Friday, November 2, 2007

Cutting out convenience foods

Convenience foods can be a big budget breaker for people in the USA. I was very blessed to be raised by parents that very, very rarely would get convenience foods so thankfully I didn't have a bad habit to break when I left home. However I am still faced with temptations to buy convenience foods and I thought I would share my strategies to combat temptation.
  • * PROBLEM: I am very tired and have had a very busy day and I don't feel like making supper. SOLUTION: I freeze meals ahead of time so that on days like that I can used one of those meals instead of having to cook. I also have some very quick and easy meals in my repertoire so if life gets busy I can fall back on one of those.
  • PROBLEM: I don't know what to make! At the end of the day this question can be very overwhelming. SOLUTION: Make a menu for the month ( or week) ahead of time. This has helped me tremendously.
  • PROBLEM: We are out running errands and we get hungry and thirsty. SOLUTION: We try to always take water bottles along with us to take care of our thirst. And since young children have a tendency to get hungry if we are going to be out long I will crab some cheese, crackers, fruit or some other snack to eat while going around. I also have an emergency snack stored in our van if necessary. Another thing that might help some people with this problem is simply avoiding temptation. If you get gas~ pay at the pump then you don't see the drinks and candy bars.
  • PROBLEM: We are traveling and it feels like there is no other option. This is one area where we will sometimes splurge and eat out or buy a snack but there are many times we don't do that while traveling and I know some who never do. SOLUTION: Plan ahead. We again bring water bottles and if we are going to be gone for a while we will freeze some water bottles partially filled with water so that we can have cold water. As you travel along don't be afraid to re-fill your water bottles at rest stops, etc. We will often pack whole meals to eat on the road. It doesn't have to be fancy, sandwiches, popcorn, fruit and cookies work well. For us snacks are a must when traveling so I plan ahead and make sure to make or buy plenty of things that will work. Even when we flew out to Oregon this summer I brought along all of our snacks for the trip (for their and back). My husband likes Mountain Dew when he is driving (and it has to be cold!) so when I remember I bring the cooler and a stock of Mt. Dew with ice. This saves us quite a lot of money. Choose your type of trip carefully. A lot of our trips are either to visit friends or family or going camping. On these types of trips we do very little if any eating out as when camping we cook for ourselves and when visiting we eat where we go (We do try to bring some food along to help out.).
  • PROBLEM: It is just me and I hate to cook for only one person. (I remember having this problem in college but I didn't have the money or the time to eat out so I figured out a solution). SOLUTION: Invite over others and cook a large amount and then freeze leftovers in small containers for you to eat later. Find foods that you like that are easy to fix but also healthy. Some of the things that I ate a lot of where: Baked potatoes with various toppings, I would make the baked potato in the microwave and then top it with cheese and salsa and possibly some hamburger that I had browned a lot of at once and then froze it in small containers. I also ate a lot of burritos that I put together from a package of tortillas, re fried beans, cheese and salsa. I ate lots of fresh fruit and bought bags of frozen veggies which you can easily heat up in small portions.
  • PROBLEM: My kids ask for things at the store, what can I do? SOLUTION: Don't be afraid to say "No". You know better than they do what they need and you are the parent. Learning now that we don't buy just whatever we want will be great training for them in the future. I regularly take my kids shopping and they rarely ask for things as they know that it is generally useless. Now if when grocery shopping they notice a weird and exotic fruit or something like that they know that quite likely they can ask for that and I will say "Yes" as we like to try new things.

How do you handle the temptations of convenience foods? I would love to hear what you think.


MoneyCommonSense said...

I actually recently wrote about this issue on my blog. It was about the other side of the coin actually. The reasons why I keep some convenience foods at home. I do have to admit that my most common excuse for using them is that I do not want to cook that evening. We do keep homemade freezer meals but maybe it comes down to us not feeling like "eating that." We have it paired down to a couple of items though, so I don't feel like that's all we eat.

Queen of Carrots said...

If we're out longer than expected, or on too long of a trip to pack for the whole way, we remember that grocery stores are just as common as fast food places! We generally just pick up some bread or pitas, cheese or meat, and veggies or fruit. It's usually a little more than what we might have been able to prepare at home, but still a lot cheaper and healthier than fast food.

When it comes to convenience foods, when life is really stressful I try to remember what my alternatives are. For me, canned beans are a convenience food (since we buy bulk dry beans). But if I'm too sick to cook it's a lot better to have some cans of beans around for DH to heat up than to have to resort to ordering pizza.

Donna said...

I only grocery shop once a week, I plan my menu and I include "snack" items on this list too. I speak to my kids about their choices and they usually revolve around what is on sale. This week my boys were tickled because Doritos were on sale for $1.88. I bought 3 bags and when they are gone they are gone! Next week when I make my shopping list it might be grapes/apples that are on sale. If so I make up a nice platter of chopped fruit/veggies etc. When its gone its gone. Keeping a weekly menu and including snack item appeals to my kids, gives them variety and teaches them frugality. They now know to ask "is such and such on sale this week???"

Abbi said...

Thanks for your ideas! I do agree that there is a balance, I like to serve homemade, from scratch food to my family nearly all the time but I do realize it is not horrible to have a frozen pizza once and a while or to go out to eat on occasion if you can afford it. I do know that those habits can easily break your budget if you are not careful.


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