Convenience Foods

Not so long ago in order to prepare a meal, it had to be prepared almost entirely from scratch, by hand and by you in your very own kitchen. There were no shortcuts to chopping vegetables, spinning salads or even preparing all or part of a meal. But today, we have just about every food related convenience at our fingertips from instant rice to packaged soup to microwave meals and everything in between.

Like most, I am well aware that convenience foods come at a significant markup compared with preparing that item for yourself at home. So for the most part, whilst they can be a great idea for those of us who are time poor (pretty much everyone these days) I tend to avoid them due to the higher cost. Now sometimes I feel pretty plased with myself knowing I prepare most of my meals at home… until today when I actually realised I use convenience food more often than I think- and I pay a premium for it. But you know what? I’m not the only one. Think about it, store bought bread is a convenience, as is microwavable rice, even kidney beans in a can are a convenience because they’ve been pre-cooked. Buying canned red kidney beans is a convenience food and they come at a markup when compared to the dry version that require soaking and cooking. Yet realistically, I also can’t bring myself to bake gluten free bread weekly because many of the supermarkets do such a great job at a relatively low cost.

Now, the reasons these thoughts crossed my mind today was I added hommus to my shopping list (I take this to work and have it wish carrot sticks as a morning snack). But I’ve always felt guilty about buying the store bought version purely because if I were to prepare this myself from scratch at home it would be at a significantly lower cost (and makes a much larger quantity) . However this is not something I’m prepared to do frequently purely because of the amount of time involved in doing this. Sure the hommus itself is fast to make because it’s a case of throwing everything into the food processor. But then the food processor needs to be brought out in the first place and then requires cleaning and that’s what I find to be time consuming. It’s far easier to buy a pre-packaged version from the supermarket that lasts me all week that’s still for a relatively low cost. My point here is, is the monetary cost worth the time saving?

As it is, I will continue to buy store bought bread, pre-cooked beans and…store bought hommus. These items are already inexpensive and the hours involved in preparing these things from scratch myself isn’t worth it because I simply don’t have the time. I will however use these items to produce home made meals instead of eating out or buying pre-prepared soup pouches or microwavable meals. Now don’t get me wrong, I love having some of these sorts of items around ‘just in case’ for those nights where I simply can’t cook and don’t want to fork out (no pun intended) for a takeaway. But in saying this, I don’t eat entirely pre-prepared meals on a frequent basis.

For me, it’s all about the opportunity cost of time vs. money and for the most part I’m happy to shortcut on some things but not others. I’ve decided to stop feeling guilty about my store bought hommus and use the wasted time and energy for better things. Especially now I’ve freed up all that time.

How do you feel about convenience foods?