Saturday, July 31, 2010

Saturday Throwback: Recession-Proofing Your Diet - Food Strategies for a New Economy

Every Saturday, we post a piece from the CHG archives. This one comes from March 2008, and includes then-timely Elliot Spitzer and J.D. Salinger-being-alive references. Oh, Comedy. You are a cruel mistress.

If you’ve been to the supermarket in the last few months, the rising cost of food isn’t exactly an Elliot Spitzer-level surprise. Grain prices are up, dairy products have become a luxury, and meat … well, cheap beef is rarer than a J.D. Salinger sighting these days. CNN, MSNBC, and the newspapers are finally picking up on it, too, with more stories about global grocery shortages and ludicrous shipping expenses. It appears we’re headed for a recession, and it may not get better anytime soon.

Never fear, though – it’s the interweb to the rescue. Lots of wonderfully informed bloggers have been totally on the ball, including Cathy at Chief Family Officer and Blogher’s Alanna Kellogg. They’ve written stellar pieces on combating food inflation, replete with shopping strategies, cooking ideas, and inventive ideas for stretching a budget.

There’s not much more to say after those posts, but I figured I’d jump on the Food/Recession bandwagon anyway. (It’s a nice bandwagon – sage green with mammoth cupholders.) Hopefully, the following suggestions will build on what Cathy and Alanna have to say, and offer a few new strategies along with it.

Don’t panic. It’s not the end of the world. Grocery prices will rise and certain items may become nigh-unattainable, but you will still be able to eat. So will your family. And with a little planning, you might not notice much of a difference.

Stay informed. Information is power. I don’t know who said that (Sophocles? Joan Didion? Cher?), but he/she was right on. As dire as the news may seem sometimes, keeping abreast of the fiscal situation is vital to preparing for sudden changes. So gird your loins and peruse the news, scan some blogs, and watch the occasional Brian Williams broadcast. Be on special lookout for food stories. You’ll be smarter for it.

Take baby steps. Revamping your diet and budget the same day won’t work, and might put you off both forever. Lasting change comes through small actions executed consistently. so take it easy. Start small, with a few simple practices, and work your way up from there.

Set aside one hour per week to plan. During this hour, you can devise a weekly menu, find circular deals online, clip coupons, and map out your shopping trips, all of which could save hundreds of dollars a month. If you were paid $100 for 60 minutes of work, wouldn’t you do it? Would you think twice? (Lawyers and doctors, don’t answer that.) What’s more, it’s much easier to stay on a healthy track when you have a concrete shopping and meal plans. It keeps you from scrounging for last-minute eats.

Write stuff down. Keeping a budget, planning that menu, and creating a grocery list are three time-tested, mother-approved money-saving maneuvers. The last two strategies usually help with weight maintenance, as well. Turns out, there is no greater splurging/gorging deterrent than knowing exactly what you’re splurging/gorging on.

Sign up for savings and preferred customer cards. If you haven’t already done this, stop reading and run to your grocer. See, just about every major supermarket has a club program that offers special discounts to regular shoppers. You give them your name and e-mail address in exchange for a dinky little keychain doohickey that magically saves 10%, 20%, or 40% per purchase. As far as I know, there are no reported downsides, except for a very heavy keychain.

Start a price book post haste. Get Rich Slowly has the end-all-be-all post on these, but there’s more at Frugal Upstate, as well as a downloadable template at No Credit Needed. (Incidentally, if you’re in the New York City area and shop at Associated or Key Food, shoot me an e-mail. I keep somewhat anarchic pricebooks for these two stores, and can forward them to you.)

Go to Money Saving Mom immediately. I can’t possibly cover this topic any better than Crystal does on a daily basis. (Brown nosing? Yes. And how!) Essentially, she and a roving gang of coupon-clippin’ ladybloggers have figured out how to score deeply discounted personal effects and non-perishable food from CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, and more. We’re talking $133 worth of shampoo, diapers, and toothpaste for $9. And if that’s not enough, there are shopping strategies GALORE, from post to shining post.

When it comes to cookbooks and kitchen equipment, buy only what you absolutely need. If cooking is a hobby, it’s distressingly easy to blow a wad on adorable egg holders. Or a fourth Barefoot Contessa volume. Or a hard-anodized 10-piece pot set, because some dude on QVC said you SIMPLY MUST HAVE a sauté pan in every size. Truth is, there are precious few items anyone needs to make a decent meal, and most recipes can be found online nowadays. This Mark Bittman article has more, and these two CHG posts can help you find inexpensive equipment and cookbooks.

Clip coupons and bulk shop, but do it wisely. While both of these tactics might take big bucks off bills, they can also lull folks into buying stuff they don’t need. If you’re going to use coupons, make sure it’s for something you would purchase anyway. And if you’re loading that 128-oz. jar of capers into your elephant-sized CostCo cart, double check to see if it’s really cheaper per unit than a 4-oz. bottle. (While you’re at it, double check to see who on Earth needs eight pounds of capers.)

Cut back on booze, meat, and processed foods. “But Kris,” you might say,“they are the stuff OF LIFE.” And you’d totally be correct. Watching a ballgame without a dirty water dog and bucket-sized Bud Light … it’s unfathomable for some. (Note: me.) However, there’s something to be said for moderation. Eliminating these things from your diet entirely may be a pipe dream (or pipe nightmare), but reducing your consumption will save mad cash AND improve your health. To fill that hole in your stomach …

Eat real food. Pizza rolls, mozzarella sticks, and fries might be convenient, but produce, dairy, meat, legumes, and grain will help you live longer. AND, chosen carefully, they’ll cost less in the long run. Always remember to shop in season, from the circular, and around the perimeter of the supermarket, where they keep the whole foods.

Stock up. When frequently-used staple items like flour, beans, and canned tomatoes go on mega-sale, snatch up as much as you possibly can (provided there’s sufficient storage). Not only will they come in handy down the line, but pantry meals can be healthy, filling, and surprisingly delicious. For more information, Motherload’s Amy Clark has an ongoing series on stockpiling.

Go generic. Don't be scared. It's often just as good as the brand name.

D.I.Y. Cook more at home. Cook in bulk. Freeze things. Try gardening. Make your own mixes, dressings, sauces, and marinades. (They taste better, take zero culinary skill, and cost a fraction of the store-bought brands.) With a little time and effort, anything you see in the supermarket or at a restaurant can be accomplished in your own kitchen.

