Wednesday, June 30, 2010


I think the two reasons people buy frozen pizza is for price and convenience. Compared to fresh from a pizza place, it's a fraction of the cost. Compared to making it yourself, it's a fraction of the work.

I happen to think pizza is a healthful food. It's all about the ingredients. My goal is to make my own dough but I currently buy the fresh dough from Trader Joe's for $1.29. They have three kinds, I get the "almost 100% whole wheat" variety. It usually only lasts one to two days in the fridge so it's best to make it the same day.

My son loves pesto, it's often what we use for the sauce. I like to use half basil and half spinach in my pesto to add more nutrition. If we go tomato based, we use my husband's marinara. I buy shredded mozzarella and that's all the goodness my son needs. As for us, we'll add bell pepper, onion, zucchini and maybe even chicken if we have some left over. Pair it with a salad and you have a fab lunch or dinner.

The benefit of making pizza at home is twofold. Threefold actually. It's fun to make, with or without the kids and yes, it takes more time but it's time well spent. It's done in just about the same amount of time it takes to preheat your oven. Next, is cost. The amount of money you give the pizza guy is likely double the cost of making it yourself. In our case, it's more than double. It is comparable to what a frozen pizza costs, sure but that leads me to the third benefit - knowing what the ingredients are and where they came from!

So before opening up the freezer door at the grocery store to fetch a pizza, consider grabbing the ingredients individually and making your own creation. I'm positive it will be affordable, fun, taste better and have a significantly higher nutritional impact than the frozen stuff.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Let's compare: Yogurt

Many years ago my husband and I stopped buying yogurt brands like Yoplait and Dannon in favor of yogurt from Trader Joe's. To be honest it was the message about no artificial growth hormones and the absence of artificial sweeteners that made me switch. A few years ago, we switched again. In line with our love for Clover brand products, my husband started buying Clover Organic yogurts. I landed on Brown Cow conventional yogurt.

Clover Organic: Cultured Certified Organic Low Fat Milk, Organic Evaporated Cane Juice, Pectin, Organic Vanilla Flavor, Cultures.

Brown Cow: Cultured Pasteurized Reduced Fat Milk, Evaporated Cane Juice, Tapioca Starch, Vanilla Extract, Natural Flavor, Vanilla Bean Specks, Pectin. Contains Live Active Cultures.

Trader Joe's Organic: Organic Cultured Pasteurized Reduced Fat Milk, Naturally Milled Evaporated Cane Sugar, Organic Extract of Vanilla, Organic Locust Bean Gum, Pectin, Live Active Cultures.

Yoplait Original: Cultured Pasteurized Grade A Low Fat Milk, Sugar, Strawberries, Modified Corn Starch, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Nonfat Milk, Kosher Gelatin, Citric Acid, Tricalcium Phosphate, Natural Flavor, Pectin, Colored with Carmine, Vitamin A Acetate, Vitamin D3.

I couldn't find a list of ingredients anywhere on the Yoplait site however I was able to find them on another blog. Thanks Fooducate!

There are some big differences. And looks to me like my husband (as he always does) chose a great one. My Brown Cow isn't too bad but does have a longer ingredient list. The Yoplait contains extra junk such as High Fructose Corn Syrup and is colored with Carmine? I was curious about what Carmine was so I looked it up. Um, no thanks.

As for price, the Clover is most expensive at $1.29 container. Brown Cow and TJ's are 99¢ and Yoplait is typically 79¢. My husband eats a yogurt everyday, at least Monday through Friday so it does add up. Luckily, Clover does occasionally go on sale for $1 each, that helps. I also feel like I'm saving us money by buying Brown Cow for myself. At 79¢, I understand Yoplait is more budget friendly but the thing to keep in mind is there's stuff in it that we shouldn't be consuming on a daily basis. It contains more additives than real food. Buy the "light" version and get Aspartame too.

In regards to Dannon, I wanted to say although I didn't use them in this comparison, they do offer an "All Natural" version that has a decent ingredient list. The flavors are limited but in a pinch, I'd opt for Dannon All Natural over Yoplait.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Food Rules

I love this book. And think everyone should own a copy or at least read one.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Convenience foods

Part of the medium food life is some convenience foods. Although my goal is to reduce as many of the "boxes" as possible, I do need to have some in the cabinet. My approach is to buy items with an acceptable ingredient list, good nutritional value, responsible packaging and reasonable price. I also research the companies. I feel better knowing more than just their name. As with most healthier options, they're typically more expensive so I make a point to buy when they're on sale.

Items like cereal bars, brown rice treats and crackers I buy at Trader Joe's. The ingredients are decent and the price is almost always less than anywhere else. If you're familiar with Trader Joe's they don't have sales as most grocery stores do but they do take coupons on the few products they sell that aren't private label such as Kashi or Earth's Path. I've also recently started to buy tortillas, another item I want to make from scratch eventually, at TJ's. Can't beat $1.69 for 10 tortillas.

I'm also known to have a few frozen meals on hand as well as a back up jar of pasta sauce. Although I enjoy my husband's homemade marinara so much more than what comes in a jar, some nights it comes down to lack of time, energy and planning. Just part of the medium food life, I suppose! Here are some convenience items you may spot in my freezer or cabinet:

Amy's Frozen Whole Meals
Ice cream
Whole grain cheese pizza or flatbread
Frozen Organic Brown Rice
Boxed Mac and Cheese
Pasta Sauce
Canned beans
Quick cooking rice
Snack items like Annie's crackers, grahams and bunny fruit snacks

It's super nice to have these kind of items on hand but the more I put in my shopping cart, the higher my bill is. I plan to do cost comparisons on convenience versions vs. from scratch versions and post my findings. Should be fun and educational.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Mac and cheese challenge

Boxed mac and cheese. A staple in a lot of American homes, yes? Ours too, unfortunately. I figured after how well the chocolate shake switch went, I'd take on the mac and cheese. Well let's just say, it did not go smoothly. And nor has it been accepted as a replacement for the box with the orange powder. Yet.

I found a great recipe in our America's Test Kitchen cookbook. It's the "light" version and it is fantastic. Due to Gavin's turned up nose, my husband and I were forced to eat it all ourselves, not a problem. Every time I took a bite, I couldn't understand how my son could resist such a wonderful dish. And not only that but prefer the stuff in the box.

I'm fully aware why Gav has developed a propensity for the boxed version, it's what I started him on and have consistently given him. That specific taste, smell, color and those uniquely shaped noodles, that's what he craves. We buy the Trader Joe's or Whole Foods brand but is it really any better than the blue box? Yes, actually. Ingredients below.

So I'm stuck at the moment. The only thing to do at this point is to continue to try. I will serve him my mac and cheese and go from there. The bright side is he's only three, there is still time to wean him off the box and for him to develop a taste for the real stuff.

Trader Joe's ingredients: Sauce (cheddar cheese [cultured pasteurized milk, salt, enzymes], whey, buttermilk, butter [cream, salt], disodium phosphate, extractives of annatto and beta carotine [for color]).

Kraft ingredients: whey, milkfat, milk protein concentrate, salt, sodium tripolyphosphate, contains less than 2% of citric acid, sodium phosphate, lactic acid, milk, calcium phosphate, yellow 5, yellow 6, cheese culture, enzymes.