Convenience foods save money

HappyladiNovember 29, 2005

Yes, convenience foods cost more then making a meal from scratch. However, I think a major money waster for lots of families is eating out often. It might cost me $10.00 for a meal that I fix with convenience foods but if that saves me from going out to eat I think I am actually saving money!

I enjoy eating out sometimes, but it is more fun and special when it isn't as often.

If people are having problems making ends meet or saving money they need to look at how often they eat out.

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steve_o

Very true. Picking up a roasted chicken at the grocery store is relatively easy; pair it up with some frozen vegetables (or steam fresh ones) and you have a few healthful meals' worth for about what it would cost to get "Curbside to Go" or eat at a typical restaurant. Doesn't take but a few minutes to get on the table, either.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2005 at 10:14AM
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jannie

A store near me sells rotisserie chickens for $8.50. I went in early one morning (like 7 am) and found they had last-nights leftover chickens for $4 each. Tasted just as good.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2005 at 10:31AM
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cynic

Absolutely true, especially for singles and couples. For instance I buy the bag salads with all the mixed veggies in it. First of all, I save the prep time of all the veggies to get a comparable assortment. After working or especially when not feeling well, the time savings is a consideration. Next, it's a size a single or couple can handle. If you get a couple different kinds of lettuce, bunch of carrots and the other stuff, there'll be so much that some will go to waste. Granted it's not the best, but when you look at the whole picture, it's still frugal.

Obviously it'd be better if everyone had a garden, but again there's a time consideration and for those of us with different physical limitations these days, there's nothing wrong with convenience foods.

I agree that the deli chicken can be a very good deal. Around here, the 8 pc fried chicken is often on sale for $3.99 to $4.99. And a couple of stores mark down it down to 1/2 price at the end of the shift, usually around 8pm to 9pm. My Dad used to pick up a couple of the 8 pc packs and keep in the frig to snack on since he hated cooking. He'd sometimes boil or bake a potato (wouldn't use a microwave), make some toast and sometimes have a veg with it, but it's more convenient to have it handy. Plus it kept him from driving so much too which was a side benefit for everyone!

Come to think of it, a friend was telling me why he always buys the single slice cheeses. That way, his kids take one slice and are happy. If they try to cut a slice, it's usually a block, doesn't get eaten and is thrown away. So for the portion control and with kids involved, he's actually saving money and I can see how that happens.

I see the same thing when I buy chips. I'll often buy the single package packs. That way they won't go stale, will last a long time and encourages a bit of portion control too but still gives a few when I want a salty treat. A big bag may be cheaper per ounce, but not cheaper in the net consumption costs.

And of course throwing together a tater tot hotdish is far better than a drive thru in my book! It all comes under the term "frugal". If you use the convenience items and not waste any, you're being frugal.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2005 at 5:56PM
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shauna1970

I definitely use convenience foods. Top on my list is precut baby carrots and prebagged salads. Yes, they cost more than doing it myself, but then my family eats more fresh vegetables, and they don't rot in the fridge waiting for me to prepare them (the vegetables I mean!). I also like to use canned beans and tomatoes instead of preparing my own; if I have those in the pantry I can do anything.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2005 at 8:37PM
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joyfulguy

If you're single, or just one of two oldsters who don't do a lot of work so don't eat a lot and are worried about the last half of the lettuce, etc. going bad ...

... how about inviting another single/couple to come share your meal before that last bit goes into the compost?

Next week, when their lettuce is about to go bad ...

... they can invite you over.

Actually, if you're single, just think how much more intersting it would be not to be limited to talking to yourself!

No need to avoid doing it for fear that you'd have to get all fancied up, first: just go as you are.

And some interesting friendships might ensue.

Actually, my neighbour and I, living on farms so some distance from town, often buy more than we need and split.

That works.

ole joyful

P.S. I remember my farmer aunt about 60 years ago complaining to their hired man that he was putting too much sugar into his coffee when he put in two spoonsful.

Suggested that it would be much simpler in washing dishes (by hand, of course) if he stirred it up to avoid leaving residue in the bottom of the cup.

He said that if he did that, it would make the coffee too sweet.

My aunt suggested that there might be a simple and obvious solution to that problem.

o j

    Bookmark   December 1, 2005 at 1:57PM
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quiltglo

If the comparison is only against eating out, then, OK it saves money. Eating out saves money over having a personal chef. Having a personal chef saves money over...

