CK Links--Friday May 27, 2016

Links!

Don't forget: The easiest way to support Casual Kitchen is to buy your items at Amazon using the various links here. Just click over to Amazon, and EVERY purchase you make during that visit pays a modest affiliate commission to support my work here. Best of all, this comes at zero extra cost to you. As always, I welcome your thoughts.

PS: Follow me on Twitter!

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Articles:
The ultimate guide to oven temperatures. (Stonesoup)

We throw out tons of perfectly good food just because of arbitrary "sell by" dates. Congress hopes to clear this up. (Munchies)

Related: The tradeoff of "sell by" dates and food waste. (Casual Kitchen)

Surfing icon Laird Hamilton shares his ten point plan to live forever. (LA Times)

"What is an expert?" Long, very interesting. (Harvard Business Review)

Wide ranging, fascinating transcript of the Freakonomics Blog's podcast with Tim Ferriss, a conversation that starts off with "I'd seen your face, and I knew that you were the '4-hour-blank' guy, and I assumed that you were a total charlatan." (Freakonomics)

In small town America, the internet really has changed everything. Long but worth it. (Backchannel)

Finally... a few intriguing recipes to finish off the week:
Wine Salt (Well Preserved)

Cuban Black Bean Soup (The Kitchn)

Honey Lime Chicken Enchiladas (Layers of Happiness)


Got an interesting article or recipe to share? Want some extra traffic? Send me an email!


How can I support Casual Kitchen?
Easy. Do all your shopping at Amazon.com via the links on this site! You can also link to me or subscribe to my RSS feed. Finally, consider sharing this article, or any other article you particularly enjoyed here, to Facebook, Twitter (follow me @danielckoontz!) or to bookmarking sites like reddit, digg or stumbleupon. I'm deeply grateful to my readers for their ongoing support.

Where Can I Find Low-Cost Sources of Protein and Fat?

As we continue to tilt our diets away from carbs and more towards protein- and fat-based calories, we're finding a problem: if you're not careful, a low-carb diet can cost a lot more money.

It's not all bad news. Remember the primary advantage of proteins and fats over carbs: they offer far more satiety. All else equal, you get a much longer-acting feeling of fullness from a calorie of protein or fat than you get out of a calorie of carbs.

This distinction is obvious to anyone who's compared the experience of eating a big bowl of cereal for breakfast versus eating, say, two eggs fried in olive oil. The calorie content of these two breakfasts is about the same, but the eggs have a far greater satiety factor. You'll feel full for hours on a couple of eggs, while a bowl of cereal puts you on a hunger rollercoaster... making you ravenous long before lunchtime.

In other words, protein- and fat-based meals offer us a win-win: we feel fuller, and thus eat less. This is one of the primary reasons people find it easier to lose weight when they cut back on carbs.

Another thing to think about: If it takes more carbs to get the same sensation of fullness, then this implies that a diet rich in carbs is very likely a diet with many more calories than you need. Put simply, if you eat a lot of carbs, it's a lot easier to eat more... and therefore spend more. So, the fact that you get a lot more satiety out of proteins and fats than carbs helps alleviate the cost issue.

Okay, let's get to the list. Here are the primary sources of the most cost-effective proteins and fats that we rely on here at Casual Kitchen:

Eggs: my primary staple food for a high-satiety, long lasting breakfast. But don't think of eggs just as a breakfast food! You can enjoy them in lunch/dinner recipes too, like Shaksouka or a delicious Frittata.

Meats:
* Ground meats, particularly higher-fat ground meats (80/20 beef is superior, both in cost and flavor, to 90/10 beef, for example)
* Whole chicken (see our Hilariously Easy Whole Chicken Soup)
* Chicken, bulk dark meat (drumsticks, thighs, etc.)
* Pork joints: pork shoulder/pork butt (perfect for a delicious and easy Pernil)
* Sausage (avoid sausages flavored with a lot of sugar or HFCS for obvious reasons)

A useful savings heuristic with meats: avoid the leanest meat cuts like the priciest cuts of beef for example. Contrary to dietary advice from decades ago, lean meats aren't "better" for you, and in my opinion they don't taste better either. They sure do cost a lot more though! A textbook example here is the price differential between so-called "healthier" 90/10 ground beef and 80/20 ground beef, or the price differential between a filet mignon cut and, say, a juicier, more delicious T-bone steak cut.

