the diet and our budget

January 31st, 2008

The Diet and Our Budget

My spouse is participating in a 12-week long class sponsored by his employer that is focused on teaching him how to eat healthier, exercise in the most beneficial way, and overall, improve his general health. This class is not mandatory by any means, but we feel like it is a good idea, not only because his employer offers health insurance premium deductions for meeting certain health criteria (he currently earns all 5 of the 5 available $10/pay-period credits, and would like to keep it that way) but because his cholesterol and blood pressure are both on the higher side of normal, and this class provides meal plans tailored specifically to him and his needs by a nutritionist and personal trainer.

If you want a laugh, head on over to my family blog, where I talked about the forms my spouse had to fill out with his likes and dislikes. You’ll see why I find it a huge challenge to cook anything for him that he’ll eat which has the word “healthy” anywhere near it. ;)

Yesterday at his class, my spouse got his first week meal plan. This weekend, I have to shop for a specific list of foods, and start preparing meals around the specific guidelines in his meal plan. I am really hoping that budget wise, things will work out, because although I am buying many new-to-us foods, I’ll also *not* be buying some of my spouse’s snacking staples (sorry honey, no doritos on the list!). And although the list actually states specific name brand items, I’ll be comparing those to the generic equivalent and if there is no appreciable difference in nutritional information, the generic is coming home with me. The nice thing about the list is that it has the protein, carbs, fat, and calories for each item right on the list, so I can even compare in Aldi where I won’t have the name brand to look at, since I have that information on my list. What makes me extremely nervous though is the “meat” portion of the plan.

First off, the plan has no instructions on how to cook anything other than a general method. It just states a meat and the amount. I have said before, I am not very experienced at cooking meat. I don’t eat it, so I never bothered to learn to prepare it. And for that matter, I am not the greatest of people in the kitchen in general. I get by, but I’m not going to be serving anything at a restaurant anytime soon. So, there lies my dilemma. First, are these meats going to completely break my budget? Second, am I going to completely destroy them trying to cook them? And third, can I make them in a way that my spouse will actually eat?

Yikes. I am willing to spend the money, if it works out. I just hope it works out. Here are my “meats”, suggestions are welcome (there are not 7 because some I make more than one day, and one day he actually gets pizza) :

  • 3 oz Yellowfin Tuna, cooked with dry heat
  • 4 oz Flounder, broiled
  • 3 oz Cod, Pacific, broiled
  • 4 oz Flank, braised with fat trimmed off

Good luck to me. :)

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37 Responses to “The Diet and Our Budget”

  1. The flounder and cod should be fairly cheap, but the tuna will be pretty expensive. In our grocery shopping, we usually limit ourselves to one fish night, one beef night and one chicken night per week. The rest is usually some variety of pasta.

    One thing that you can do with the flounder or cod, is crush up some variety of baked potato chips (i.e. Baked Lays). Coat the fish fillets with the chips. Lightly drizzle a small amount of olive oil in the bottom of an oven safe dish. Put fish in dish and bake at around 400 degrees until the fish is flaky. It’s healthy, but tastes like fried fish, which is one of my favorites.

  2. Your list of meats is really expensive. The tuna will be upwards of $10/pound. Flank steak used to be cheap, but it’s not anymore. I would guess $8-9/pound. Flounder in my experience is pretty pricey. And the “cheap one,” cod, I usually see for $7-8/pound. This is a pretty expensive diet he’s on! I’ll be interested to see how you fit that into your grocery budget. One pound of each would add up to over $30, I think.

    In terms of cooking, do you have a general cookbook, like Betty Crocker or Better Homes and Gardens? It will have recipes for most of these things, except maybe the tuna, because that’s pretty exotic. Tuna is usually seared and served very rare in the center. You can dress it with teriyaki, garlic, ginger, the usual suspects.

  3. He may get demoted from his expensive diet. Well, the Kroger circular says frozen flounder and cod are 25% off this week. So we’ll see what “25% off” is. If I can buy a few pounds for a reasonable price this week and use it for the next month or so that would be okay.

    But again, I may make him eat canned tuna. You know, I can only do so much ;) .