Going back to the original post, if people are having problems making ends meet, then getting in the habit of convenience foods is skewed thinking for saving money.

It saves time and may eliminate some waste (which doesn't have to happen with better planning), but saving money?

Gloria

    Bookmark   December 1, 2005 at 5:04PM
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Happyladi

Well, very few people have personal chefs, I have never meet one! Many many people that have trouble with making ends meet eat out often. I know lots of people that moan about bills and how they never have any money....but they eat out quite often!

Most of the time they eat out because they are tired and just don't want to fix a meal, it seems too much work. If they would have convenience foods they enjoy on hand they would be much less likely to go out to eat and more likely to fix a quick meal.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2005 at 12:08AM
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wantoretire_did

Maybe I'm old fashioned, but from the mid 70s to mid 80s, I commuted 45 minutes each way, worked an 8 hour day, and came home and cooked every night, from scratch, for DH and 2 growing boys. There wasn't much in the way of "prepared food" and take out was rare, as we couldn't afford it. What would happen in the event of a financial crises for some of these people who probably don't even know what "from scratch" means?

JMHO, Carol

    Bookmark   December 2, 2005 at 6:45PM
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Happyladi

Wantoretire, if you enjoyed doing that more power to you. I think cooking from scratch is great if you like doing it. I don't like cooking. When I get home from work at a 5:45 I don't want to spend an hour cooking and another half an hour cleaning up.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2005 at 8:53PM
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quiltglo

Carole, I cook from scratch also. I've found with a bit of planning on the weekends, the meals for the week go smoothly.

Happyladi, I don't enjoy cooking, but with a family of six, convenience foods would shoot our food bill way up.

So, the issue here isn't saving money, just that convenience foods can cost less than eating out. (That isn't really true for many places where I live.) My friend is a personal chef and she has plenty of business with families where both adults work long hours. They want the home cooked meal and they don't want to be stopping by the deli or the drive through every night. I can't afford her services, even though she's tried to get me to use her.

Gloria

    Bookmark   December 2, 2005 at 11:08PM
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Happyladi

quiltglo, for you convenience foods would not save you money because you don't eat out often. I am talking about families that go out to eat rather then cook at home.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2005 at 10:48AM
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steve_o

Going back to the original post, if people are having problems making ends meet, then getting in the habit of convenience foods is skewed thinking for saving money.

It saves time and may eliminate some waste (which doesn't have to happen with better planning), but saving money?

Yes, it does save money. Even buying a meal at a supermarket and bringing it home is cheaper than eating the same meal at a restaurant. It also can be more healthful (not always, though; it depends on which foods are selected). Saving serious money does not happen overnight for most people; it's a series of little steps. Suggesting that someone used to bringing home a bucket of take-out chicken start frying their own probably will result in about zero response. But suggest that they stop at the grocery store instead of the chicken joint and that they'll save money besides, and you'll probably get a taker. Once they've taken that step, they'll be more likely to look at other steps, like maybe making some meals at home because it's about as simple as getting it at the supermarket and may be even cheaper.

Besides, almost everything you can buy in the grocery store for "scratch" cooking was considered a convenience food at one time. Even sliced pre-baked bread and canned vegetables are convenience foods, when you consider what our ancestors had to do to enjoy such foods. It's all a matter of degrees.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2005 at 12:56AM
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chisue

Happyladi -- I agree with you. Stats show that many households are eating unhealthful fast food regularly. Not only can they save dollars by putting together a meal using some convenience foods, but...they get to eat healthier meals! Together! At home! With less frazzled parents! This has to help develop good families.

Convenience foods are wonderful when you are feeding only two, too! Add two Pillsbury frozen bisquits to some home made (pressure cooker) beef stew: It's dinner!

I like the post by Steve_O. I'm old enough to remember rationing and the few convenience foods we had then. Hmm..does Jello count? The BisQuick mix? Canned vegetables? (Ick.) Mom's homemade canned pickle relish? (The batch her ashtray fell into was especially tasty.)

I wonder how many sick tummies resulted from the Waste Not School of Cooking.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2005 at 4:38PM
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cynic

As said a big part of the discussion is what people consider as convenience foods. Does someone *really* think a person can't peel, wash and cut up some carrots and salad greens if they weren't available or truly couldn't afford it? I think most everyone could pick that up quite easily. And if you're a savvy shopper, the price difference is not much. If you can't afford 89¢ for a bag of mini carrots, can you afford $1.59 for a bag of regular carrots?