One more quick thought on meats: occasionally there will be "supply shocks" to specific meats. For example, over the past few years there has been enormous excess supply of lobster worldwide, driving prices down to the point where, over the past year or two, even casual-themed chain restaurants are rolling out things like lobster ravioli and other lobster dishes. I'm not suggesting lobster as a protein source per se here (it's delicious but not nearly as cost-effective as other protein sources), I merely bring it up as an example of how prices can fluctuate widely for various meats--offering savings opportunities for the open-minded consumer.

Legumes:
* lentils
* red lentils
* mung beans
* canned and dried (store-brand) beans

It should be no surprise to see Casual Kitchen singing the praises of legumes! We love to live on lentils. One tremendous savings hint: seek out ethnic grocery stores in your community for low-cost bulk legumes. In a local Indian grocery store near us, for example, we've found astonishingly good prices on bulk red lentils and bulk mung beans. Sadly, in the standard American supermarket, foods like mung beans or even red lentils are thought of as "aspirational"... and priced accordingly. In an Indian grocery store, they're just "food"... and priced far more reasonably.

Brown rice: Yes, brown rice costs more than white rice, but it also has a better ratio of carbs/protein/fat per unit of food. You can lower your costs here by buying in bulk, buying the store brand, or, again, seeking out deals at ethnic grocery stores in your community.

Nuts:
* Peanuts
* Peanut butter (watch out for and avoid HFCS- or sugar-laden peanut butters. Blech!)

This is a tough category, simply because many types of nuts are crazy expensive and/or sold as aspirational products. Peanuts, however, are seen by the grocery industry as a low-end commodity food and thus priced accordingly. We buy only store-brand unsalted peanuts and store-brand unsweetened peanut butter.

Canned tuna in oil: remember to field-test the store brand! Remember: it's likely from the same third party food producer as the branded tuna.

Basic oils: on many mornings, I consume 1-2 teaspoons of olive or canola oil in addition to 2-3 eggs (also fried in oil). This quick, satiety-boosting dietary tweak helps me stay feeling full from early in the morning until well past noon.

* Olive oil
* Canola oil

You can safely skip the idea of buying any of today's various trendy oils: coconut, avocado, pumpkin seed oil, etc. Like red lentils or many types of nuts, these are aspirational products in the eyes of grocery store retailers, and--no surprise--they're also priced accordingly. Don't buy. Generally, we buy one or two large jugs of commodity olive or canola oil, and only buy when on a significant sale (as in half-off or buy one/get one free). We keep an inventory in our pantry, which allows us to wait until the grocery store meets our price, not the other way around.

Readers, now it's your turn! What low-costs protein and fat-based foods would you add? What did I miss?


Read Next: The Consumer Must Be Protected At All Times

How can I support Casual Kitchen?
Easy. Do all your shopping at Amazon.com via the links on this site! You can also link to me or subscribe to my RSS feed. Finally, consider sharing this article, or any other article you particularly enjoyed here, to Facebook, Twitter (follow me @danielckoontz!) or to bookmarking sites like reddit, digg or stumbleupon. I'm deeply grateful to my readers for their ongoing support.

CK Links--Friday May 20, 2016

Links!

Don't forget: The easiest way to support Casual Kitchen is to buy your items at Amazon using the various links here. Just click over to Amazon, and EVERY purchase you make during that visit pays a modest affiliate commission to support my work here. Best of all, this comes at zero extra cost to you. As always, I welcome your thoughts.

PS: Follow me on Twitter!

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Useful timesaving cooking tips from real life line cooks. (Thrillist)

A study linking fat babies to Diet Coke reveals everything that's wrong with dietary and epidemiological studies today. (Jayson Lusk)

Bonus: Why a "no added hormones" label on pork or chicken is truthful ...but misleading in a surprising way. (Jayson Lusk)

On the dominance of Allrecipes, and why the gap between the food we cook and the food we talk about has never been larger. (Slate)

The media always gets this wrong about maintaining weight loss. (Greatist)

How breakfast became a thing. (Priceonomics)

If you're a kid wanting to open up a little lemonade stand in Austin, TX… here's your long list of regulations, requirements and fees. Kind of depressing. (Marginal Revolutions)

Fascinating post on "aphantasia"--the inability to form visual images in the mind. (Blake Ross)

Forget Photoshop. It's camera angles that make you look thin (or fat) in photos. Really interesting. (Bustle)

Social networking algorithms are boosting conspiracy theories... and distorting reality. (FastCoexist)

"Financial impotence has many of the characteristics of sexual impotence, not least of which is the desperate need to mask it." (Atlantic)

Mr. Money Mustache does a good job exposing some of the fallacies and biases in the above Atlantic article. There are a lot of 'em. (Mr. Money Mustache)


Got an interesting article or recipe to share? Want some extra traffic at your blog? Send me an email!