Drink water, but not the bottled kind. No one’s begrudging the occasional Dr. Pepper, but tap water is the superior choice for two reasons: it’s a billion times healthier and 100%, totally, absolutely free-er than free. Bottled water, while not a terrible choice, is a legendary rip-off, like bad chicken or accidentally downloading a Beatles cover band on iTunes.

Brown bag it. Any and every personal finance blog worth its salt has written about this subject 600 times (uh … except this one.), and for good reason. Not only does brown-bagging save me about $1300 per year, but it makes it much, MUCH (much) easier to monitor what I eat. Whether you’re into bento boxes or PB&J, it’s a sure-fire recession beater.


Think out of the box. No, DESTROY the box. Stupid box. There’s no faster way to bore yourself into a coma than gnawing on the same ol’ lettuce wrap week after week. To save money and keep from dying of ennui, leave your comfort zone as often as possible. Try new foods. Experiment with coupons. Cook differently. Host a potluck. Visit your ethnic market. Stepping outside the norm can inspire AND help you stick to the plan.

Don’t panic. Had to be said again.

If you're interested in reading further, these are solid sources:
How about y’all out there? How are you preparing for a potential economic downturn? Comments are open!

(Photos courtesy of jupiter images, Watt & Sons Supermarket, and Flickr member Ranjit.)

Friday, July 30, 2010

Top 10 Links of the Week: 7/23/10 – 7/29/10

It’s been a sweet seven days over at headquarters (Note: my futon), between a Lifehacker link and post on the most excellent Get Rich Slowly. But the week is never complete without ... THE LINKS!

From Get Rich Slowly
1) Get Rich Slowly: How to Use a Food Dehydrator to Preserve Your Harvest
Clear, informative, extensive post on the wide world of dried fruits and veggies. I swear, Kris’ summary of methodology, practical uses, and advantages will convince you to buy a dehydrator by the time the article is over.

2) Eatocracy: The Great Lunch Swap
I love this idea: co-workers Tommy and Callie made lunch for each other for three days, and it was a total, raging success. Are you converting from takeout to brown-bagging your office meals? This is a faboo way to ease into it.

3) stonesoup: 18 tips for minimising your food costs
If you’re just starting out on this whole frugal food journey, this excellent rundown on the basics of eating cheaply/healthfully is a must-read. Bonus cauliflower/chickpea recipe at the end!

4) The Oregonian: Nurturing the Next Crop of Farmers
Neat piece on the new generation of young farmers. Inspired by the Michael Pollans and locavore movements of the world, they’re overcoming legislative obstacles to learn about the harvest.

5) The Kitchn: Good Ways for Couples to Share Food Responsibilities?
Wise Bread had a really good piece on this a few weeks ago, and this extensive comment thread only adds more to the discussion. Great for those couples A) just starting out, or B) experiencing an unequal division of labor. Most important: if you feel you’re shouldering all the responsibility, SAY SOMETHING, or suffer the resentment-filled consequences.

6) Money Saving Mom: Is Organic Milk Worth the Extra Price Tag?
We use milk exclusively for cereal over here, so these 124 comments are a bit of an education (especially Amber’s at #11). Unscientific, but most interesting: some women claim organic milk/meat postpones their daughters’ periods a few years (meaning: past third grade).

7) Salon: How to never make the same-old, same-old salad again
Sick to death of lame greens and droopy tomatoes? Francis Lam ensures you’ll never suffer a weak salad again with this thorough, knows-what-he’s-talking-about how-to.

From Real Simple.
8) Real Simple: 22 Quick, No-Cook Recipes
Oo! Nice, heat implement-free compilation of easy recipes.

9) Huffington Post: Stop Drinking Bottled Water Now!
Fab, graphic-happy poster explains why bottled water drains our wallets and environment. Print and hang!

10) Chow: What the *&@#%!$ Should I Do with All This Summer Fruit?
We started with a trip to the dehydrator. We’re ending with a trip to the freezer. Solid step-by-step on freezing your berries, melons, stone fruits, and … uh, other stuff.

HONORABLE MENTION

Chicago Tribune: Homemade Pickles in Just an Hour
Sixty minutes to a better burger.

Esquire: Food for Men – Chinese Food
Ever wonder how to get the authentic stuff at Chinese restaurants? Only John Mariani knows for sure. (Okay, and millions of lovely Chinese people, too.)

Holy Cool: 15 Cool and Creative Ice Cube Trays
Ooo! Great birthday gifts for summer babies.

New York Times: Healthy Department Revamps Restaurant Inspection Website
Noo Yawkuhs! Restaurants are receiving letter grades for cleanliness now. Blissful ignorance is no more.

Slashfood: Vegetarian Grilling Taste Test
Quorn always loses these things. And Morningstar Farms always wins.

AND ALSO

Gawker TV: The Best Little League Player in the Country is a Girl
Baseball pitcher Chelsea Baker, age 13, has a 65-mph fastball. She hasn’t lost a game in four years, and pitched two perfect ones, including an All-Star game. This year, she struck out 127 batters in 60 innings. Beautifully shot and edited, this piece highlights her knuckleball and ponytail in all their glory.



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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Veggie Might: Sprouted Quinoa and Mango Tabouleh

Written by the fabulous Leigh, Veggie Might is a weekly Thursday column about all things Vegetarian. She continues CHG's No-Cook Month.

Remember last week when we sprouted quinoa in glass jars with only water, cheese cloth, rubber bands, and our devotion to Not Cooking? Oh, those were giddy days. Well, this Dear Readers, is the joyous, hip-shaking result.

Quinoa sprouts are quite tasty on their own: fresh, crunchy, and a bit nutty. They have the essence of alfalfa or mung bean sprouts but retain their recognizable quinoa flavor. You can use the sprouts to top sandwiches or salads, grind them into flour for baking, cook them like any other grain recipe, or make a fabulous grain salad, like tabouleh. (Though, yes, quinoa is technically a seed.)

Tabouleh is the original no-cook grain salad, traditionally made from bulgur, which only requires a little soak before chow time. Ubiquitous in Middle Eastern cuisine, tabouleh combines parsley, mint, tomatoes, and lemon juice with the wheat. Perfect for a hot summer… time.

Using my favorite tabouleh recipe from my very first vegetarian cookbook, the Vegetarian Times Cookbook, as a jumping off point, I added a mango, tossed in a red pepper, made a couple of last minute substitutions (cilantro for mint; yellow onion for scallion). Before long, I had a colorful, vibrant dance party in a bowl.

