Olive Oil & Cooking Oils

I have cholesterol problems, like a huge amount of Americans, so I’m constantly trying to keep updated and make informed decisions about the fats I use in my diets.  I’m also trying, like many of you, to do the right thing by my family and to not get sidetracked by propaganda and labels that are confusing, and stay within budget.

I’ll include butter under a Dairy heading, but I just want to comment that I’m so glad years ago when everyone was switching to Margarine and Oleo that I heard a quote:  “Who do you trust more, cows or chemists?”  I guess for this chapter, it’s “Who do you trust more, Olives or chemists?”  (Please, no offense to all the food chemists out there; I’m just calling it like I feel it.)

Before we go into the different types of oils, I need to make a note on trans-fat, and the notation “0 trans-fat per serving” you so often see on labels now.  If a product has that label, you can be almost 100 percent sure that the product contains trans fat.  The manufacturer is simply making the serving small enough that the amount of trans fat PER SERVING does NOT have to be reported.  That means it is under .49 mg per serving, however, I’ve found that generally the servings are so small that one might use several servings in the normal course of cooking, mixing, serving, baking, oiling, etc., that the “O trans-fat per serving” quote has no meaning.  If you’re wondering what this leads up to?  Margarine DOES contain trans-fat, even though the label says 0 trans-fat.

Regular Cooking Oils – Vegetable, Canolas, Etc, – I use very, very sparingly, and only when I’m making a recipe that I feel can’t be made using another type of oil or butter.  My buy price is around $1.49 for 48 ounces.  I’ll wait for store specials & coupons to coincide and pick it up then, often before the winter Holidays.  Yes, it does go bad, so if you don’t use often, give it the nose test.  These contain Trans-Fat, and I avoid anything I can tell has Canola in it.  If I feel I have to use, I’ll look for “POV” – my friend’s sense of humor – they felt Olive Oil was getting a little special with the EVO designation.

Spray Oils:  I always have on hand; it’s just so easy to use.  I do save my butter wrappers, too, and use them.  I generally get this for free, but I’ll pick up several when they’re available at no cost.  This seems to be on a sale with coupons during the summer (grilling season) and before Christmas and Easter.  By the way, if you think your cooking oil has no trans-fat, just check to see if it has 0 trans-fat and you know it does.  Some do not have any.  If you think you’re saving calories because it says zero calories, check out the serving size.  It has the same amount of calories as the oil it’s made from.  You may save a few calories because you may not coat a pan or item with as much oil.  A serving is generally a 1/2 second spray, but I know it takes multiple seconds to coat a pan.  I like the grapeseed varieties.

Palm Oils:  I avoid just due to the devastation it causes in the tropical countries, even though it’s an oil that a lot of people believe is a ‘good’ oil.

Coconut Oil:  same as Palm

Grapeseed:  I use now and then, mostly in spray form.  It’s costly.

Olive Oil My buy price is 8 cents an ounce

  • This is my primary oil of choice, and rarely will I cook with any other oil.  Olive oil really does have no trans-fat.  I buy Cold Pressed Olive Oil, as Olive Oil can deteriorate at high temperatures and produce it’s own Trans-Fat.
  • I may possibly make an exception on the very rare (couple of times a year) that I might deep-fry something and cost/taste would be compromised by the olive oil, or if I want some particular flavor, say walnut oil or sesame oil.
  • Here I save the really expensive olive oils for the times I wish to use them in a matter that really makes taste important, say dipping bread or a finishing drizzle.  The price alone makes that a more special occasion type of indulgence for us: perhaps when company is coming or we have a special feast for an occasion.
  • At the grocery, all items tend to hit a bottom price once per quarter, and I’ve found that sales on Olive Oil are not always advertised.  This is one of the items I’ll take a peek at nearly every time I shop.
  • I generally buy smaller bottles of any of the available grocery store olive oil brands when they are on sale and there is a coupon available.  I find the coupons sometimes on hangers, sometimes on boxes of pasta, on the coupon sites and on the olive oil’s website.  If I’m pulling a coupon off the web, I’ll usually be able to print it twice – with most coupon printers once the coupon begins to print, hit your back key several times, and you’ll be able to print twice.  Every coupon I’ve found for olive oil in recent years has been for $1.00, so I use them on days when coupons are doubled, meaning that I’ve not only bought at the sale price, I get $2.00 off each bottle.  I will try to buy as many bottles as I can when they are on sale and there are coupons out there, regardless of whether I have olive oil at  home or not.  These bottles will keep for quite a long time unopened and in a dark cupboard.

Here’s an example of a note I made on pricing for Olive Oil in May of 2010, when I made Tyler Florence’s Salmon Hash – I paid the same price several weeks ago, by the way, in September 2011.

“Olive Oil – I hope you picked up lots with a coupon when it was on sale several weeks ago. $3.99 – $2.00 coupon makes it $1.99 for one pint, 9 ounces. You could lower the cost a bit by using another type of oil, but I worry about trans fat, and Tyler did emphasis that the potatoes were wonderful fried in olive oil. I’ll find some other use for the excess after draining the potatoes. One cup is $.60 cents.”

(That works out to 8 cents per ounce.)

  • If I don’t have a coupon, I’ll still buy the best per ounce sale price I can, but will only buy enough to last for a month or two, knowing that every quarter there will be a sale price and generally a coupon, and usually at some point they will coincide.  These will generally be larger bottles – I will usually transfer part of my oil into smaller bottles, seal them up tightly and put them in that dark cupboard.  They last longer that way.
  • The last way I’ll consider buying would be very large containers that I’ll split with a like-minded friends.  I don’t always have one of these friends on hand, interested in both cooking and saving at the same time – oddly enough, many of my friends have no interest in being frugal, so I rarely mention my frugal ways anymore!

Shortening:  Does contain trans-fat, and every now and then I use it in a recipe:  perhaps a pie crust, Snickerdoodles at Christmas and my grandmother’s pumpkin bread, as well as very rarely, tortillas.  If you use, it’s worth buying the more expensive brand name, and with a coupon and on sale during Holidays.  The store or generic brands may cost a bit less, but they’re whipped and cost more per ounce as well as affect the outcome of your recipes.

Saving on Basic Ingredients

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