How can I support Casual Kitchen?
Easy. Do all your shopping at Amazon.com via the links on this site! You can also link to me or subscribe to my RSS feed. Finally, consider sharing this article, or any other article you particularly enjoyed here, to Facebook, Twitter (follow me @danielckoontz!) or to bookmarking sites like reddit, digg or stumbleupon. I'm deeply grateful to my readers for their ongoing support.

Pabst and MillerCoors (Accidentally) Reveal an Open Secret in the Consumer Products Industry

Readers, a rather embarrassing recent lawsuit between Pabst and MillerCoors just gave us yet another reason to deeply distrust brands and branding. I've copied the article's full text at the bottom of this post, but these are the relevant facts:

1) Pabst Brewing Company filed a breach of contract lawsuit against MillerCoors, accusing it of deliberately violating a long-term production agreement in an attempt to sabotage Pabst as a competitor.

2) Pabst claims it was told that MillerCoors no longer had the available capacity to extend the arrangement past 2020, and would only do so if Pabst paid three times the current rate.

3) MillerCoors first began brewing for Pabst in 1999, but MillerCoors has announced the planned closure of its Eden, NC facility where most of its Pabst production took place.

Now, at first this lawsuit might just look like a couple of gigantic beer companies whining at each other (uh, which it is). However, if you look at these facts through a lens of consumer empowerment, this lawsuit tells us something much bigger. It tells us about an increasingly open secret in the consumer products industry: that many if not most companies simply do not make--and no longer intend to make--the foods, beverages or products they sell.

In fact, this practice is so widespread that, incredibly, companies will even hire direct competitors to make product for them. Just like Pabst hired MillerCoors.

These companies don't want you know this. And to be honest, they can't afford to have you know it. Why? Because if anybody can make their product, their brands cannot possibly have any value.

Let's go further. Recently, you (accidentally) found out Bumblebee Tuna is produced by a third-party food manufacturer. This manufacturer also produces Chicken of the Sea brand tuna, and it also produces nearly identical store-brand canned tuna costing some 30-40% less. When you found all this out, did you value Bumblebee and Chicken of the Sea brands more? Or less?

When you found out about Sara Lee's decision to sell off all of its bakeries to become a "virtual foodmaker," contracting out the manufacture of all of its cakes and pastries, did it make you excited to pay up for Sara Lee labeled foods? Or, instead, once you learned that Sara Lee does little more than slap stickers on somebody else’s cakes, did it make you question the entire value of the brand?

The inadvertent disclosure that Pabst brews little if any of its own beer is yet another textbook example of how consumers can save a ton of money by being just a little more knowledgeable--and cynical--about how most branded products are made. Remember also the unfortunate revelation that Pabst is the same beer company that sells the same beer to three totally different market segments at drastically different prices.

Readers, if you knew that a brand you habitually buy is actually made by some unnamed third-party food manufacturer (or beer brewer), why would you pay extra for that brand? And if you knew that the same third-party food manufacturer was also making the less expensive but equivalent unbranded products sitting right next to your favorite brand, why in the world would you pay extra for that brand?

One final point. If you're running a consumer products company and you decide to enhance your profits by going "asset-lite" and hiring other companies to make your products for you, you're taking on two immense strategic risks. First, the company you contract out to can always change its mind--or drastically raise prices, just as MillerCoors did to Pabst. And if you don't have your own beer brewing assets and capacity, you're outta luck. Suddenly, you can't even make your own product.

But it gets worse. Brands that contract out most or all of their production are engaging in a second, and far more dangerous, strategic risk: the risk that they'll utterly destroy the perceived value of their brands in the eyes of consumers.

The strategy of taking a well-known product brand and outsourcing it to third-party manufacturers is, essentially, an arbitrage play. These companies capture the excess price you habitually pay for their brand, while they save on operating expenses and capital expenditures by using somebody else's factory assets rather than their own. While a shareholder in a consumer products company might love this idea, a savvy, empowered consumer will flatly refuse to pay up for a brand arbitraged at her expense. She'll obtain far more value choosing an equivalent and more appropriately-priced generic or store brand. Heck, they all likely come from the same factory anyway.

