up my meat with veggies, but the dressing idea was a completely new one! :)


    December 1, 2010

    I love to bulk up my meats with veggies! My mom always did it when I was growing up, and I remember thinking it was so weird that my friends’ parents never put vegetables in their meatloaf/tacos/chili….even mac and cheese, haha.

    Making my own pizza crust, and sometimes my own bread, tortillas, or pitas, helps save money. Plus they taste better!

    Also, if you get the full-fat cheese at the deli counter, thin sliced, the FLAVOR goes a long way too. Much further than low-fat or fat-free versions.

    I’m there with ya on bulking up meat with veggies. I do it to my spaghetti all the time! And my chili.

    Another thing that saves money in the long run, even though it tends to require a little “extra’ money lying around: Buy things when they’re on sale! I rarely ever make animal proteins part of my grocery list, but I know that free range chicken is on sale about 20% of the time at my grocery store. While I’m at the store I run by the chicken area to see if it’s on sale. If it is, I buy several packages. Same with turkey sausage and cuts of bison. And since I don’t eat meat every day, I’ve made my little stockpile last for months in the freezer!


    December 1, 2010

    i like to stretch my mayo…i don’t use light mayo because of the extra “fillers” in the ingredients…so i do a 50/50 ratio of FF greek yogurt with the full fat mayo (and a squeeze of spicy brown mustard) and make a small container of it to keep in my fridge for sandwich spread, or to make tuna or chicken salad with. it’s awesome!


    December 1, 2010

    Your prior idea of freezing fresh baby spinach has now become my preferred way to use it. I find myself putting it in everything! And this time of year, buying froz peas, corn or medleys are cheap and super easy to add to anything… to make up for the fresh veggies we were getting from the garden.


    December 1, 2010

    C0oking from scratch saves money! I first started cooking nearly everything from scratch, then started buying significantly more organic ingredients. One day I got lazy and decided to buy some frozen chicken nuggets. I just couldn’t do it when I saw the price! After staying away from such things for so long, I was shocked at the price. I could easily make organic chicken nuggets much cheaper than the typical frozen ones – and you know there’s a big taste and nutrition difference between those, too! I think our mostly organic whole food budget is about the same or lower than it would be if I bought conventional processed foods.

    And by the way, it’s great to be a good stewart of your resources and go ahead and pay for good food that also supports local farmers and good businesses.


    December 1, 2010

    I’ve started putting fresh herbs in my hand-blender with a bit of water. I can never use a whole bunch of cilantro, mint, etc. Once I’ve blended them, I freeze them in ice cube trays and then add them in soups, smoothies, etc, when needed. The only thing I won’t use them for is obviously when fresh herbs are required (salsa, salads, etc).

    It goes without saying, but if I know I’ve made too much food and it will likely go bad once we’re sick of it (hello chili!), I’ll freeze portions that night, which is super-convenient on the nights we just don’t have time to cook.

    Finally, I buy the no-name brand of sparkling water and mix that with a splash of fruit juice for a spritzer-like treat with few calories. My favourite combination is cranberry juice/sparkling water. Perfect for this time of the year when I crave cranberry ginger ale!


    December 2, 2010

    Canned beans (black, white, pinto, garbanzo, refried, etc.) are really cheap and easy to use. We eat quite a bit of beans. Roasted chickpeas are a fabulous snack.