I took the celebration on the road to share it with my good pal Miss T after our weekly gym date. (Caution: Travel with a tight-sealing container, or you too could enjoy wearing Eau de Onion et Mango to cardio class.) After one bite she said, “You better take what you want, because I will finish this when you’re not looking.”

This is another salad combo that has everything: sweet, tangy, savory, and salty. It’s light enough for a side dish and hearty enough to be a small meal. And it’s equally good using the traditional bulgur base. So if you’re intimidated by sprouting, just soak some bulgur and crank up the house music. Try it on; it’s very you.

~~~

If this recipe tipped your canoe, swim on over to
~~~

Sprouted Quinoa and Mango Salad
Adapted from the Vegetarian Times Cookbook
yields 4 servings


8.5 oz (about 2 cups) sprouted quinoa*
1/2 cup parsley, minced
1/4 cup cilantro, minced
1/4 cup yellow onion, minced
1 medium tomato, diced
1 small red bell pepper, diced
1 ripe mango, peeled and chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp sea salt
freshly ground pepper to taste

* You can easily substitute traditional bulgur wheat for sprouted quinoa. Simply soak 4 oz (a little more than1/2 cup) bulgur in 1 cup warm water for about 30 minutes. The bulgur will absorb the water, becoming light, fluffy, and ready-to-eat. (Seen below.)


1) Rinse and drain the quinoa sprouts, and place in a large mixing bowl.

2) Add parsley, cilantro, onion, tomato, red pepper, and mango to quinoa sprouts.

3) Drizzle in olive oil and lemon juice, stirring gently.

4) Add salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.

5) Chill for 20–30 minutes.

6) Serve as a side or green salad topping.

7) Get a good look because it’ll be gone in a flash.

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, Protein, and Price per Serving
170.8 calories, 5.7g fat, 4.3g fiber, 2.25g protein, $.79
Bulgur Alternative
127.6 calories, 3.9g fat, 2.4g fiber, 3.5g protein, $.74

Calculations
8.5 oz sprouted quinoa: 412 calories, 8g fat, 16g fiber, 8g protein, $0.96
1/2 cup parsley: 11 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.25
1/4 cup cilantro: 5.5 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.12
1/4 cup yellow onion: 10 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.12
1 medium tomato: 22 calories, 0g fat, 1g fiber, 1g protein, $0.50
1 small red bell pepper: 5.75 calories, 0g fat, 0.25g fiber, 0.5g protein, $0.37
1 ripe mango: 85 calories, 0.6g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.50
1 tbsp olive oil: 120 calories, 14g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.08
2 tbsp lemon juice: 12 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.25
1 tsp sea salt: negligible calories, fat, fiber, protein, $0.02
freshly ground pepper: negligible calories, fat, fiber, protein, $0.02
Totals: 683.25 calories, 22.6g fat, 17.25g fiber, 9g protein, $3.19
Per Serving (totals/4): 170.8 calories, 5.7g fat, 4.3g fiber, 2.25g protein, $.79

Bulgur Alternative (quinoa replaced with bulgur + other stats)
1/2 cup bulgur wheat: 239.5 calories, 1g fat, 8.5g fiber, 13g protein, $0.74
Totals: 510.25 calories, 15.6g fat, 9.75g fiber, 14g protein, $2.97
Per Serving (totals/4): 127.6 calories, 3.9g fat, 2.4g fiber, 3.5g protein, $.74

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

68 Cheap, Healthy No-Cook Recipes

Alas, CHG’s No-Cook month is slowly coming to an end. It’s been a joyous, ovenless journey, sweet readers, and we couldn’t have done it without the blistering sun or the stifling humidity. Thanks, Mama Nature.

Article-wise, we’ve already discussed 13 Ways to Cook without an Oven as well as 18 No-Cook Meal Ideas. This week, we’re giving you the actual recipes: 68 inexpensive, nutritionally sound dishes you can make without ever lighting anything on fire. (Hopefully.)

Each one of these links comes from either Cheap Healthy Good or my weekly Healthy & Delicious column over at (newly redesigned!) food dynamo Serious Eats. This means three things: A) we know they work, B) there are pretty pictures involved, and C) um … turns out there were only two things.

Enjoy, everybody! And as always, if you know of a really great no-cook recipe not mentioned here, please (please) add it to the comment section.

DIPS AND SPREADS
Black Bean Dip
Blueberry Salsa
Green Garlic and Garlic Scapes Pesto
Guacamole-Bean Dip Mashup
Lemony Hummus
Mango Salsa
Pesto (Don't toast pine nuts.)
Seven-Layer Taco Dip
Tomatillo and Yellow Tomato Salsa
Tomatillo Guacamole
Tomato Avocado Salsa
White Bean Dip

CONDIMENTS
Creamy Caesar Dressing
Grasslands Herb Salsa
Horseradish Mustard
Lemon-Ginger Dressing
Spicy Brown Mustard
Vegan Mayo
Vegan Worcestershire Sauce

COLD SOUPS
Buttermilk Cucumber Soup
Cantaloupe Soup
Fruit Gazpacho
Summertime Gazpacho

GREEN SALADS
Chlorophyll and Awesomeness Salad
Chopped Salad
Grape and Feta Salad with Rosemary
Grapefruit and Avocado Salad (Skip toasting almonds.)
Relaxed Kale and Root Veg Salad
Strawberry and Avocado Salad

MAINS, NON-GREEN SALADS, AND SIDES
Autumn Apple Salads
Basil Tofu Salad
Beet and Cabbage BBQ Slaw
Black-Eyed Pea “Caviar”
Black-Eyed Pea Salad
Chickpea Salad
Daikon/Jicama Mango Slaw
Greek Antipasto Pita
Greek Salad Skewers
Greek-Style Chickpea Salad
Greek Tofu Salad
Herbed Tuna in Tomatoes
Marinated Mushroom Salad
North African-Style Chickpea Salad
Orange Yogurt
Peach, Tomato, and Basil Salad
Refrigerator-Pickled String Beans
Sprouted Grains
Sublime Fruit Salad and Mint
Summer Panzanella (Bread Salad)
Watermelon and Feta Salad with Mint
White Bean and Roasted Red Pepper Wraps with Spinach
Yellow Tomato Salad with Roasted Red Peppers, Feta, and Mint
Zucchini Carpaccio with Feta and Pine Nuts

DESSERTS AND SNACKS
Cantaloupe with Honey and Lime
Chocolate Cherry “Ice Cream” Popsicles
Date Coconut Balls
No-Cook Berry Crisp
Plums with Orange and Mint
Strawberries with Balsamic Vinegar
Strawberry Mousse
Tamarind-Blueberry Granita
Three-Ingredient Banana, Honey, and Peanut Butter Ice Cream

DRINKS
Basil Lemonade
Cranberry and Blackberry Champagne Punch
Mango Lassi
Mojitos
Sweet Lassi
White Sangria with Fresh Fruit Ice Cubes

Cherry Lemonade, Limeade, and White Peach Bellinis are all delicious, as well, but require simple syrup. There are ways to make it without using heat, but these three recipes all include a boiling step.

