Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Part 2, Lesson 2: Convenience Foods That Won't Kill You Quite As Fast

Part 2: "I Don't Know Anything About Food"
Lesson 2: Convenience Foods That Won't Kill You Quite As Fast

We've used frozen veggie burgers and bagged salad in Part 1, not to mention barbecue sauce and salad dressing.  Convenience foods.  It's not always a bad thing.  Most of the time, but not always.  (I'm putting the veggie burgers into the "eat these rarely" category.)

It's all about balancing time and reading labels.  You could make a large batch of homemade marinara sauce and freeze or can it.  This would be ideal.  But when you're running late to pick up the kids from daycare and they're screaming the whole way home and your partner is sick and all you want is to put some spaghetti on the table before you have to run to Jane and Johnny's piano recital, you just need to go to the store, turn some jars around, and find the least offensive spaghetti sauce you can.

If you know what goes into a food to begin with because you've read recipes or actually made them yourself, you know what to look for on a retail version of the food.  For example, spaghetti sauce.  You know that marinara is tomatoes, oil, a little sugar, maybe some onions and garlic and perhaps some spices.  You know it doesn't have high fructose corn syrup, hydrolyzed vegetable proteins, soy lecithin, citric acid, or autolyzed yeast extract. 

So you get a jar of spaghetti sauce with recognizable ingredients.  It costs a little more than the brand you used to buy.  That's fine -- you're paying for convenience.  But the next time rolls around and you get another jar.  Maybe two.  Month after month you keep buying these jars at the store.  They're almost $4 each.

But then look at the alternative.  You buy a bushel of tomatoes, fresh basil, onions, and garlic at the farmer's market.  Take an afternoon, maybe involve the kids, and make your own spaghetti sauce.  Season it just the way your family likes it.  Portion it out into freezer bags.  It works out that for the same amount of sauce you'd get in a jar for $4, you put into your own bag for around $1 or less.  And if you get the tomatoes out of your own garden?  It's pennies per serving.  Is it worth more to you to save time or money?

Psst... you can also make spaghetti sauce in the crock pot.

The Takeaway
Start reading labels.

Your Homework
Find recipes for the following staples and copy them down in your RFBC Journal: spaghetti sauce, alfredo sauce (can you freeze this?), freezer jam, and pesto.  Extra credit: ketchup.

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