Eating Well On a Budget: Part 7 – Cooking Fats and Oils
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Eating Well On a Budget: Part 7 – Cooking Fats and Oils

Posted on Friday, December 21st, 2012 at 8:00 am
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Eating Well On a Budget: Part 6 – Dairy

Adding a bit of cooking oil or fat to your favorite dishes is a sure fire way to turn good food into a great dish. For some, the idea of adding fats or oils to their food may fly in the face of their current diet goals. It might also strike some fear into pocketbooks as their owners stare at the high price tags for some cooking oils.

However, adding cooking oils to your foods is a good way to add some healthy omega-3 fats and vitamin E to your diet. The Environmental Working Group has published a list of 7 oils that pack the most nutritional punch with the best value. The list includes olive oil, peanut oil, safflower oil and sunflower oil. The oils with the best value include canola oil, corn oil and soybean oil. The EWG recommends for every $25 spent on your overall food budget, about $1-2 should go towards cooking oils and fats.

The EWG recommends skipping solid and trans fats. If the cooking fat in question remains solid at room temperature, you should probably enjoy it in moderation for better heart health. Foods  like chicken skin, beef, pork, cheese, lard, butter, margarine, shortening and foods with partially hydrogenated oils are all fats to stray away from as much as possible.

Oils also make fantastic salad dressings. Olive oil, safflower oil and sunflower oil can all be mixed with vinegar or herbs to create delicious toppings for your favorite salad or vegetables. If you’re looking to save money while making your own salad dressing, the Environmental Working Group recommends mixing 1 part of these more expensive oils with 9 parts of a cheaper oil like canola oil. You’ll get a big dose of flavor and nutrition at a fraction of the cost.

You can also save money and calories by making your own cooking spray. In addition to costing extra money, commercial cooking sprays often contain additional or artificial ingredients. You can easily make your own cooking spray at home. Simply add your favorite oil to a spray bottle. You’ll probably use less oil while cooking, and you’ll save money in the long run. You can also add herbs like rosemary to your oil or even some garlic for an extra dose of flavor.

When you’re buying your cooking oils, make sure to read the labels. Anything that has been heavily ‘refined’ often contains dyes or perfumes to mask the result of the harsher production techniques they go through. If your budget allows for it, consider buying organic oils. These are made from organic ingredients and are free from artificial additives.

Next Up: Eating Well On a Budget: Part 8 – Staples & Spices

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Good Tip: Saving money is important – especially if you have a lot of expenses like bills to pay, loans to pay off, and all the other things that drain your bank account. Figuring out a way to save money can feel tedious to some, and like a punishment to others. U.S. News suggests that you try one of these money saving challenges. The “No Eating Out for a Month” Challenge This one is self-explanatory. The goal is to avoid eating out for an entire month. This might be super easy for people who enjoy making meals at home. People who really enjoy dining out, or ordering food to be sent to their home, may struggle with this one. It’s worth a try because spending money on take-out is more expensive than buying groceries. The Pantry Challenge This one is a variation of the “No Eating Out for a Month” challenge. The goal is to use up all of your groceries before you buy more. It forces you to try and remember why you bought a food or beverage that you don’t know what to do with, and gives you the opportunity to find a way to use it. The one exemption to this challenge is the foods that have expired. Don’t eat them! Throw them in the trash. The “No Spend” Challenge Make a goal to avoid spending money during an entire weekend. The only exemption in this challenge is that you are allowed to pay bills. This challenge is interesting because it requires creativity. You must be creative and find workarounds for problems that you would typically solve by spending money. You may have a different outlook on spending after finishing this challenge.