And that's it. Readers, any suggestions? We would love to hear.

~~~

If you like this article, you might also be over the moon for:

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Ask the Internet: Favorite Weird Kitchen Tool?

Today’s question comes from CHG headquarters, a multi-level high-tech complex buried deep underground in Utah. (Note: Actually, an ancient apartment building in Brooklyn.)

Q: This is the Husband-Elect’s bacon fork.


It has a single function: to flip his bacon. In his eyes, no other utensil can do the job nearly as well. If I were to ever injure, mar, or disfigure the bacon fork in any way, the world would end. Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together ... mass hysteria.

Do you or your family own a similar utensil? Something with only one use, but life would be unimaginable without it?

A: Readers! This one's all you. What's your most favorite, most bizarre kitchen tool?

Want to ask the interweb a question? Post one in the comment section, or write to Cheaphealthygood@gmail.com. Then, tune in next Tuesday for an answer/several answers from the good people of the World Wide Net.

Monday, July 26, 2010

No-Cook Month: Watermelon and Feta Salad with Mint

NOTE #1: Hello, readers from Get Rich Slowly! Welcome to Cheap Healthy Good. It's nice to have you here. If you're looking for a good place to get to know us, this post is a good start. Thanks for visiting and enjoy!

NOTE #2: Today on Serious Eats: Zucchini Carpaccio with Feta and Pine Nuts, an excellent alternative to a green salad.

Dude. It’s watermelon season.

Last week, it went on sale for $0.39/pound, so I dragged a 13-pounder home from a supermarket half a mile away. It's been parked on my kitchen table ever since, like some giant, edible bowling ball.

Yesterday, I finally cowboyed up and gutted the thing. And now, as you can see from this picture, we have enough watermelon to fill two man-sized storage containers.


The problem is, Husband-Elect and I are but two people. True, we’re two people who really like watermelon, but we’re two people nonetheless.

Consequently, over the next week, we’re gonna have to get creative with this thing. I’m thinking Watermelon Margaritas, Watermelon Salsa, and of course, more Watermelon and Feta Salad with Mint.

I have to admit: I didn’t think dropping feta into a bowl of fruit would do much. But it adds two things: salt and creaminess, which are both unexpected and very welcome. The mint and lime provide additional freshness and lightness, which keep the dish from being murky.

Beyond that, the dish boasts three huge pluses:
  1. It takes less than 10 minutes to make.
  2. There are no mandatory ratios. You can tailor the amount of feta, melon, mint, and lime to your liking.
  3. If you’re feeling adventurous, the recipe can be expanded to include olives, red onions, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, basil, cilantro, cotija cheese, jicama, and many, many more exciting ingredients. Guidelines abound online.
Alas, there is a minus, as well. In my experience, the salad doesn’t store particularly well. The fruit juice eventually breaks down the cheese, and you’re left with a thick, fruity mess. So you gotta eat this fresh, or within a day of making it. Otherwise … to the trash, Robin. Still, it's good. And I will be eating again. Probably several times tomorrow.

And with that, readers, any suggestions for watermelon recipes? We, uh, could use ‘em right now.

P.S. All-watermelon barbecue at my house tomorrow!

