24 August 2015

Should my Recipes have a more Healthy Focus?

Rocky Road, a Christmas treat

This email landed not in my inbox, but in an unmonitored box and I found it when I was in the process of emptying said unmonitored mail box.

"Hi, I love your tips, but do you think food should have a more healthy focus perhaps?
There is not one ounce of nutrition in those bars.
I think we owe it to our kids.
I know they are considered 'treats' but so should watermelon, healthy homemade bars etc. "

Short answer: No.

I think the writer of this email is confused.

Treats are treats, they are a reward or compliment given occasionally.

Fruit on the other hand is not a treat. It is, or should be, consumed daily as a part of a healthy diet, watermelon included.

"Healthy home made bars" are treats and the "healthy" description, whether for a home made product or a commercial product, is loose at best.

I think we owe it to our children to teach them to eat a well balance diet all the time. To recognise that a treat is just that. To teach them the self-control to enjoy a treat as a one-off and not gorge on them. To teach them that good nutrition comes from a good variety of foods.

Fresh Fruit Salad

If you want a longer answer, read on.

I am regularly chastised about the ingredients in the recipes featured in the free weekly newsletter, on this blog and in the Journal. The two most common complaints are that they are not healthy (too much sugar, too much fat etc.) or use too many convenience products (expensive, unhealthy etc.).

There seems to be some confusion out there about the Cheapskates Club and  this blog and exactly what they are and what they are about. They are not a health food website or blog. They are not a diet website or blog.

Cheapskates and my blog are about living life debt free. Not about living life debt free on a sugar free diet or a paleo diet or only eating "healthy" food or going gluten free or using just organic coconut oil and no other fat.

Baked Rice Custards

I'm not saying that healthful recipes aren't important. I'm also not saying that they shouldn't be a part of the Cheapskates Recipe File. I am saying however that it is not my responsibility to ensure I use, recommend or publish on the website, in the newsletter, on the blog or on facebook, recipes which you consider healthy.

The recipes in the Recipe File may or may not be gluten free, sugar free, dairy free, egg free, raw, cooked or not. If you don't like a recipe you don't have to make it. You don't have to eat it. You don't have to prepare then feed it to your kids. Simple.

You should look at it and think about how you could adjust it to suit your dietary needs or health beliefs (and yes, they are two different things). I do all the time. I very rarely make a recipe exactly as it is written.

For example, most of my recipes are not low fat but they are low in salt. Why? Because I don't have a problem with using real butter and pure cream, good hard cheeses, quality olive oil or coconut oil in my cooking. I do have a problem with salt because I don't like salt. At all. So I don't include it in my cooking.

Banana Walnut Loaf

I also don't have a problem with fresh free range organic eggs, vegetables, meat and poultry. I do have a problem with recipes that list corn syrup or that use packet cake mixes as the base so I simply don't make them (or I put my thinking cap on and look for alternative ingredients).

Out of curiosity I have gone over the 52 Bright ideas newsletters sent out last year (2014) and noted what type of products were in the recipes.

Here's the list:

