I cheat -- not on men, income tax or tests, but on recipes. I cheat on salt, mostly; on expenses (erratically) and on sour cream (reluctantly). I have also tricked myself into fewer oils, meats and sugars.

I have to do all these things with one eye closed, or I wouldn't do them at all: I am not only notoriously unthrifty, but self-indulgent, too. (Somebody once called me a food fascist, but I'm really an anarchist. I think everybody should eat well.) Luckily, I'm lazy, and pragmatic.

For example, I never salt the water for pasta or rice. Most pasta will be sauced, anyway; and with fresh cheese, even the plainest alfredo will be definitive. Similarly, in my kitchen, rice is apt to be the bottom half of something--curry, gumbo, stroganoff, stir-fry, whatever--and will better set off the entre'e by its simplicity. As a solo side dish, I prefer Japanese "sweet" rice or a pseudo-risotto for which I simmer the rice in onion juice and vermouth, making added salt redundant.

To avoid canned broths and bouillons (generally high-sodium), I freezer-bag most vegetable trimmings, divided into onions (peeled-off outer layers and sprouted cores, scallion and leek tops) and others (broccoli peelings, the outer leaves and stems of brussels sprouts, cabbage cores, squash ends, carrot and cuke scrapings, wilted greens, etc.). I also freeze not-quite-empty cans of tomato paste and the juice from drained tomatoes, baby corn ears, lotus roots, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, pearl onions and so on. The onions not only make easy risotto stock but are convenient to flavor poaching liquids. These vegetable stocks are really good, or I wouldn't bother.

As a general rule, I think most recipes call for twice the salt and half of the herbs that they should. (This is especially egregious in slow-simmering sauces, which will thicken and strengthen; and in spicy-hot dishes, chilies and curries and the like.)

I never use commercial "cooking wines"; I do habitually use vermouth, which has salt and herbs, but I don't use additional salt. I home-make teriyaki and kabayaki sauces, using light soys.

Most often I buy nuts raw (cashews, almonds, pignolis); sometimes I settle for dry-roasted but unsalted nuts. I have also decided that I firmly prefer unsugared Grape-Nuts, fruit plain or maybe soaked in liquor (I eat grapefruit by hand, in sections), french toast with cinnamon instead of syrup.

Some foods are just harder to get away with than others (so why bother?). Avoiding fried anything, for instance, cuts down the oils. I hate gravies, so that eliminates most flour. I don't buy bread, so that limits the butter (it would sweep my shelves clean of jams, except my great-aunt keeps sending me more).

As a child I ate red meat and only red meat (I was a no-veggies type). Then I started a period of working late, couldn't keep meat in the refrigerator and went without for a couple of months. By the time I had a steak again, I rediscovered what a sheer weight it is in the stomach. In any case, who can afford first-class beef anymore? Pork tends to be unsettling, too (I think my father's Jewish ancestors are getting to me). Seafood is lighter on the stomach (and the scale), and a lot more versatile; ditto fowl. Veal is good, but frankly I'm not overwhelmed by what's available locally.

None of this is revolutionary, but it's easy. And it helps a little. Considering the way most of us eat, every little bit helps.