~~~

If you’re thinking about making this, you might also whip up some:
~~~

Watermelon Feta Salad with Mint
Serves 1 or more.
Adapted from many, many sources, but especially Whipped.


A few cups watermelon, balled or cut into 2-inch chunks and chilled
A small block of feta cheese
A small handful mint leaves, chopped
Fresh lime juice

1) Place desired amount of watermelon in a bowl or on a plate.

2) Crumble desired amount of feta over watermelon. (The more, the better.)

3) Sprinkle mint over watermelon-feta mixture.

4) Squeeze lime over it all.

5) No. Seriously. That’s it.

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, Protein, and Price Per Serving
147 calories, 6.5 g fat, 1 g fiber, 5.5 g protein, $0.79

NOTE: As this recipe is totally/completely adaptable to your tastes and preferences, I’m making up some arbitrary numbers for calculations, just to give y’all an idea of the nutrition/price breakdown. Your numbers will undoubtedly be different, so please take this as a rough guide, only.

Calculations
1-1/2 cups watermelon: 69 calories, 0.5 g fat, 0.9 g fiber, 1.4 g protein, $0.26
1 ounce feta cheese: 75 calories, 6 g fat, 0 g fiber, 4 g protein, $0.37
1 tablespoon mint leaves, chopped: 1 calorie, 0 g fat, 0.1 g fiber, 0.1 g protein, $0.10
1 teaspoon lime juice: 2 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g fiber, 0 g protein, $0.06
TOTAL: 147 calories, 6.5 g fat, 1 g fiber, 5.5 g protein, $0.79

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Saturday Throwback: Food, Frugality, and Fighting Brand Loyalty

Every Saturday, we post a piece from the CHG Archives. This number is from February 2008. Those were the days, Edith.

I have a confession: cooking healthily and staying on budget remain constant struggles. Though I’m learning, and hope you’re enjoying the journey, I’m ultimately not an expert chef, dietician, or personal finance guru.

But I am a media professional. And I know a little bit about advertising. And I know that the brass ring of every ad agency in existence is brand loyalty. And I know that brand loyalty can cost a food shopper (you, me, us, etc.) a lot of cash.

Today’s article focuses on that phenomenon. What is brand loyalty? When does it start? Why is it less than great? How can it be tamed? You might find the piece a bit drier than most CHG posts (in which case, pace yourself by periodically checking into Cute Overload), but it could also be the most important one yet.

(Did that sound good? Yeah? Okay, cool. Let’s get started.)

What it is
Simply, brand loyalty occurs when a consumer uses a product or service over and over again, because A) it works for her, B) it’s habitual, and C) she’s hesitant to spend cash on the unfamiliar. For example, when I buy orange juice, it’s Tropicana, and it has been for as long as I can remember. My mom always bought it, and from what I recall, her mom did, too. I rarely purchase other brands, because it’s been imprinted on my brain (through personal experience and tons of advertising) that they won’t taste as good as Tropicana.

When it begins
One of the most eye-opening moments of my professional career occurred about five years ago, when I had a meeting in a room just used by employees of a kids television channel, whose target demographic is children between the ages of 4 and 11. One of their employees left a marketing presentation printout on the conference table. In it, kids (again, ages 4 to 11) were referred to as “consumers.” Yikes.

Like that company, many (if not most) corporations start building consumer brand loyalty from birth. (It would begin at conception if zygotes could read.) Advertisers spend billions of dollars each year to promote directly to toddlers and school-age children through magazines, television shows, movies, clothes, billboards, music, commercials, and … well, you name it. The earlier marketing begins, the more ingrained the product is, and the longer those kids will be customers.

In fact, the National Institute of Media and Family estimates that “Children as young as age three recognize brand logos, with brand loyalty influence starting at age two.” If anyone has a little girl obsessed with Disney Princesses (as many of my mom-friends do), you know what they’re talking about.

Why it costs you more
Once you become loyal to a brand, that company counts on your repeat business throughout the course of your lifetime. As a result, prices can be jacked up because it’s assumed you’ll continue to pay a premium out of allegiance. What’s more, you’ll ignore competing items, no matter what advantages they present. Wikipedia puts it best: “For example, if Joe has brand loyalty to Company A he will purchase Company A's products even if Company B's are cheaper and/or of a higher quality.”

Think of it this way: there are three types of oatmeal on sale - Quaker, McCann’s, and Generi-oats. They contain mostly the same ingredients, and are essentially the same shape, color and consistency. Quaker goes for $3 a box. McCann’s is $2 after a coupon. Generi-oats runs a mere $1.50. Since it’s habit and your dear ol’ Dad always did it, you buy Quaker without thinking twice. You’re down at least $1.50 because of brand loyalty.

Now, multiply that $1.50 by the number of items in your shopping cart. How much does brand loyalty cost you per trip? Per month? Per year?

What does this have to do with the “Healthy” part of “Cheap, Healthy, Good”?
Well, advertisers throw a LOT of resources into marketing processed food, meaning you have a better chance at becoming brand-loyal. Those products are generally less nutritious than whole foods like meats, produce, and dairy, which aren’t pushed as hard in commercials and print ads. So, not only do brand-name processed foods cost more, they can crowd fresher, healthier foods out of your shopping cart.

How to fight it
While advertising and some brand loyalty are nearly impossible to avoid, there are steps you can take to minimize their influence:

EVERYDAY LIFE: Flip off the TV. Mute commercials. Try to minimize advertising found around the home. Don’t prioritize brand names, especially in front of kids. Promote media literacy. Stress variety and try new things.

FOOD: Buy generic. Experiment with brands besides the ones you regularly use. Shop with coupons, which offer savings on a different brand each week. Use the circular, which varies discounts throughout the year. Cook from scratch. Purchase foods found around the perimeter of the supermarket. Cut back on brand-based cookbooks.

A caveat
You know what? Though they’re nearly twice the price, I find Ghirardelli chocolate chips tastier than Nestle. Inarguably, they make my cookies better. I’ve developed a brand loyalty to them. On the same note, I’m highly hesitant to switch my contact lens solution. Other products dry out my eyes, and I have an annoying habit of walking into sharp things when I can’t see.

There’s nothing wrong with brand loyalty if a product works for you, especially if you’ve tried the alternatives. It’s when that devotion is uninformed and automatic there can be an issue.

In the end
Brand loyalty isn’t catastrophic, and it won’t ruin any lives or hopes for the future (like say, smoking or riding the M Train naked). While it can be costly, both nutritionally and wallet…ally, knowing the facts and shopping smart is a stellar way of addressing concerns. If you’re interested in learning more, check out these resources:
  • Answers.com provides a deeper explanation of brand loyalty.
  • For hardcore shopping statistics, there’s this About.com article, and more from the Grocery Manufacturers of America.
  • For lots of somewhat frightening information on kids and advertising, check out the National Institute on Media and Family’s fact sheet.
(Photos courtesy of Global Package Gallery, The Wooden Porch, and Flickr member aqualilflower.)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Top 10 Links of the Week: 7/16/10 – 7/22/10

We’re coming to the home stretch of No-Cook Month, sweet readers. Just two more dishes and a giant recipe rundown (coming Wednesday) to go. But first, before we get there, we must experience THE LINKS.

From Getcrafty.com.
1) Casual Kitchen: Don't Pay Up For That Cookbook! How to Spend Next to Nothing on a Great Recipe Collection
Fabulous post about saving big dough on recipe tomes. Between libraries, the interwebs, and your pals, there’s almost no need to buy cookbooks at all. (Except for Cook’s Illustrated books. We must always support Chris Kimball. We MUST.)

2) Salon: My new grandmother's cooking changed me forever
This is the second piece from Riddhi Shah we’ve linked to in the last few weeks, because she’s just a wonderful writer. This essay, about discovering her grandmother-in-law’s culture and traditional cuisine after some regionally-induced apprehension, is gorgeous. Please read.

3) Good Eater: Are Large-Scale Grass-Fed Beef Operations Feasible?
The answer: a surprising “yes.” The La Cense Ranch in Montana raises several thousand cows humanely, making CAFOs seems less necessary than ever.

4) Huffington Post: “Urban Homesteading”? That’ll Cost You
This account of one woman’s quest for jam jars illustrates a very important point for potential canners and aspiring jammers: start-up costs are nothing to laugh at. While you may be tempted by the plethora of beautiful, pro-homesteading blog posts, home food preservation is not an easy venture. Over time, it works out, but make sure you’re in for the long haul, or suffer the (expensive) consequences.