52:14 - No recipes
51:14 - No recipes
50:14 - Royal Puddings - all processed ingredients for these once-a- year treats
49:14 - Grape Fool - no convenience products used
48:14 - Bought biscuits, chocolate
47:14 - Easiest Christmas Biscuits - sprinkles - can colour sugar to MOO
46:14 - Christmas treats -no convenience products used
45:14 - Silverbeet Casserole - no convenience ingredients used
44:14 - Frozen pastry used, can use Elaine's Easy Pastry
43:14 - Corn Fritters, no convenience products used
42:14 - No convenience products used
41:14 - Uses Singapore noodles, otherwise no convenience products used
40:14 - No convenience products used
39:14 - No On the Menu section in this newsletter
38:14 - No convenience products used
37:14 - Uses cream cheese
36:14 - No convenience ingredients used.
35:14 - Uses refried beans or baked beans.
34:14 - Chicken Cordon Bleu - canned mushroom soup. Can be bought on sale for 89c or MOOed.
33:14 - Lemon Ginger slice - no convenience ingredients used.
32:14 - Wendy's Honey Mustard Chicken - no convenience ingredients used.
31:14 - Fish Tacos - taco shells.
30:14 - Quick Beef Stroganoff- can of mushroom soup used - and explained how to replace with a MOO substitute.
27:14 - Colleen's Sausage Casserole - uses 1 pkt French onion soup mix, this could be the MOO equivalent.
26:14 - Mum's Spaghetti & Meatballs - uses 1 jar pasta sauce - this can be bought or homemade.
25:14 - Hot chocolate & marshmallows - there is no MOO substitute for cocoa or milk powder
24:14 - Yorkshire Meat Pancakes - no convenience ingredients.
23:14 - Chocolate self-saucing pudding - no convenience ingredients used.
22:14 - Bolognese Pasta Bake - no convenience ingredients used.
21:14 - Apple Shortcake - no convenience ingredients used.
20:14 - Slow cooker Porridge - no convenience ingredients used.
19:14 - Cath's Mock Shepherd's Pie - uses 2 convenience ingredients (Nutmeat, dry Cream of Mushroom soup which can be MOOed).
18:14 - Sweet & Spicy Glazed Ham - uses tinned peaches and pineapple.
17:14 - A Jam Session - no convenience products used.
16:14 - Hummingbird Cake -  uses a can of crushed pineapple.
15:14 - Easy Fish Cakes - uses a can of tuna.
14:14 - Chicken with Feta and Tomatoes - uses bought feta.
13:14 - Elephant Ears - uses bought tortillas.
12:14 - Fried Green Tomatoes - no convenience products used.
11:14 - Meatless Meals - baked beans, cream cheese used.
10:14 - Chicken Fried Rice - uses frozen corn and peas.
09:14 - Choc Cherry Slice - no convenience products used.
08:14 - Using Your Stockpile - no recipe
07:14 - No Spending Month - no recipe
06:14 - Ice Cream Slice - uses condensed milk which can be MOO, malt biscuits which again could be MOOed, choc coated honeycomb which could be MOOed
05:14 - Cheats Lamingtons - no convenience products used.
04:14 - Slow Roasted Lamb Shoulder, Damper - no convenience products used.
03:14 - Creamy Pasta Salad - uses bought coleslaw dressing.
02:14 - No recipe
01:14 - No recipe

Cheese and Veggie Rolls

Here are my notes about the recipes and their ingredients in these newsletters:

*Refried beans can be MOOed if you prefer over buying them.
*Baked beans can be MOOed if you prefer over buying them. It is not always cheaper to MOO baked beans.
*Cream of Mushroom Soup - can be MOOed however it is not cheaper even if you grow your own mushrooms.
*Taco Shells - can be MOOed but they are time consuming and fiddly.
*Dry French Onion Soup - can be made but it is not cheaper than buying.
*Pasta sauce - can be MOOed but not everyone has access to fresh tomatoes. If they have to buy tomatoes it is then more expensive to make pasta sauce.
*There is no MOO substitute for milk powder.
*Nutmeat - can be homemade. It is a time consuming and fiddly process and is not cheaper than buying the Sanitarium product.
*Dry Cream of Mushroom Soup - can be MOOed but it is not cheaper than buying.
*Tinned fruit - peaches, pineapple - can be canned at home but unless the fruit is free it is not cheaper than buying.
*Tinned Tuna - is cheaper than buying and preparing fresh tuna.
*Feta - can be easily MOOed. Most people would not know how to do this, nor would they have easy access to the ingredients. It is also not cheaper to make your own feta.
*Tortillas - can be MOOed you prefer.
*Cream Cheese - there is a MOO substitute you can use if you wish to make your own cream cheese.
*Condensed milk - can be MOOed. It is much cheaper to MOO condensed milk and it is very easy. The recipe is in the Recipe File.
*Evaporated milk is also easy and much, much cheaper to MOO. The recipe is in the Recipe file.
*Malt Biscuits - can be MOOed if you wish.
*Choc Coated Honeycomb - can be MOOed.
*Coleslaw dressing - can be MOOed.
*Milk chocolate - you can make it but it is not cheaper, very time consuming and requires skill.

