Stop faking it! Eat frugalicious food!

I hate fake food. Fake food lightens your wallet and fattens your waistline. Fake food is all that packaged processed crap displayed prominently in grocery store aisles and in the freezer section. Fake food makes product companies mega bucks, costs you big bucks, and hurts your health.

When I see fake foods lining the grocery aisles I feel sad. It seems the food scientists and product marketers have hijacked our health and sold us on packaged portions of phony foods. Foods like sugary cereal, simple carbohydrates, instant boxed meals, processed grains, bagged transported veggies, mystery meats, refined proteins, and sodium-rich nutrient-poor concoctions. To be honest, I don’t eat any of this food science packaged crap. I just don’t buy it.

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My personal preference is to pass on the fake grub and eat frugalicious food. Frugalicious is a word I just made up to describe foods which are delicious, frugal, and healthy.

frugalicious = delicious + frugal + healthy

Foods like fruits, veggies, lean meats, legumes, nuts, and beans. Theses foods pack a nutritional punch without knocking out your wallet. Want to fatten your bank account and eat healthier? Here’s how to debunk the marketing muckity muck and easily find frugalicious food:

1. Ignore fancy labels and boxes:

Frugalicious foods are free from bright marketing labels and cardboard boxes. Real foods like apples, potatoes, and lettuce don’t need this window dressing since they are easily identified without product descriptions. When did you last need a label to identify an apple? Label free foods cost you less because you’re not paying a marketing company to brand them. Labels may seem like simple paper inserts, but really they’re multi million dollar campaigns targeting your dollars and health cents. Save money by avoiding boxed foods with fancy labels.

2. Avoid fancy health claims:

Ever see foods boasting a special ingredient, weight loss, or cures for an ailment? Chances are these foods have marketing magicians working behind the scenes to magically separate you from your money. Many fake foods boast health claims to convince you to buy. Also, health claims tend to be padded by food scientists who use Petri dishes and microscopes to scientifically engineer chemically acceptable products for human consumption. Frugalicious foods tend to be free from claims of healthfulness since they are naturally good for you. Save yourself some big bucks by avoiding foods which tout magic pixie dust to help cure what ails you.

3. Avoid pronunciation problems:

How do you pronounce disodium guanylate, hydrogenated, and dimethylpolysiloxane? If you stumble to pronounce an ingredient, chances are the food is a fake. Those ingredients are food science creations used to enhance or preserve the color, texture, shelf life, or flavor of fake food. Real food doesn’t require a handbook to decipher the ingredients. So stick with frugalicious foods you can identify.

4. Ask the bugs:

If the bugs won’t eat it neither should you. So many otherwise good foods have been treated with chemicals and pesticides to prevent spoilage. Real foods should have a shelf life and should eventually rot. Pesticide-free foods may cost you a little bit more today, but will save you big bucks tomorrow on health costs.

5. Ask your grandmother:

Need help spotting the fakes? Just ask your grandmother! Ask her about Twinkies, Pop Tarts, or those exploding Pizza Pop things. If your grandmother can’t identify it as food it’s probably a fake. Grandmothers are exceptional resources for learning how to stretch food dollars. My grandmother was very frugal and raised a family of five by baking bread, soaking dried beans, and preparing whole foods into nutritious strews, soups, and dishes. Stick with what grandma knows as food and you should be well on your path to frugalicious eating.

How do you spot fake food? Do you save big bucks by eating frugalicious food?

Your two cents:

  1. Chickadee March 8th, 2008

    Yes! real food!

    Isn’t it wonderful (and ironic) that the best and healthiest foods are also the most frugal? Eating this way helps us live well *and* below our means.

    I think that schools should teach *everyone* basic nutrition and cooking with real foods… it should be considered a type of literacy: ‘health literacy’? The cost of this program would be balanced by less disease to be treated by our Canadian healthcare system. The processed-food industry wouldn’t like that, but people have the right to this knowledge.

  2. fox March 8th, 2008

    Chickadee: I think people have forgotten what real food looks and tastes like. It’s a wonder so many youth are obese on fabricated food as they are fat on phooey and starving for nutrition. I wish the schools would stop allowing pop machines and crap food in the schools as well. Indeed, it’s amazing how all the real food is really quite affordable when compared to packaged pop culture concoctions. When I took the photograph above I couldn’t help but wonder..how can that food not look delicious? Simple, we’ve been marketed to desire junk.

  3. Mrs Pillars March 9th, 2008

    Hello Squawkfox – I have just discovered your site – hubby sent me the link to your delightful article about learning pf from your dog. I enjoy cooking and will definitely be trying out some of the bean ideas. I quite agree with your notions about processed food. Since our son came along, I have been paying more and more attention to what we eat. Not only do I want to have him grow up healthy, but as an older mother, I want to improve my chances of being around a little longer. It somehow feels better to make my soups from scratch, knowing what the ingredients are or to bake my own bread – that stuff that lasts three weeks makes me wonder.

  4. fox March 9th, 2008

    Mrs. Pillars: I am delighted to meet the Pillars family! Welcome! The pf dog story was fun to write, so I’m happy you enjoyed it along with Mr. Pillars. Indeed, food today kinda scares me, especially with today’s youth eating mostly packaged yucky things. Kudos to you for starting your son off right with real food. The bean story resonated with many parents like yourself – parents looking for ways to prepare healthy affordable meals their kids will enjoy. It’s so hard to get kids to eat right when the media markets pseudo foods to children.

