The grocery stores are filled with all types of convenience foods meant to save you time but they certainly don't save you money! My gosh, I was thumbing through the grocery store flyers and noticed a ready made, uncooked 1 kg tray of home style meatloaf for $7.99. Have we really become so pressed for time that the 5 minutes it takes to combine the ingredients for meatloaf can't be spared? Honestly, that same week extra lean ground beef was on for $3.28 per kg. The extra ingredients added to meat loaf certainly would not come to $4.71 and it is very doubtful the pre-made uncooked meatloaf would have been made with extra lean ground beef. So the price of convenience essentially cost $4.71 for someone to mix up meatloaf to be taken home and cooked. For close to the same price you could by 2 kg of lean ground beef, make two meatloafs (one for that night, one for the freezer) and still saved money plus you would have a ready meal in the freezer. I find it unbelievable that some folks will pay this price for convenience and yet if the grocery stores are any indication, they do! This week's Frugal Kitchens 101 discusses the price of convenience.
There are really two types of convenience foods. The first category is the frugal take-out, pre-made from the deli or freezer section and the other really isn't frugal at all. Shopping smart and stretching your food dollar means not paying for someone to do what you can do yourself. Here are a few types of convenience foods that really are not frugal:
- pre-made fresh foods - These include: vegetable trays, salads, meat mixtures (eg. meatloaf), fruit and dip trays, and that type of thing. These really are not a frugal choice but in all cases you will pay a higher price for them than if you made them yourself. You really are paying for someone to do the work for you. In addition to paying extra you are exposing yourself to a higher risk for contamination that can cause food borne illness.
- pre-made cooked foods - In some cases deli foods like rotisserie chicken is less expensive than buying a whole chicken and cooking it yourself. This does not happen very often and in fact the deli rotisserie chicken has been one exception to the rule that homemade is cheaper.
- pre-made freezer doughs and pastry crusts - In most cases homemade is cheaper. The two exceptions are phyllo dough and puff pastry. However, a homemade short version of puff pastry is less expensive to make than store bought and just as good. You can easily make a large batch of bread, pastry or cookie dough then freeze it for later use at a fraction of the cost of store bought.
- artisan breads - A loaf of bakery artisan bread can go as high as $6 per loaf. These types of breads with a little practice can easily be made at home for under a $1 per loaf.