Brands were supposed to be an intangible representation of quality. Now, increasingly, they just represent a sticker and a pointlessly high price.

Once you learn what consumer products companies don't want you to know--once you see that the emperor has no clothes, and that anybody, anywhere (even a direct competitor!) might be manufacturing a given branded product, that brand loses all value. There's nothing special about it at all.


Read Next: Consumers! Pay For Your Own Brainwashing (Or Don't)


Notes:
1) A big hat-tip to Stuart at Addicted to Canning for pointing me to the news story about Pabst and MillerCoors.

2) The Pabst MillerCoors article, full text:

Pabst Sues MillerCoors Over Eden Plant Closure
Pabst Brewing Company last week filed a breach of contract lawsuit against MillerCoors, accusing the company of deliberately violating a long-term production agreement in an attempt to sabotage Pabst as a competitor.

According the official lawsuit, obtained by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the two companies began negotiating a five year extension of MillerCoors’ production contract to brew Pabst beers past 2020 early last year. Although MillerCoors had initially assured Pabst that it had the production capacity to continue the arrangement, the company abruptly reversed its position and announced the planned closure of its Eden, N.C. facility — where most of its Pabst production took place.

Pabst claims it was told that MillerCoors no longer had the available capacity to extend the arrangement past 2020, and would only do so if Pabst paid three times the current rate — effectively killing any opportunity for negotiations to continue.

Pabst lawsuit accuses MillerCoors of “attempting to frustrate [its] contract rights,” and claims that losing the ability to extend the contract will cost the company upwards of $400 million in damages.

A spokesman for MillerCoors told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel the company had done nothing wrong and was “highly confident” that the court would rule in its favor.

In total, Pabst filed seven claims against MillerCoors, including breach of good faith and fair dealing, strict liability for misrepresentation, fraud and negligence.

MillerCoors first began brewing for Pabst in 1999. The two companies set terms for their current production agreement in 2007.


How can I support Casual Kitchen?
Easy. Do all your shopping at Amazon.com via the links on this site! You can also link to me or subscribe to my RSS feed. Finally, consider sharing this article, or any other article you particularly enjoyed here, to Facebook, Twitter (follow me @danielckoontz!) or to bookmarking sites like reddit, digg or stumbleupon. I'm deeply grateful to my readers for their ongoing support.

CK Links--Friday May 13, 2016

Links!

Don't forget: The easiest way to support Casual Kitchen is to buy your items at Amazon using the various links here. Just click over to Amazon, and EVERY purchase you make during that visit pays a modest affiliate commission to support my work here. Best of all, this comes at zero extra cost to you. As always, I welcome your thoughts.

PS: Follow me on Twitter!

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Food Links:
Eleven interesting Thai-style recipes! (Kalyn's Kitchen)

How to buy salmon. (Leite's Culinaria)

Understanding--and minimizing--the risks of eating raw sushi at home. (Beyond Salmon)

Warren Buffett likes Coca-Cola, drinks quite a lot of it, and considers it a marvelous product. Marion Nestle explains to us how this was a "gaffe." (Food Politics)

It's time to reconsider the egg, and stop letting others decide what we eat. (Ruhlman)

Fasting diets gain acceptance. (NY Times)

Related: A primer on intermittent fasting. (Casual Kitchen)

General Links:
"Is science bullshit? No, but there’s a lot of bullshit out there masquerading as science." Amusing and highly useful short video. (Last Week Tonight)

"Even in my most Orwellian paranoia I never dreamed that content holders, like Apple, would also reach into your computer and take away what you already owned." (Vellum)

A few simple tips (and sites) to keep a watchlist for e-books that you'd like to buy but are priced too high. (The Passive Voice)


Got an interesting article or recipe to share? Want some extra traffic at your blog? Send me an email!


How can I support Casual Kitchen?
Easy. Do all your shopping at Amazon.com via the links on this site! You can also link to me or subscribe to my RSS feed. Finally, consider sharing this article, or any other article you particularly enjoyed here, to Facebook, Twitter (follow me @danielckoontz!) or to bookmarking sites like reddit, digg or stumbleupon. I'm deeply grateful to my readers for their ongoing support.