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Convenience Foods that Should Vanish Forever

I love convenience as much as the next girl.  I am guilty of stopping by a fast food restaurant for dinner on the occasional busy evening.  I generally have some type of prepackaged foods in my freezer or cabinet in case of emergency.  People are busy, I get it.  I’m busy, too.  I’m a wife, a mom and full-time employee.  My daughter has been ill recently, which has disrupted my routine and my “free time” even further.  So, yes, I tend to appreciate things that make my life easier.

However, I think we could all benefit from an occasional re-evaluation of the value of convenience.  I am currently harboring a secret wish that all fast food restaurants would vanish from the earth.  Not so secret, now.  Don’t hold it against me.  I like bacon cheeseburgers, but I also think my life would be better if they weren’t so darn easy to get.  So, I started thinking about things that I can do the hard way, and improve the quality, save money and not suck up every minute of spare time.

Lunch

photo via ifood.tv. If this were my burger, it would not be around long enough to pose for photos. Hence the concern…

I know that a lot of people buy lunch every day.  Maybe even most people do this, I don’t know.  I haven’t done a sociological study on it, but most of the people I work with purchase lunch from some place every day.  First, this adds up to a huge amount of money, but maybe you’ve got money to burn.  I don’t know, but I’m cheap.  If I can save a few bucks, I’m going to.  Second, any convenience food you’re grabbing during your lunch break isn’t likely to be healthy and nutritious.  Third, sometimes you get really, really busy at work and can’t get away.  Then you’re just a hungry grump and even my bowl of lettuce and cottage cheese that I brought from home starts to look good.  No one in my household buys lunch.  The kids pack lunch for school because I won’t have them eating the garbage their schools serve.  I pack lunch because I don’t want to weigh five hundred pounds, and believe me when I say that I would if I ate a cheeseburger every day.  Hubs skips lunch cause he’s a weirdo like that.  Anyway, it’s pretty easy to take a few minutes before our weekly grocery trip to plan for lunches and it’s worth the time.

Broth

I’m not saying this is bad. I’m just saying you can do better. via swansonbroth.com

I use a fair amount of broth in my cooking, especially now that chilly fall temperatures are upon us and I crave soups and stews.  I am guilty of buying packaged broth, but I feel like an idiot every time I do it.  There’s no good reason to do it.  If you can spare a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon, you can stock your freezer with delicious, nutritious broth that makes that packaged stuff look (and taste!) like water.  Yesterday, I made a giant pot of gumbo, for which I needed huge quantities of chicken broth.  I found a whole cut-up chicken on sale for $3.  THREE DOLLARS.  I usually lean toward chicken breasts, just because that’s my preference, but if you’re making broth, you need that chicken back.  Gross, yes, but it is what it is.  So I took my $3 package of chicken, leftover carrots that were languishing in the fridge, half an onion and a healthy handful of herbs and spices and made a gorgeous broth.  Every single time I do this, I swear that I will never stoop to packaged broth again, but it will happen.  I’d be a whole lot better off if I didn’t have a choice.

Chicken Salad

No, no, no, no, no!
via eatdrinkbetter.com (one hopes it’s an example of what not to do.)

As I mentioned, my kids pack their lunches for school each day.  One child is happy with a ham sandwich every day.  The other child is a weirdo freak who won’t eat an ordinary sandwich.  However, he does love chicken salad.  Now, I have to admit that I have never bought prepared chicken salad on a regular basis because I’m picky.  Some of it has celery, to which I’m allergic (I know it’s weird, whatever).  Some other brands use sweet relish, which is intolerable to me.  Even some others add fruit and nuts.  Gasp!  This is supposed to be chicken salad, not waldorf salad!  Anyway, I am frequently called upon to provide chicken salad.  It’s easy to get annoyed and overwhelmed with a constant need to provide something more than a freaking ham sandwich, but I’m up to the challenge.   While your broth is simmering on that Sunday afternoon, roast a couple of chicken breasts, chop them up and toss with some mayo and (DILL) pickle relish.  Done.  See, that wasn’t so hard!  I feel that I must mention that you could, in theory, use the chicken from the broth to make the chicken salad, but I find that roasted chicken, particularly when heavily seasoned, makes a much more flavorful chicken salad.  But even your broth chicken is probably going to taste better than a tub of mushy celery-laden salad from the local supermarket, so go for it.

Instant Mashed Potatoes

Natural? Really?
via facebook.com

Stop looking at me like that!  Yes, I use them sometimes, but I know I shouldn’t.  First, I have a peculiar problem with potatoes.  As far as I’m concerned, they’re not a vegetable and I don’t consider them to have any nutritional value.  I know that’s not true, but I can’t help it.  I have a potato prejudice.  On those occasions when we do have potatoes, they’re usually not mashed, because, by God, no one should ever eat that much butter.  But, of course, sometimes you need some good ol’ mashers.  And they are a royal pain in the ass.  There’s some compound in potato peels that makes my hands all red and itchy when I peel them.  Then I have to cut them all precisely the same size so they cook evenly.  Then I have to drag out the mixer.  Then I have to control myself so I don’t eat a triple-portion.  See, mashed potatoes are nothing but trouble.  Who can resist a package that promises mashed potatoes in five minutes and only requires a little boiling water?  I’m thinking, though, that maybe mashed potatoes should be hard.  Maybe that would make us rethink all that buttery, creamy goodness.  Maybe our arteries would thank us.  Be gone with you, Idaho Spuds!

Rice Krispies Treats

Yes, I took the picture, but I DID NOT purchase the two-pound treat.

I understand the convenience of single-serving packages, but this just takes the cake.  Rice Krispies treats take approximately 32 seconds to make from scratch.  Melt some butter and marshmallows, add cereal and stir.  This is not rocket science, in fact, it’s one of the first recipes that your tiny little children can make with you.  By buying the prepackaged treats, we’re just missing out on the best part.  I mean, let’s be honest.  They’re not that tasty, anyway.  Is there any one of us who doesn’t have fond childhood memories of the snap, crackle, pop when you dump the cereal into a pot of buttery, gooey mess?  A box of treats doesn’t even compare.  This is not progress.

I am often guilty of doing things the hard way for no good reason, but sometimes there’s a lot of value in doing things the old-fashioned way.  After all, it’s about the journey, not the destination, right?  Why not spend a little of the journey covered in sticky marshmallows?

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