5) Culinate: An update on genetically engineered meat and fish
I realize genetic engineering might be impossible to escape, especially with Earth’s population growing exponentially, and food requirements increasing commensurately. But man, it makes me uncomfortable. The FDA hasn’t approved any GE animals yet, so maybe these worries are premature, but this state-of-the-industry piece makes it seem like they’re getting ever closer.

6) Eater: The Ultimate Mad Men Guide to NYC Bars and Restaurants
Draper/Holloway fans, you gotta see this. Just in time for Sunday’s Season 4 premiere, Eater created this sweet map of pubs, lounges, and various steakhouses frequented by the Sterling Cooper crew. Many don’t exist anymore, but it’s super neat to imagine the bygone era of Peggys, Rogers, and … okay, Petes.

7) Slate: 10 Tips To Reduce Your Food Waste
Sweet reader-sourced roundup of tips, guaranteed to keep your greens from wilting for just a few days longer. More suggestions in the comment thread.

8) The Kitchn: Help Me Find Healthy, Balanced Meals That Freeze Well?
If you guess what this post is about, I’ll give you ten dollars. What? What’s that you say? It’s about “balanced meals that freeze well”? Dang. What tipped it off? Oh. The title. If you’ll excuse me, I have to go take out a loan.

9) Serious Eats: How to Handle Eggplant Overload
With eggplant season upon us, you may be wondering how to handle the glorious purple bounty. Carolyn Cope has answers. Quick! Take care of it before the zucchini gets here!

10) Huffington Post: Food Magazines and Periodicals
Good summary of available foodie mags, slightly compromised by the ultra-irritating slideshow presentation. Yarg! I hate those things. (Also: mayonnaise, e-mail forwards, and FOX NY news anchor Rosanna Scotto.)

HONORABLE MENTION

Brooklyn Paper: ‘Whole’ lotta indecision! Clean-up done, but Whole Foods isn’t sure about Gowanus site
This is my neighborhood! It has to be “decontaminated” before a grocery store moves in! Um … represent?

The Epi-Log: What’s the Best Way to Get Rid of Fruit Flies?
Massive comment thread filled with suggestions. A bowl of beer works for us. They sip, they drown. Not unlike me on Super Bowl Sunday. (I'm here all week, folks. Don't forget to tip your waiter.)

Food Politics: Kellogg’s drops health claims from cereal boxes (sort of)
When is a trumped-up ingredient (40% of your daily fiber!) also an implied health claim? Marion Nestle explores.

Hunter Angler Gardener Cook: Wild Plums Everywhere and Nowhere
It’s plum season! YAY! And there are such things as cherry plums? DOUBLE YAY!

The Kitchn: 10 Nerdy Kitchen Finds in Honor of Comic Con
The Empire Strikes Back space slug oven mitt is mah favorite.

Lamebook: Gouda God!
Cheese puns. They are the stuff of life.

Lifehacker: The Five-Second Rule Could Actually Apply, But Mostly Outdoors
It’s better to drop food outside than inside, as dirt germs on your food are better than chemical residue. Makes sense.

The Motherload: Freezing Blueberries in 3 Easy Steps
They forgot Step #0.5! (Do not eat all the blueberries first.)

AND ALSO

Gizmodo: Darth Vader Robbed a Bank
Only he could be so bold.


Thank you so much for visiting Cheap Healthy Good! (We appreciate it muchly). If you’d like to further support CHG, subscribe to our RSS feed! Or become a Facebook friend! Or check out our Twitter! Or buy something inexpensive, yet fulfilling via that Amazon store (on the left)! Bookmarking sites and links are nice, too. Viva la France!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Veggie Mights: DIY Sprouted Grains

Penned by the effervescent Leigh, Veggie Might is a weekly Thursday column about the wide world of Vegetarianism.

Last year, I went on a couple of dates with a delightful guy, H. We quickly discovered We Did Not Want the Same Things but had great conversation while we figured it out.

Our first date culminated in a meal at a Vietnamese restaurant where I confessed to being a vegetarian and prepared for the backlash. He smiled and one-upped me. He was a vegan.

Wow. I’d never even dated a vegetarian before; I was tickled. He continued that he once had been a voracious meat-eater until a healthier-than-thou raw foodist friend annoyed him to the brink of science.

After several weeks testing a raw diet on himself, H claimed to feel lighter, stronger, and more energetic than he’d had in years. To his disgust, his friend was right. Science doesn’t lie.

For me, denial kicked in immediately. I made the incorrect assumption that, since we were in a restaurant (of his choosing), he went back to eating cooked food full-time, but remained a vegan. That was not the case.

On a subsequent outing—to a Thai restaurant—he assured me that he continued to follow a raw food diet: most of his meals consisted of fruit and nuts; the only cooked meals he ate were out with friends. It would never work. I think I actually uttered the dreaded “What do you eat?” I’m so abashed.

The goal of most raw foodists is to consume a 75%–100% raw diet of primarily fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, and legumes for maximum health. Beating oneself up for not being strict enough is counter-intuitive to the physical and mental health benefits of the diet. I think a lot of us in the veg community can take that to heart.

Diet was not a deal-breaker with H, but this experience made me think about food in a new way: about how much I love to cook, and about how I use cooking as an expression of love. I take joy in planning and preparing a special meal or a decadent dessert for my dearest friends and family. And the more restrictive their diets, the better. I love a challenge.

So why did raw food give me such pause?

It reminded me of being an omnivore who could never imagine going veg. (That was me almost 20 years ago.) I couldn’t conceive of what H ate. An apple with peanut butter for breakfast AND lunch? Just salad for dinner? Ugh, the boredom…Sounds familiar, eh, veggies?

For No-Cook Month, I did a more little digging into the world of raw food. What I really wanted to know was how raw foodists prepare grains and beans. Some grains, like bulgur wheat, cous cous (technically, a pasta), and sometimes rice can be soaked to edibility. But what about other grains and beans?

A failed attempt to soak a batch of quinoa resulted in a fermented, stinky, and still gritty waste. To the InterWebs!

Grains and beans, it turns out, are very often sprouted. Challenge accepted.

We all know about alfalfa sprouts—the subject of every other vegetarian joke before 1995—and mung bean sprouts, which are popular in Chinese cooking. Turns out you can sprout just about anything: seeds, grains, legumes, and nuts. For fun and games, I tried quinoa and millet.

Sprouting involves soaking and allowing your subject time to expand and literally sprout. Sprouting makes the food more digestible by the body and increases the nutritional value.

Sprouts can be eaten raw, but are also often cooked or milled into flour for baking. How very versatile.

So enough wall-hugging; it’s time to dance.

How to Sprout
Adapted from The Nourishing Gourmet.


What you’ll need:
something to sprout (I used 4 oz. of quinoa)
canning-type jar, 16 oz or larger (no lid required)
cheesecloth
rubber band

What to do:
1) Wash a glass jar well. Pour grain into jar.

2) Place cheesecloth over mouth of jar with rubber band (or ring band if you have canning jars).

3) Fill with water. If you’re sprouting quinoa, give the jar a little shake and pour out the water to rinse the seeds. Quinoa has a bitter coating that should always be rinsed away. Refill the jar with water.


4) Allow to soak over night, up to 12 hours.

5) After a good soak, drain the water, refill the jar with water, and rinse the quinoa seeds, pouring away the water again.

6) Place the jar in a shallow bowl with the mouth end down to allow the remaining water to drain. Try to sift the seeds into an even layer along the side of the jar. This allows the sprouts air, light, and space to grow.

7) Leave in a cool (but not cold) place with indirect life. A countertop or table is fine.

8) Repeat steps 5 through 7 every 6 to 8 hours until you have tiny, cute sprouts. Quinoa can take as little as 24 hours after the initial soak. Some legumes can take up to 5 days.

9) Store sprouts in the refrigerator until you are ready to use, a few days up to a week.


Pop over to one of these helpful sites for more info about grains and legumes to sprout, as well as alternative methods.

I’m not sure if the air conditioning in apartment was a factor, but there was a setback during my first trial. The a/c was off for more than 24 hours over the weekend while I was away. New York’s 95+ degree temperatures and my absence (no rinsing) resulted in two jars of rancid grain.

For take two, I was diligent with the rinsing and used cold water. My quinoa sprouted in less than 2 days. The bounty of my efforts was 8 1/2 oz. of crunchy, fresh-tasting quinoa sprouts. They would be great on a green salad or in a variety of recipes. Millet results are pending.

Any raw food readers out there who would like to school me in their ways? (Please forgive my ignorance and Internet education.) Readers, have you sprouted anything before? Feel free share your experiences/tips in the comments. Stay tuned next week when I will Not Cook with the sprouted quinoa.