Some consider dried pasta as a convenience food. While others consider it "cooking dinner after a long day of work" to open a jar of spaghetti sauce and a box of spaghetti. Mom's home cooking!

Isn't meatloaf a convenience food. If you didn't raise and butcher the cow yourself, grow dem onyons in your back forty and pick the herbs somewhere in the ditches. Of course grow the wheat and grind it yourself for the flour to make the gravy. And if you ever want to have tuna casserole get out your fishing poles. So what's the definition?

Though I can't stand the blue box mac & "cheese", if you buy it on sale for about 10¢/box, it's cheaper than buying the pasta by itself even if you throw out that sawdust they put in there with it. So, it can save money.

And when you think about it, a cake mix is not a bad value when it's cheap enough. Less than 50¢ and think of what the flour would cost by itself, it's not that outrageous. Especially when flour prices are high. And some think that's a home-made dessert, which it is, but made from convenience foods.

Meal sharing is a great idea and should be done more and more when people are retired and the like. But unfortunately in today's society people work different hours and get hungry at different times so it's just not as practical as I wish it would be. Actually, in those situations it'd be a great idea to share a home. One lawn to mow instead of two, have the investment of the two, each has their own room and area in the event of an inevitable disagreement (perhaps over who should cook tonight!) and they'd have companionship. Actually something like Meals On Wheels is a good thing too.

Course a good sized cat or dog will help with leftovers, provide companionship and more.

Now getting into some once a week or once a month cooking can help both ways and if you utilize some "convenience" foods in it it's another alternative.

And I guess if one really wants to go with syntax, you aren't actually "saving money", rather spending less in that category. If it comes to saving money on groceries or spending less on them, I think I'll choose the latter.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2005 at 9:16PM
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budster

Which ever way you do things.....as long as you are throwing away very little to nothing...then I think you are saving....even if it is only your mind. do things your way and respect others opinions.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2005 at 9:52PM
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asm198 - Zone 6a (MO)

The carrot analogy above got me thinking about how many 'convenience' foods actually ended up saving me time and money in the long run. I used to buy pre cut carrots in a bag, rather than buying the raw bundles of large carrots. The reason for that is that I found that I would be more likely to eat healthy if I didn't have to work quite so hard to do so. I would be much more likely to eat the bag of carrots if I didn't have to wash and peel them first. And it allowed me an easy, fast snack, rather than eating chips or something like that.

I think it saved me money because I know I wouldn't go through an entire bundle of carrots or a head of lettuce or a loaf of bread, so I wouldn't buy those items 'in bulk'. I'd love to buy half a loaf of bread because I don't eat that much bread. Or smaller portions of fruits and vegetables, like the bundled carrots. That would save me money, only having to buy what I know I will use.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2005 at 10:33PM
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cynic

When I've talked to people and they're saying they want to save money, I always suggest they throw away less. Period. Doesn't matter whether it's throwing away money, throwing away food, throwing away items or whatever. Just don't become a packrat.

The prepared veggies are a good example. Cost more up front, get used and results in a savings and a discipline. Understand that when you throw out the leftovers, you're making too much. Could you have frozen that instead of refrigerated it?

I have the same problem with bread. But I've started by freezing half the loaf right away. It'll keep perfectly for a month or so and I'll use it in that time, most likely. I won't save my retirement by doing this, but it reminds me of the old addage Waste not, want not.

When you get used to it, you'll be able to buy less in any form. Just pay attention a bit to what you're doing and what it's costing. Sometimes it's better to throw a little and save a lot. And as suggested, what works for one, doesn't work for another. But sharing the ideas is how we all learn.

Now to step onto my soap box and rant a bit. It just bugs me that the little cans of veggies cost more than a bigger can! I understand supply and demand and that the can costs more than the contents, but geez, it makes it more difficult to avoid waste this way. I do put the top back on the can and refrigerate it and suppose I could freeze half the can for later, but it irritates me that it's such a waste if you have to throw it out. I guess I should do some square foot gardening and grow some veggies, but I'm not sure how that would go. And it can be spendy to start up.... Oh well, end of rant! We now return you to your regular forum already in progress! :)

    Bookmark   December 18, 2005 at 2:32PM
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