How To Save Money On Beef Stew Meat

After WLS you are told to focus on protein first. While there are varying amounts of protein in other foods usually the main source for most people is meat. If you purchase any type of meat the one thing you’ve probably noticed is prices are rising. Because I’m trying to stay within a budget I tend to look for ways to save money especially on items that are increasing in price.

The one thing I’ve noticed is the price of the different cuts of meat increases if the butcher has to do more work preparing the meat. Which makes sense. If the cut of meat, such as a steak, removes a lot of trimmings in order to get that particular cut then the price goes up. Sure the trimmings are used to make ground beef but the butcher still had to do more work to get that cut. Which is where you can save some money.

Beef stew meat in my area, just south of Boston, usually runs about $3.99 or more a pound. A sale might drop the price down to $3.49. If I purchase stew meat I still usually end up cutting it into smaller pieces once I get it home. Rather than shell out the extra money for the butcher to chop a larger piece of meat into smaller bits I do it myself. You can actually create your own stew meat by using a boneless chuck roast. It’s basically the same cut of meat and usually sells for less. Often times, when chuck roasts go on sale, I can get them for $2.79 to $2.99 a pound.

This weekend there was a sale on chuck roasts and I picked up four of them to make beef stew meat. The roasts were selling for $2.79 a pound plus I found one that was even lower since it had reached the “sell by” date so it was discounted even further.

Making your own stew meat doesn’t get any easier than this. First, purchase your boneless chuck roasts. Unwrap and begin dicing into the sized pieces you desire. Along the way I usually remove larger pieces of fat and any tough connective tissue. These get thrown out. In the end I removed about half a pound of fat in total from all four roasts. It only took me about 20 minutes to dice them all up.

Once I’m done cutting all the meat into the size pieces I desire I bag them into premeasured amounts in freezer bags. Now, when I’m ready to make beef stew or some other meal, I remove a bag from the freezer, thaw it and it’s ready to be used. I originally started my beef stew making adventure with about 11 pounds of meat. Once the fat was removed there was about 10 1/2 pounds left. I divided the meat into freezer bags that contained about 1 1/2 pounds of meat which is the perfect amount for a pot of stew in my house. I got 6 bags of prepared stew beef from the four roasts. Total savings: $13.80 for about 20 minutes worth of work. Plus, I won’t have to spend any extra time cutting store bought stew beef into smaller pieces.

Here’s some pictures of the beef stew making process. It really is super easy to do:

Beef Stew Collage2

Click on the pictures if you want to enlarge the collage. After this I place three of the quart sized bags into one larger gallon sized freezer bag. There’s two purposes for doing this. One, it reduces freezer burn because there are now two bags protecting the meat. The second reason is I always place an index card in the larger bag with information about what’s in the bag and the date I put it there. In the past I’ve had a few too many mystery items pulled from the freezer. Now I mark everything. It not only saves time but it saves money because I know exactly what I have and when it was put there.

How about you? What do you do to save money on purchasing meat for you and your family? Leave a comment below and share a tip.

The 5 Day Pouch Test – Part 2

diet is die with a T

Welcome to the second post on the infamous (or perhaps not so infamous) 5 day pouch test (5DPT). If you missed part one please check it out. You’ll see why I don’t think the 5DPT or any other diet/technique is really appropriate for weight loss surgery newbies. Now, it’s time to answer the question of whether the 5DPT is good for re-gainers (or anyone else for that matter).

What exactly are the reasons for following the 5DPT? According to the website:

“the 5-day plan that I have developed and used to determine if my pouch is working and return to that tight newbie feeling. And a bonus to this plan, it helps one get back to the basics of the weight loss surgery diet and it triggers weight loss. Also, it is not difficult to follow and if you are in a stage of carb-cycling it will break this pattern.”

The 5DPT begins with two days of using liquid protein in the form of shakes, broth or soup. One day of soft protein such as fish and eggs. One day of firm protein such as ground meats and poultry and the firmer fleshed fishes such as salmon. The final day is a return to solid protein. After this you are suppose to return to eating what we are told to eat all along: lean protein, vegetables and fruits with smaller amounts of carb based foods. We should be limiting processed foods and those high is sugar/fats. It is the basic post op diet that we are all told to follow for the remainder of our lives.

It is stated that weight loss is not the intention of the 5DPT but many will experience weight loss. I would think that the majority of people trying the 5DPT are most likely re-gainers who are looking to jump start weight loss. So, while that is not the intention, that is what most people are using it for.