I've gone through all the recipes in every newsletter for 2014. There are some convenience products used, but for most of them there are MOO substitutes if you want to use them. Out of the 52 newsletters, only 11 of them use convenience products, and of that 11 only 1 recipe uses 2 convenience products.

Recipes usually require specific ingredients in specific quantities i.e. one tin of condensed milk. You don't have to buy the tin of condensed milk, you can MOO it if you want to.

As long as you replace like with like you can substitute MOO ingredients for bought ingredients in any recipe.

Am I going to change the recipes that are shared via the Cheapskates Club website, newsletter or the blog?

No. As I mentioned above, if you don't like the recipe, or the ingredients in the recipe, you don't have to make it or eat it. And if you do like the sound of it, get creative and make it suit your needs.

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  1. Rebecca finlaysonMonday, August 24, 2015

    Good on you Cath. I love your recipes. And if I don't like it I don't cook it. Simple!! So many people are on the healthy eating band wagon that they forget what is important....eating a healthy diet with a wide variety of foods. Sugar won't kill you in moderation!!

    1. We get our five serves of veggies and two of fruit a day, with some dairy, some grains and some protein a la the healthy food pyramid I was taught. It's been updated recently, I haven't caught up yet.

      Sugar is essential for healthy cells and comes in so many forms it's impossible to cut it out entirely.On that note, a 2kg bag of sugar can last us more than a month, we only use sugar in baking. We don't have it in drinks or on cereal so unless we have a huge baking session I don't use much at all.

  2. Hi Cath,
    I love your recipes and your site. Please don't change.

  3. Well Said Cath and good on you. What is wrong with some people. No matter our Food Mood if i like a recipe i'll cook it , if i dont like one i wont cook it. Pretty simple really and who doesnt love a rocky road as a TREAT for Christmas, i make them every year and i'd be in trouble if i didnt lol :)

    1. What about your MOO Fererro Rochers? You have to keep making those too!

  4. Very well said Cath!

    If the recipes aren't suitable, don't make them...simple!

    I think your recipes are great. Nice decent home cooking and not the rubbish you can buy in the shop...


  5. Well said, Cath I ditto all the above comments.

    Please continue as you are.

  6. REALLY,, this person needs to get a life. I bet if I looked in their pantry and fridge, I'd find sugar, salt, oils, butter and convenience foods.

    1. Thank you Wendy, you've made me laugh, and I needed a laugh tonight!

  7. Well said Cath, couldn't agree more with all the comments above, please don't change a thing:) Linda

    1. Not changing a thing Linda, I'm too old and crabby! I'm happy with what and how we eat but more importantly my family is, and they're all healthy too so things are staying just as they are :)

  8. I had a good laugh at " paleo sausages" recently and wondered aloud to my family whether cave dwellers had stovetops. And who defines " healthy " anyway ?

    1. I have to be honest and say food fads don't interest me in the least. They're all the rage for a couple of years and then some genius "discovers" that there is a problem and it's onto the next one. I'm not surprised people have the health issues they do - if they'd just eat a good variety of regular food, in normal quantities all the time they wouldn't need to jump on the latest healthy food wagon.

      Paleo sausages - now that's something I definitely wouldn't want to try, talk about mystery bags!

  9. I think what makes a treat a sometimes food is the fact that making it yourself, it takes a while, and that determines that you don't get too much. I love that the recipes are home-made, and making sweets is one way lots of us got into the fun of cooking. Keep up the great site.
    Karen T


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