    I do have cookbooks but my concern is adding anything to the meat, I don’t think I am supposed to. Hmm. But, I will do my best. :)

    Thanks for the input King and Catherine. He’s not overweight and his stats are not insanely high, so I may be modifying the “diet” to suit my budget a bit anyway. We’ll see this weekend… his big thing is portion control. Like, he doesn’t control them. lol. But he wants to give the diet the best shot he can so I am being supportive. Until I spend $200 a week on groceries…. then I kick him :)

  4. I have trouble believing a grown man is actually that picky with food.

    Why doesn’t HE do the cooking since he has the bazillion restrictions (some ridiculous, some health-related)?

  5. Any way you could post the diet? I’d love to see it since I’m currently on a diet myself. So far my diet hasn’t been extremely expensive. However, I did add $20 a week to my grocery budget. That mostly covers several containers of yogurt and some pre-prepared meals(like Lean Cusine). I know I COULD make yogurt from scratch but, I’ve tried serveral times and it never turned out right. Personally I just enjoy the taste of the frozen entrees and it helps me stay on my diet since I don’t have to spend a bunch of extra time preparing special foods.

    Still, I would love to see you post your hubby’s diet and see how you plan on keeping the cost down!

  6. Remember to keep in mind those serving sizes: 3 oz. 4 oz. Even if something is $10/lb…if you’re serving 4 oz, it’s only $2.50. Still, fish and the lean meats are more expensive than the fattier (more unhealthy?) cuts of meat.

    I have my own pessimistic theory of food buying:
    (Think those Venn diagrams of overlapping circles…)

    Given these three “sets” foods to buy:
    A. Things that are good for you
    B. Things that are inexpensive
    C. Things that taste good,

    then there are NO food items that fit into all three sets at the same time. :)

    My simple rule for healthier eating is to remember to eats lots of veggies.

    Good luck to you both!

  7. @dogatemyfinances – because he does the dishes and cleans the kitchen. We have an arrangement :)

    And yes, he’s picky. Although, in some ways he’s not – he’d eat the same thing 7 days a week if one would let him. Of course, what he would eat 7 days a week isn’t on his meal plan…. heh.

    @Melinda – I can go through it and post it sometime soon – it is basically a whole lot of salad, the meats I listed plus turkey or chicken to go with the lunch salad, cereal, egg whites, or oatmeal in the morning… hmm. I have no idea how I shall keep the cost down. I can only try. :)

  8. i’m not sure if it’s the texture or flavor that your husband is more averse to, but tilapia may be another option. it’s a mild white fish that has slightly more fat than cod or tuna, but is not as “fishy” as flounder, and it will soak up whatever flavor you add to it. i’m not sure about prices, but from a quick internet search, it looks to be in the same range as cod. good luck!

  9. paidtwice, I think you have a healthy attitude…if the meat is too much, have him eat canned tuna (make sure it’s in water, not oil)….

  10. Hi –

    I just wanted to say Thank You, because I just used one of your referrals to open my ING account for my emergency fund. Pretty excited because I opened it with $500 and get the $25 bonus. Just awesome. :)

    Also, on the cooking, I get a lot of ideas for how to cook food by just searching on the Food Network website for ideas. You can run searches for “Tuna” and it will pull up all of the recipes in their whole archive involving tuna. You can then see how different chefs use tuna, how they cook it and get ideas. Plus they offer ratings on difficulty, etc. Been pretty useful for me. And you can print the recipes out, etc.

  11. Also, consider going to “buy in bulk” stores like Costco or Sam’s Club. We get our fish there, frozen, at a good price.

  12. I have always loved reading your blog- but did I notice something- You don’t eat meat? Please tell me you are a fellow Vegetarian!

  13. Thanks Flip!

    MM – we don;t have Costco (and now, I cry) but we do have Sam’s. I’;m not a member but I should check it out and probably become one.

    A – I am indeed a vegetarian. :)

  14. I do so much of our budget cutbacks in the cooking area and you just inspired me to post a recipe i cooked yesterday morning. I posted it on my blog and it easy, and cheap- Banana Applesauce Super Moist Muffins!

  15. I think it’s great that you are supporting your husband in this and it might just wind up being great for the whole family.