The person who designed the test/plan said she based it on the steps she (and probably the majority of post ops) went through right after surgery. The test basically follows the textures that we ate after surgery beginning with liquid to puree to soft and finally on to firm/regular foods. The designer of the 5DPT “tested this plan several ways to see what works for me”. And that my friends is the key to it all right there. This is what works for her. When the cycle of over eating and eating foods that triggered more issues with eating began to cause regain this is what she found worked for her. The basic idea behind it is not bad: eliminate processed foods, cut out sugar and return to eating protein to keep you full. This is what we are all told to do in order to stay on track. This is the method that this person took to bring herself back to the original plan. Nothing more, nothing less and, really, nothing wrong with it. Until people try to follow someone’s system. Why? Because you are not her and your issues with food are not the same. And this is where the problem is with following the 5DPT or any other system or diet. If there were one right way to do it the diet section of the book store would be a pretty empty place.

So re-gainers, should you try the 5DPT plan to see if it works for you? My answer is a wishy washy – it depends. While the basic structure of the plan (no processed foods, cut out sugar, focus on protein) is a great idea, you need to stop and think of what will be accomplished at the end of 5 days? Will your eating and cravings be under control? Perhaps. Have you worked on any of the issues that caused the problems with eating? Most likely not. Will you have changed what you were doing before or at least set some plans in motion to do things differently after? Possibly. If you haven’t then there is a very good chance that once the test is over you will return to the things that were causing a problem to begin with and the cycle will just repeat itself. The 5DPT is a temporary fix and, unless you are actually doing something to solve the underlying issues, the problems will most likely return.

Like weight loss surgery itself, this plan buys you a small window of opportunity in which you can make changes that will help in the long run. If you plan well and make the changes then you will come out ahead. If you simply follow along thinking that things will fix themselves then this quickly becomes nothing more than a fad diet to help you drop a few pounds.

What say you? Have you tried the 5DPT? Did it work for you? If you did it what other plans did you make for long term changes during those 5 days?

The 5 Day Pouch Test – Can It Help?

diet is die with a T

I am still fighting off all the cravings that were kicked up by eating the rice pudding last week. I may have only blogged about it and trigger foods a few days ago but that was after spending 3 or 4 days actually eating the stuff. While I’m working to get back on track I figured this would be the perfect time to cover the 5 day pouch test.

Over the years I’ve seen much written about this test, technique, fad diet or whatever else you might want to call it. People who have encountered it seem to have a love/hate relationship with it. Some love it and have found it helpful for getting them back on track. Others despise it and call it a fad diet. So what exactly does a soon to be graduating dietetic/nutrition student who will be going on to becoming a registered dietitian have to think about it? Well, first I think we need to take a look at the bigger picture behind the reasons for doing the 5 day pouch test. Give it a bit of time, stay on track and the weight will begin to come off again.

Why would anyone want to do something like the 5 day pouch test or any other type of “diet” when they have already had weight loss surgery? There are usually two reasons. The dreaded regain and the depressing slowed weight loss.

I often see the panic stricken posts from surgical newbies (those who are less than 1 to 1 1/2 years out from surgery) on various facebook groups. Their posts go something like this:  Heeelllllppppp!!! I had surgery X number of weeks or months ago. At first I was losing X number of pounds a week and now I haven’t lost anything for the past week or two. Oh no I think I’ve broken my pouch and feel like a failure!

The re-gainers may or may not have reached whatever goal weight was set for them. Things have remained stable for a while and then the regain sets in. Perhaps the scale slowly went up a few pounds at a time. Perhaps it jumped quickly. Either way the scale is heading in a direction that we had hoped it would never go again.

No matter what the reason, I’ve seen many people turn to the 5DPT or other methods for kick starting the weight loss. What can be accomplished by this? Should you do it?

The surgical newbies are worried that they are not losing as fast as other people, their weight loss has slowed down or may have even stopped for a week or two or three. To all the newbies out there I would say to please stop, take a deep breath and relax. Not everyone loses the same amount each week but just about everyone will ultimately see their weight loss slow down or even stall. It’s perfectly normal. You will always lose weight faster when you are heavier. As your weight goes down the amount you lose will also decrease. It’s normal. You are not broken. You most likely aren’t doing anything wrong. Your body just needs to catch up and make internal adjustments to deal with what is going on. You would be amazed at what kind of hormonal craziness is going on during this whole process. Unless you’ve gone back to eating like you did before surgery then there is no need to turn to the 5DPT or any other type of diet during this time. This phase is for learning how to eat better while you are losing weight. It’s not ONLY about the weight loss. I know the big focus is on weight loss. I did it myself. In reality you have bought yourself a window of opportunity to change your eating habits. Use it wisely.

Re-gainers turn to the 5DPT and other “diets’ because we have regained weight. We are looking for something to get us back on track so we can begin losing weight again or at least stop the current regain. We are looking to regain control of our eating. These are the people who things like the 5DPT and other plans are aimed at. Should you do it? Is it healthy or helpful? Is it just a crazy fad diet? This one requires a much longer answer then what I would tell newbies. For this reason I’m breaking this down into two posts. Check back for the second half.

