Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Saving Money in the Kitchen

Time is money, they say.

According to a sample issue of allrecipes (which arrived in my mail this week), you pay more for convenience foods.  Are you astounded by the revelation that pre-packaged salad greens cost more than a head of lettuce, and that an envelope of taco spice mix is pricier than dumping in your own teaspoons of salt, cumin, and chili powder?  What?  You're not surprised by this news flash?  Well, the magazine offers further encouragement to avoid convenience foods:
Going DIY in the kitchen only adds about 10 extra minutes to meal prep, according to the UCLA Center on the Everyday Living of Families.


It might only take me an extra minute or two to add my own spices instead of using a mix.  But cooking from scratch takes more time than 10 extra minutes per meal.  Shredding cheese.  Baking bread.  Making soup stock.  Preparing dry beans.  Rolling out pie crust.  Snapping fresh green beans.  Scrubbing potatoes, boiling them, and then mashing them.  Baking granola.

Now, I'm all for the nutrition boost of real foods.  And I think it's wise to try to avoid much of the crud that hides in pre-packaged foods.  And it's definitely cheaper to do it yourself.

But c'mon, 10 minutes?  If you make a pizza crust from scratch, make the pizza sauce from scratch, cook the sausage, grate the cheese, and then bake the pizza, that's not a mere 10 minutes longer than ripping the plastic off a frozen pizza.

And I'm not even counting whacko things like making your own butter and cheese, raising your own veggies, rolling out your own noodles, etc.

Oh sure, 10 minutes.  Like as if do-it-yourself in the kitchen is a trifle. 


  1. I agree. I am going to try to remember to watch the clock and track how many minutes (hours?) I spend in the kitchen in a day. I bet it's more than I think it is.

  2. Barb Wieting and I used to wonder what we did all day, how come we could never accomplish anything, and why did it seem like we were always in the kitchen?? So once we sat down and started adding up. I figured that, when I had 4-6 kids too-young-to-drive, I was spending an average of 8 hours a day with food. That included weekly shopping; the daily cooking, eating, cleaning up; and the tasks that weren't specific to just one meal (like making bread or granola or broth for the week). EIGHT HOURS. So yeah, if I'd bothered to buy the convenience foods, it would've taken "only" 7:50?? LOL -- I don't think so.

  3. People have very different definitions of scratch cooking. Purchasing pre-made crust and adding a jar of spaghetti sauce and topping with sliced pepperoni and pre-grated cheese is considered by many to be scratch cooking. I have a friend who considers boxed macaroni and cheese a scratch meal.

    Those of us who really cook aren't normal enough to be considered. We always laugh about my daughter's college room mate who wouldn't believe that cooking canned corn was opening the can and dumping it in a pan to heat. The room mate called her mom because she thought the can was supposed to be heated too.

  4. Yes, Karen, I've seen the same thing about what "from scratch" means to different people.

    But, c'mon, heating the can???? I hope she was being funny!

    1. Unfortunately, she wasn't being funny. She was inept with everything domestic. It was very sad that she was so unprepared to care for herself as an adult.

  5. It's maybe 10 min _per item_ !

    So, it may be only 10 min extra to make my own white sauce for a pot pie. But then it's another 10 min to prep fresh vegetables for that pot pie. And another 10 min to mix a from scratch pie crust instead of using a purchased one. And another 10 min to pick a chicken carcass clean instead of opening a bag of precut, precooked chicken pieces.

    That's an extra 40 minutes right there...

  6. I was thinking it would be more like 2 hours/day. HA! Now, I'm really curious.

  7. Eight hours per day sounds right. I always thought I must be terribly inefficient to spend so much time in there. Maybe not so bad as I thought.
    -Rebecca H.