    Here’s my input on the food…
    1. The 3-4oz portions are cooked amounts, not raw so buy a bit more to allow for it to “cook down”.
    2. A very easy yet low calorie way to prepare any meat, chicken, or fish is to simply spray a cookie sheet or broiler pan with Pam or you can use a brush with plain old canola/veg oil. Put the meat on it and season with any spices you like (I usually use some combo of pepper, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, and/or paprika). Put it under the broiler for a few minutes until it browns up (turn it over mid-way if it’s thick) and that’s it!!! It works for everything and anything… You can check food sites for cooking times (I just do it by keeping an eye on it).
    3. Lean meats, chicken, and fish all basically have very similar stats. As long as the cut isn’t fatty, they are really interchangeable. Do not get hung up on following there prescriptions of variety to the letter. They are doing that for those of us who get bored easily, which is not an issue as you mentioned. If you find a few things he likes, don’t be afraid to use the same meat a few times. Also, canned tuna packed in water would work just fine, too.

    Good luck and have fun!

  16. Wow my spouse would starve – he is allergic to seafood. I am wondering if they are setting your husband up for failure. To completely redo everything he actually eats in life? I think small and consistent changes work better than a complete overhaul, at least, hopefully, you can still eat what you want.

  17. He had to fill out a sheet, if he was allergic to seafood I am sure they would have given him other things.

    He really… did not give them much to work with. But, he has decided he will try flounder. So, it is a start. Heh.

  18. Most cookbooks have a cooking chart for meats, and it will give you standard cooking times for different methods–roasting, steaming, frying. That should be good enough if you want to keep it simple. Throwing some salt or garlic or some herbs on won’t change the nutritional values. Good luck! It’s nice of you to prepare meat for him even though you don’t eat it yourself.

  19. Oh, and by the way, I believe there are many foods that fulfill the trifecta of healthy, inexpensive, and delicious. Collard greens. Steel cut oatmeal. Edamame! In fact, nearly everything I serve my family qualifies as A, B, and C. :-)

  20. PaidTwiceSpouse Says:

    January 31st, 2008 at 6:35 pm

    @dogatemyfinances – my idea of cooking consists of sticking something in the microwave :-)

  21. I’ve found the most important part of my diet is not so much what I eat, but eating less of it. I prepare about the same stuff I always have, but eat half as much, and put the other half in the fridge for leftovers another day.

  22. Fish is very easy to cook. Check out the foodnetwork’s website (you can search by ingredient) to get idea for cook time. Generally, you want to cook it long enough so that it flakes easily when forked, but not so long that it dries out. If you can grill, go for it. If not, steaming in foil in the oven (or even under direct heat) works really well too. I would recommend against pan searing.

    As for what to add to it – LOTS of healthy options here. Try dry spices (lemon pepper, paprika, cayenne, italian spices, etc). Citrus is also excellent. And my personal favorites are ginger and garlic (works like a marinade).

    Canned tuna is gross. :)

    Oh – and fish can be microwaved!

  23. Totally agree with the microwaved fish – I put some fish on a dinner plate or in a square baking dish (whatever will fit in the microwave) – put a few dabs of oil/PAM/butter/whatever on it if you want, shake with spices (like garlic powder/basil/or salt and pepper), put about 1 -2 TB water in the dish, and then cover with plastic wrap. Zap for about 1 – 2 min on high and check it, maybe add another minute or so.

    Fish gets sort of steamed nicely in about 2 – 3 min total, depending on how thick your fish is. And the house doesn’t smell too fishy after.

    Maybe your grocery store sells fish in bulk? Mine sells frozen fish filets in bulk by the fish counter, usually cheaper, depending on the type. And just as good.

  24. I have no connection with this product – just lots of personal satisfaction. I find the George Foreman grill very good with just about any type meat. It’s a healthy way to cook the meat and dead easy.

  25. The only one I know anything about is the flank steak. Throw it on the bar b q or Geo. Forman grill. Should be great.

    Thanks for contributing this post to this week’s Carnival of Family Life, hosted at A Child Chosen. The Carnival will be live on Monday, February 5, 2008, so I hope you and your readers will stop by and check out all of the fabulous entries included this week!

  26. I might also add some pork to that list if possible. Certain leaner cuts can are comparatively inexpensive and don’t add a whole lot in terms of fat and calories.

    If you get the chance, leafing through Alton Brown’s “I’m Just Here for the Food” will give you a good idea of wet vs. dry cooking methods.

  27. Sounds tasty, I’d like the tuna, so how has it been with you dieting and what not? Healthier or are you still the same or fell off your “healthy” plan and went back to your normal routine?

  28. My spouse has since modified the meal plan (because he lost too much weight, actually) and is now at about 8% body fat. And still eating healthily.


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