Eating Well After Weight Loss Surgery Book Review

If you thought that cooking meals after weight loss surgery had to be boring then this book will change your mind. While some recipes fall under what I would call comfort type foods many others are what you would expect to find served at a fine dinning restaurant.

The book begins with a small section on hints for preparing, cooking and eating. There is nothing here that most likely wasn’t covered by your doctor or nutritionist before surgery. This is followed by a section on stocking your pantry and refrigerator. The ingredients listed here are the ones that are found in the recipes which is helpful in keeping items on hand to quickly pull together a meal.

The chapters with the recipes are broken down in a logical order by meal type: breakfast, soup, vegetables, main course, etc. Each recipe includes nutritional information for each serving. It also includes a breakdown of how much would be considered a serving for each type of weight loss surgery. Some of the recipes sound like they would be fussy and time consuming to make but a quick look at the directions reveals that they are quite easy.

The main course section is broken down by protein type. The one surprising thing that I have not seen in other books is the wide variety of proteins used to create meals. You will find the usual chicken, turkey, pork and beef meals but there is also veal, lamb, tofu and a variety of seafood such as swordfish, mussels and catfish.

The book finishes with chapters featuring a variety of desserts as well as sweet and savory sauces. The addition of sauce recipes is a big help immediately after surgery when it seems like every type of protein feels too dry or coarse to swallow. A nice sauce not only adds additional flavor but helps you get in the protein that is needed. Each sauce recipe includes hints such as if the sauce would make a great base for pureed meals. There are also serving suggestions telling you which recipes in the book would go great with that particular sauce.

If your a simple meat and potatoes kind of person this cookbook may or may not work for you. The recipes may be a bit too different than what you and your family are familiar with eating. On the other hand, this book might help to expand your horizons. I think you would be surprised at the many new things you’ll start to enjoy since having weight loss surgery. If you already love to cook then this book will be a welcome addition to your cookbook collection.

Got a favorite WLS book? Leave a comment below and let others know which books you found helpful during your journey.

What Is A Trigger Food?

Oh those trigger foods. They are the ones that trigger overeating because you just can’t seem to get enough of it. They also can lead you to eat other foods that you weren’t even thinking of eating.

Trigger foods vary from person to person. Some people find that their trigger foods fall into one food category such as candy, ice cream or chips. Others find that their trigger foods are all related by texture such as crunchy (cookies, chips, pretzels) or smooth (ice cream, mashed potatoes). Often trigger foods are processed foods high in either sugar or fat or even both.

One way to determine if a food is a trigger food is to spend a week writing down what you ate and drank as well as how you were feeling at the time you ate. You might also include how you felt after eating and if you over ate. This might help you discover which foods trigger over eating. It might also help connect which foods become trigger foods for certain emotions.

I’ve discovered that some foods are not trigger foods in a particular form. Rice is one of those foods. While I eat small amounts of rice it’s one of those take it or leave it foods. Depending upon what I’m eating with it I might have some or just pass on it. While testing out some of the recipes in the Recipes For Life After Weight Loss Surgery Book I made their delicious Almond Milk Rice Pudding. You can top it with a few dried cranberries and almond slivers. The other members of my family are not rice pudding fans. While I like the stuff, and used unsweetened almond milk and splenda, there was just something about the combination of sweet, creamy and a little crunchy that sent me over the edge. I found myself grabbing a few spoonfuls here and there throughout the day. From there I found myself craving bagels. While we have them in the house but it’s not something I normally crave. I wanted ice cream too! I stay very far away from ice cream. Just a few spoonfuls of the stuff makes me sick and causes dumping. Yet I wanted it. I kept thinking to myself that perhaps I would just have one spoonful. A little taste can’t hurt right?

rice pudding

Argh….some how rice pudding is now a trigger food. The recipe says it makes 8 servings that are 3/4 cup in size. That’s a lot of rice pudding. Every time I looked into the container there was less and less. I commented that I was surprised others were eating. Turns out no one else was eating the stuff. I was slowly working my way through the whole batch! While I hate to toss out perfectly good food this is one time I make an exception. It had to go!

Thinking back I have been picking up extra hours at work now that it is school vacation. The time I pick up is often on the night shift which means I don’t sleep well the next day. Being a bit sleep deprived is yet another thing that can trigger over eating as well. The combination of the lack of sleep and high carb, creamy, sweetness of the pudding created a trigger food. Now it’s time to go back to focusing on protein and vegetables to see if I can kick these cravings.

How about you? Have you discovered any foods that weren’t trigger foods for you but suddenly became one?

Picture: Betherann

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