  5. Ryan March 10th, 2008

    I couldn’t agree with you more!! My wife and I are trying our best to feed our family healthy foods and to teach our children the importance of eating healthy. Recently (2 years ago) my wife and I became vegitarian’s after reading “The China Study”. Today we buy everything organic and eat a very balanced diet of whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables along with many soy and tofu products. We have not imposed this on our children, but all the meat and dairy we purchase for them is organic as well. When they are old enough to decide for themselves they can become vegetarian’s if they choose.

    Recently we hired a personal chef to make us organic vegetarian meals. We do not have a maid or nanny and we drive one vehicle so we figured the money we saved on eating out we would put toward’s our personal chef. We both work and are meal making challenged to say the least, so we value this service very much. Now we know exactly what we are putting into our bodies all the time, which you cannot do when you go to a restaurant.

    Sorry for the rambling, just wanted to give you a glimpse into how we try to maintain a healthy home. If you have not read “The China Study”, I highly recommend it. πŸ™‚

    Oh and one more thing, as for your tip on “pronunciation problems” tip, we always say, “If there are more than 5-6 ingredients in the product, then it is likely not healthy”

    Cheers! πŸ™‚

  6. fox March 10th, 2008

    Ryan: Feel free to “ramble” here. My “better half” actually calls my rambles “squawks,” so I’m all for getting the words out…especially when it comes to eating REAL food! OHHH, you must share your personal chef’s meals with us! πŸ˜‰

  7. Deiene Russo February 22nd, 2009

    I usually don’t post in Blogs but your blog forced me to, amazing work.. beautiful …

  8. Shana March 28th, 2010

    I’ve been referring back to this post FOREVER! I’ve told all my bestest friends about it. I want my people to be eating like this! The kicker is, people tell me that it’s just “easier” and “cheaper” to buy Hamburger Helper, but it’s really not! I just did a blog post not long ago because one of my friends told me she couldn’t feed her and her two-year-old in a healthy manner because she didn’t know now! Real food is better for us and better for our wallets! They just don’t know it yet!

  9. Kerry March 28th, 2010

    @Shana I hear ya! Selling the goodness of real food can be a hard sell, especially when someone has been raised only eating the fake stuff. Why not get your friend to download a copy of my free ebook: The Insider’s Guide to Frugal Food and Fitness (http://www.squawkfox.com/ebook-frugalfoodfit/) — this might help a little. πŸ™‚

  10. Honour Horne-Jaruk September 22nd, 2010

    The dead worst crap food of all is infant formulas. (Warning: they’re still many light-years ahead of home-made formulas.) There is now conclusive evidence that breast-fed babies get diabetes and autism less often. They also have less colic, less allergies, less ear infections, and less constipation; not life-threatening, perhaps, but certainly miserable for Baby!
    My ex-husband had massive, life-altering allergies. So did I. We decided to nurse our son exclusively for as long as possible, which turned out to be ten months (when he actually began seeking out solid food on his own, such as snatching it off my plate). He ended up with _no_ major allergies.
    Don’t let the hospital give your babies formula at birth. (Yes, they really do that unless you specifically order them not to.) The stuff alters their stomach chemistry and makes them much less enthusiastic about trying to nurse from you, which means that your milk supply is reduced. Join La Leche League. If nursing is really hard, your doctor can prescribe a hormone-based treatment that helps immensely.
    Don’t start your child’s life with crap food.

  11. Brenda December 4th, 2010

    Thanks for all the great articles.

    I go by 2 rules:

    1. If you can’t pronounce anything in the ingredients list; it’s not real food.

    2. If anything has more than 3 (or 4) ingredients, don’t buy it.

  12. Meghan February 2nd, 2011

    Honour:

    Breastfeeding is absolutely the best food for babies and the standard against which formula should be measured. However, it’s not a magic bullet. My son was exclusively breastfed for eight months and continued to nurse another two-plus years. He also has autism and food allergies. The “conclusive evidence” linking formula and autism isn’t there. My kid with autism and my NT kid were both breastfed and neither ever had artificial baby milk. We just don’t know very much about autism.

  13. Honour June 30th, 2011

    Dear Meghan:
    I specifically said, and meant, _less often_. Nothing guarantees a child won’t be autistic, just as nothing guarantees a child won’t have any other adverse condition. You’re quite right that it’s not a magic bullet, because there is no magic bullet.
    However, I’m equally certain that breastfeeding, instead of exclusive-formula feeding, makes it easier for a baby to respond well to the various slings and arrows of infancy. Panacea is a demi-goddess, not a pill. That doesn’t mean that we should take unnecessary risks. In my opinion, formula for a baby with a living, healthy mother is an unnecessary risk.

  14. Sarah December 12th, 2011

    The “if you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it” rule doesn’t work for me. I’m a university student in the sciences so I have no problem saying the names of most additives, from dimethylpolysiloxane to butylated hydroxytoluene. ^_^ Instead, I have a rule where if it looks like it would fit in my organic chemistry text book, I don’t eat it!

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