~~~

If you bonded with this article, open your heart to

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

18 No-Cook Meal Ideas

No-Cook month continues on CHG! We’ve already tackled 13 Ways to Cook Without an Oven, so today, we’re brainstorming the dishes themselves; food that doesn’t require any heating implement to create. There’s no baking, roasting, grilling, or crockpotting involved whatsoever. All you need is a knife, a cutting board, and a stomach.

Fortunately, it’s July, which means we can take full advantage of summer produce. Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, blueberries, raspberries, cherries, corn, melons, plums, nectarines, peaches, herbs, and leafy greens are either here or about to arrive. And that equals wicked variety, massive nutritional value, and low, low prices. Excellent.

So, without further ado: 18 no-cook meal ideas. And I'm sure there are some I missed. Readers, what would you add to this list? What did I forget? (For now, we’re looking for ideas, not specific recipes. That’s next week.)

Appetizers
Rather than rifle through entrees, why not focus on the hors d’oeuvre chapter of your favorite cookbook? Perhaps some proscuitto-wrapped cantaloupe would sate your salty-sweet craving. Maybe Greek Salad Skewers can fill your grumbly stomach cavity. And who’s ever turned down a mozzarella and tomato stack? No one, my friends. No one.

Canned fish
Come August, the prospect of a mayonnaise-slathered tuna sandwich isn’t exactly appetizing. But with a little lemon juice, a few herbs, and a dollop of olive oil, canned seafood like tuna, salmon, and sardines can be kept light and fresh as the day it was pulled mercilessly from the sea. Try this Alton Brown recipe and see.

Ceviche and tartare
We mentioned marinating seafood in citrus juice in our Ways to Cook Without an Oven piece, and the idea hasn’t become any less viable over the last two weeks. If you have a few extra bucks, grab a lemon, some quality shrimp, and start soaking.

Cold soups
You’ve heard of Gazpacho, the tomato-and-cucumber-based concoction Lisa Simpson pushes on barbecues, but did you know there are hundreds of fruit and veggie soups requiring only a food processor and a basket of produce? A Google search for “cold soup recipes” yielded 1,230,000 results. Get browsing.

Crostini / bruschetta
While most recipes in this genre call for toasted bread, you can fudge it with a super-crusty baguette, a little rubbed garlic, and some olive oil. Honestly, the additional toppings are usually so tasty, no one will complain. (P.S. If you’ve ever wondered what the difference was, check this post from Foodblogga.)

Dessert
Sorbet, granita, simple whipped creams, various balls (hee), frozen pies, no-bake cheesecakes, ice cream treats, trifles … I could go on, but I’m all drooly now. So I’ll let the Kitchn and their 25 No-Bake Summer Desserts roundup take over.

Dips and spreads
Hummus, tapenades, and pestos are not just stunningly simple to make at home. They’re inexpensive, highly edible with pita chips or crudite, and eminently spreadable on sandwiches or wraps. Plus, you don’t even need a food processor. Just grab your potato masher and dub the dips “rustic.”

Fruit and fruit salad
Pedestrian cantaloupe-n-honeydew salads may understandably cause some egregious eye-rolling. But, as previously discussed, with warm weather comes a tremendous variety of in-season fruits. Whether they’re eaten whole or chopped and mixed in some sublime concoction, there are few healthier, less expensive options for summer.

Guacamole
Two avocados + 1/3rd a red onion + a small tomato + one lime’s worth of juice + a handful of chopped cilantro + salt and pepper = a dip that’ll be devoured in ten minutes.

Marinated vegetables
With a little vinegar and oil, vegetables are surprisingly simple to marinate yourself, as demonstrated in these Zucchini, Mushroom, and Cucumber Salads. If you’re not in the mood, a jar of roasted red peppers will do the trick just as well.

Salads (green)
You CSA people know what I’m talkin’ ‘bout. When the thermometer reads like a radio dial, there’s nothing quite like stuffing your face with a pile of leaves. If you can accent those greens with additional veggies - tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, what have you – all the better. And healthier.

Salads (non-green)
Of course, non-stop lettuce marathons can become tiring after a while. So why not spruce up your dinner with a bean or bread salad? There are gazillions of options online, but I particularly enjoy this Black-Eyed Pea dish from Martha Stewart and Moosewood’s Summer Panzanella.

Salsa
What simple condiment can top chips, be stuffed in a burrito, and perk up chicken breast? If you said “chocolate” … ew. If you said “salsa,” you win! Cheap, low in fat and calories, and high in various nutrients, salsa is the superfood that keeps on giving. (Especially if you’re a tad prone to indigestion.)

Sampler plates
A pal of mine had his bachelor party a few weeks ago, meaning three ladyfriends and I were left without our various menfolk. So? We had a ladies’ barbecue. We assembled lots of crudite, a few bowls of fruit, assorted olives, many jars of Trader Joe’s dip, some fine cheeses, and several kinds of crackers, breads, and pita chips. And we ate it. And it was AWESOME. (Note: the wine helped.)

