The Inconvenient Truth about Convenience Foods — Supermarket Savvy
Nearly every night, families reach for ready-to-cook convenience foods, rationalizing that the higher costs is worth the time saved. But just how much time is that, and at what cost? I wondered, especially after a recent article mentioned that convenience foods save just a smidgen of our time.
I’ve always stocked my freezer with things like chicken nuggets and veggie burgers, figuring that on busy school nights, instant preparation will provide some relief. Except … I still seem to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. The article really made me curious, so I dug around and uncovered a study done in 2007 by the UCLA Center on Everyday Lives of Families.
Researchers observed the mealtime habits of 32 working families and learned that convenience foods only shaved a mere ten minutes off food preparation time. Next, I looked at how much more my convenience foods cost. Take my chicken nuggets: a 12-oz. package is $3.99, or 33 cents per ounce. I can get boneless chicken breast on sale for 1.99 a pound, or 12 cents per ounce. So I am paying 21 cents more per ounce, or $3.36 more per pound, to save myself … ten minutes. Another angle: if I spent ten minutes breading chicken pieces myself, it would cost about half as much — even including the small amount of flour, egg and breadcrumbs I’d need.
So, it seems that convenience foods only provide the illusion of saved time. I think the savviest solution is to prepare homemade convenience foods like chicken fingers each weekend for weekday use, to truly save time and money.
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