Stressed about your Budget & Diet? Eliminate this Common Ingredient to Cut Cost and Calories

What ingredient change can save you money, cut calories, reduce fat and saturated fat?  Sounds like a tall order, doesn’t it? Surprising but easy. We will use Comforting Chili – Sweet with Some Heat recipe in this example on the website.

Here’s the simple hack that is life changing. Sauté your vegetables with water instead of oil. Yes, there I said it out loud. On Instagram I have been asked this question, so I thought it would be worth discussing in detail rather than only mentioning it in recipe techniques.

How is that even possible, I was asked? Every recipe calls for generous amounts of oil to sauté vegetables, such as onions and garlic. Isn’t that impossible? No, it isn’t. And by the way, my first reaction when I heard about this technique was disbelief too.

Lower Calories and Lower Fat.

Before I get to the how to, I want to share the why you might care. I will use avocado oil in my example, since it is an oil that could be used for traditional high temperature frying. By eliminating just 2 tablespoons oil from a recipe, you can drop 248 calories, 28 grams of fat (43% of the daily recommended amount) and 3.2 grams of saturated fat (16% of the daily recommended amount).


Wow that is a pretty big difference. And this is just one meal and one dish. Still not convinced, let’s use the Chili recipe, which calls for the sauteed onions. Here are the nutrition details (with 10 servings) when shown using water instead of oil to sauté:


Nutrition (Per Serving): 7½ oz (215 g)

sauté with water | sauté with oil


184 | 209


4.1 g | 6.9 g

Saturated Fat

1.9 g | 2.2 g


0 mg


29 g


9.6 g


9.3 g


8.7 g


150 mg


The calories are more than 10% lower, but where we really see the difference is the fat which is about 40% less and the big one is saturated fat which is about 15% lower. Imagine the impact of this one simple change if you did this every day. The rewards might show up in your waistline and it definitely helps on reducing the risk of heart disease. Not bad! I would love these returns on my bank account.


Cost Savings.

Speaking of money, let’s look at the cost aspect to this change. I don’t know if you noticed, but good oil is expensive. But no matter what you pay, not using it at all will save you money! And last time I checked, tap water is free. This one is a slam dunk.


Let’s use a 12-ounce bottle (25 tablespoons) of avocado oil. Choose a lower-priced brand and the cost is about $8.50. This is about 34¢ per tablespoon. Wow if I only eliminate it for one meal a day for a whole year, that is about $250 in annual savings! I don’t know about you, but there are a lot of ways I could think of ways to use some extra cash. Sound interesting? Here it is in chart form.


Eliminate 2 tablespoons of oil

12 ounces of avocado oil = $8.50

Each tablespoon is roughly 34¢

2 tablespoons costs 68¢ (per day)

365 days per year

Equals $248 per year


What you will need to take on this radical change is:

  • 10 minutes
  • Non-stick pan (ceramic)
  • Sharp knife
  • Wood or silicone spatula
  • ½ diced onion
  • 2-4 tablespoons water
  • ½ tsp soy sauce or tamari


Now let’s heat the non-stick pan over medium to medium-high heat. Get it pretty hot so it sizzles when we add a drop of water. Then add one tablespoon of water to start. Add the onions and 1-2 more tablespoons of water and stir constantly. Add the soy sauce and that wonderful aroma will hit you. You will see the onions start to release their own water. Keep stirring. If it looks like it is getting too hot, turn it down a bit. You don’t want to burn them. Cook for about 3-4 minutes until browned. Then use in the chili or as the base for so many other recipes. For recipes that call for additional ingredients sauteed, just start with the onions and add the others as you go. Add small amounts of water as you don’t want to poach the veggies.


Now back to this chili recipe, by using some interesting flavour tricks, you can bring many picky eaters around. This recipe is quite interesting because it uses some spice and herb blends to get some beefy (umami) flavours that many of us love with no beef. It also uses a trick from Mexican cuisine which is unsweetened cocoa. This chocolate flavour brings richness without many calories. Finally, we use mushrooms for some texture and nut butter for some other flavour complexity. I like this recipe on a cool day or any day for that matter.


The other benefit is this one is fast to make, on the spur of the moment, because we are all busy. You could also make it in a slow cooker or instant pot in larger batches. It will keep nicely. A great go to meal that everyone can heat up if they are hungry and you don’t have time to cook all the time.


Never compromise flavour or health. Use this hack to keep the flavour, improve health and cut costs.


Cathy Connally is a co-author with Charley Best of Flavour with Benefits: France released in April 7, 2021, the first book in a series about a romantic road trip, inspired foods and stories of audacious women. The photography of the food and the countryside will take your breath away. Available now on Amazon in hardcover and eBook editions, consistently ranking #1 New Release in Gourmet Cooking, Solo Travel and European Travel Photography in April. For more information, see or Instagram @flavourwithbenefits

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