Sandwiches, wraps, and pitas
(Hey! Another personal anecdote!) The last few Mondays, Husband-Elect and I dined on prosciutto, skim-milk mozzarella, roasted red peppers, and incredible olive bread procured from a nearby grocery store. We dubbed it “Favorite Sandwich,” and it’s just the thing for sweltering summer nights. You might be tempted to relegate similar cold sandwiches and wraps to lunchtime, but take it from me: don’t.

Slaws
What was your first reaction to the word “slaw”? Was it like mine? Was it “Ew! Cole slaw. Gross. I always give that to my brother. He’ll eat anything except rusty hubcaps. And even then, if you slather it with enough mustard, it’s a possibility.” But I digress. The world of slaws extends well beyond mayo-soaked iceberg lettuce. Let Leigh’s Jicama Mango Slaw be your inspiration, and then slice and julienne your way to glory.

Smoothies, lassis, parfaits, and enhanced yogurts
Remember this post about your favorite smoothies, where you gave 30 stupendous suggestions for tricking out your yogurt drinks? Man, those were the good ol’ days. But seriously, folks. Trumped-up yogurts are filling, frequently nutritious, and infinitely customizable.

Soaked noodles
Though I’ve never attempted it myself, various online sources swear you can soak noodles in very hot tap water to a satisfying al dente doneness. It takes a little longer than boiling, but if you’re dead set against oven use, it’s an option.

BONUS SECTION

If you’d like to incorporate cooked foods without using your own kitchen, think of using prepared and pre-cooked from supermarkets, restaurants, big box stores, and other large, pointy buildings where you might acquire edibles. For example:
  • Hit up your local Chinese joint for a pint of white or brown rice.
  • Grab a rotisserie chicken at CostCo.
  • Find a salad bar and stock up on a variety of veggies.
These options might cost more than you would normally spend, but the spared sweating will make them worth the purchase.

And that’s it. Readers, what would you add? I’d love to hear.

~~~

If this post tickles your fancy, you might also want to peruse:

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Green Kitchen: Refrigerator-Pickled String Beans

Green Kitchen is a bi-weekly column about nutritious, inexpensive, and ethical food and cooking. It's penned by the lovely Jaime Green. She continues CHG's No-Cook month.

This is not a post about canning.

No recipe described herein will keep for months in the recesses of your pantry. You will not satisfyingly pop the vacuum-sealed lid to retrieve the summer's bounty in the dead of the coming winter. I'm sorry. Or maybe you're welcome.

Think of this recipe, instead, as training wheels. You don't sterilize your jar – just wash it. And rather than lasting through winter, this recipe will keep for, like, a month, max, in your fridge. But good luck not devouring it before then.

Also you don't need to boil anything. Which is good, because apparently this heat wave is never. Going. To end.

Sorry. I don't like complaining about the weather. But COME ON.

Well, at least No-Cook Month was well timed.

Most of us know pickles as those spears of former cucumbers that come next to a deli sandwich, along with a tiny plastic cup of insanely mayonnaisey coleslaw. Or maybe we know pickles as sweet rounds of former cucumbers on top of our burgers. Or, if we're fancy, as cornichons.

But it turns out that pickle is not only a noun but a verb, and you can do it to just about anything! Cucumbers, carrots, asparagus, radishes, string beans. Even if you're not ready to face your (irrational, I promise) fear of exploding glass jars and spend some quality time with a giant vat of boiling water, pickles and their alchemical magic are within your reach.

When you make your own pickles, you choose the veggies and you design the brine. Sour or sweet, hot or mild, with whatever spices and flavorings you like. Rice wine vinegar and ginger brine for kohlrabi? Sure! Piles of garlic and chiles around your asparagus ? Do it!

I chose string beans for my first pickling endeavor because, well, I had them at home. I read a bunch of recipes, thought about what I liked in basic pickle flavor – a good kick and not too much sugar – and these beauties were born.

I found myself turning the filled jar over and over again like a snow globe, watching the mustard seeds float gently down among the fronds of the dill sprigs. It was all pretty romantic. Oh, also they tasted pretty awesome. I had to occupy myself during those painful days before they were ready to be eaten. But they were totally worth the wait.

*A note on nutritional calculations: it's hard to say how much, if any, of the nutritional components – fat, calories, etc – of the brine spices end up in your mouth when you eat the pickled beans. Fiber's not transferable that way, but to err on the safe side we've included fat and calorie content as if it is.

Refrigerator-Pickled String Beans
Yields 5 servings
Adapted from all around the internet.


½ lb string beans, trimmed (or as much will fit in a medium-sized jar)
1 c white vinegar
1 c water
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 t yellow mustard seeds
½ t whole peppercorns
2 t sugar
½ t salt
1 bay leaf
dash red pepper flakes
3 sprigs fresh dill

NOTE: We should mention that this works for about a 26-32 ounce jar. For the larger end of that range, add some water and vinegar to the brine before microwaving to add volume.

1) Place string beans upright in a 32-ounce glass jar. Trim any ends that reach the top of the jar. Add in dill sprigs.

2) Combine all other ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl (or large measuring cup). Microwave for 90 seconds. Stir. Microwave for another 90 seconds.

3) Pour mixture into jar, leaving ½ inch of space at the top. After you pour in the brine, if the jar's not full, add water and vinegar until it is. Screw on the lid.

4) Let cool to room temperature. Shake to distribute seeds and spices. Refrigerate.

5) Pickles are ready after four days, and will last a month in the fridge.

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, Protein, and Price Per serving:
32 calories, .3g fat, 3g fiber, 1.8g protein, $0.38

Calculations
½ lb string beans: 136 calories, .5g fat, 15g fiber, 8g protein, $1.50
1 c white vinegar: 0 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.10
1 c water: 0 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, free
2 garlic cloves: 9 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, .5g protein, $0.10
1 t yellow mustard seeds: 15 calories, .9g fat, .5g fiber, .8g protein, $0.05
½ t whole peppercorns: 0 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.04
2 t sugar: 33 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.02
½ t salt: 0 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.02
1 bay leaf: 0 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.02
dash red pepper flakes: 0 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.01
3 sprigs fresh dill: 0 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.05
TOTAL: 160 calories, 1.4g fat, 15g fiber, 9g protein, $1.91
PER SERVING (TOTAL/5): 32 calories, .3g fat, 3g fiber, 1.8g protein, $0.38

 
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