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Convenience Food Love and Marriage


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I'll confess to being among the ranks of those who occassionally use convenience foods, and for those of you who know my posts, you'll know that I love to cook and do so a lot.

However, I juggle a business, a child, a husband/an elderly mother, a sick brother and lots of volunteer work. For me the issue is time. There are times, not often, when I'm just too tired/busy/lazy/rushed to cook anything. Particularly if it's just my son and I for dinner, and I know he'd be just as happy with Kraft dinner as he would if I spent hours making homemade mac and cheese. He loves the homemade stuff, but he won't throw a fit if I make him KD either.

And sometimes it's just easier to use shake and bake than it is to brine, soak and fry chicken.

Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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perhaps we should stop cutting courses like home ec.  or offer one with a more appealing title like "boiling water 101"...sounds kind of like a food network program though.

You mean you never watched "How to Boil Water"?

(Is that show still on?)

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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Some people do genuinely seem to prefer the convenience versions of foods - just been chatting to a colleague who loves instant mashed potato - she buys real potatoes for other things and does cook, but just prefers instant mash.

A lot of people are of the what they don't see can't hurt them brigade too - they hate seeing recipes requireing adding salt, oil and butter, but that ready meal they just microwaved that contains twice as much sodium and twice the fat isn't a problem. So then they cut the seasoning out of the dish, replace the butter and then complain that the homemade version was tasteless....

I don't think it is a laziness thing (Well sometimes it is, but not often). I hate cleaning, ironing, washing etc, but love cooking whereas I know people who are constantly doing DIY, cleaning etc but can't bear to spend time cooking. It's just a question of what your priorities are.

Some people also can't abide messing up the kitchen, or making it 'smell' (i.e of food - what the hell is a kitchen for then?)

I love animals.

They are delicious.

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Also... you need to have some common sense when it comes to cooking. Nothing too complexed either. If you are trying to fry bacon and it burns really fast... what is the problem? My gas stove shows low,2-6,high. Where is medium?

4.

Assign the number 1 to low and 7 to high, then look at the sequence.

Agreed, though, that gas range controls can be confusing (or nonexistent)--but I suspect that may be because the manufacturers figured the cook could gauge the heat level by looking at the flame.

I wouldn't assume all cooks could accurately do that, either. Words (or pictograms--small flame, medium-size flame, large flame) would be a better guide.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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I use prepackaged convenience foods because sometimes I am either too pooped or have too little time to do the prep work I need to do to make a decent dish from scratch. And my partner loves Hamburger Helper Cheeseburger Macaroni, although you could make--and I have made--one that's every bit as tasty with real ingredients.

But I second the sentiments expressed in the posts about the response women had to entering the labor force in World War II. "The Good War" produced a radical transformation in American society, as it did in several other countries, and even laid the seeds that blossomed into the various "liberation" and civil-rights movements in the decades that followed.

Prepackaged convenience foods, in this context, were a form of women's liberation.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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Not enough time! That is the reason we all need convenience in our lives, whether it be food, cleaning products, laundry services or anything else that gives us back some breathing time. Most of the folks here love to cook, but they don't cook everything themselves. I don't bake and am not inclined to do so either. I love to cook, but I still use bagged salads, frozen vegetables, jarred salsa and bagged chips. They save me time and money and most of them taste pretty good! Sometimes I want to make everything from scratch and other times I just can't do it all myself. I'm glad the convenience foods are there for me when I need them.

I do wonder about the folks who eat convenience foods as a steady diet. It could be that they grew up with eating that way and just haven't considered their options. If they like the taste of their food, why should they change? I don't think most people consider themselves adventurous eaters, so the chain restaurants, fast food places and prepared foods offer them safety and comfort.

KathyM

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I find it fascinating to see how each of us draws the line in this area. Some say no convenience foods at all and somehow have the time/organization/stamina/creativity/equipment/desire to make everything from scratch. Many of us use a mix-match approach and make many things from scratch while throwing in convenience foods where we can tolerate them and where they make sense in our lives. And I know many people whose whole "cooking" repetoire consists of convenience foods (most of these folks have no desire to cook and woudn't be posting on these boards, either).

When I read MFK Fisher, I find it fascinating that, as much of a good food lover as she was, she still wasn't above using canned soup laced with sherry and dolloped with sour cream when she needed a quick home meal (often when cooking for herself). When I feel inclined to use convenience foods, it's usually a time/energy issue and I almost always doctor them up with a variety of seasonings and additions.

I've found that certain things work for me and some don't. Many people swear by bagged salads, but I've found that I don't really enjoy them--they taste somehow stale and chemical to me (except for bagged mesclun, which somehow doesn't). I used to occasionally use bottled salad dressing, but now I can throw together a vinagrette so fast that there's no reason--except for Marie's Bleu Cheese (which I admit that I doctor up with buttermilk, garlic and extra bleu cheese crumbles)--probably just be easier to make it from scratch...... :rolleyes:

I can't stand hamburger helper/tuna helper, but I'll use Shake'n'bake in a pinch and enjoy the rice products such as Goya and Near East--but I haven't had Rice-a-roni since I was a child. I don't really enjoy boxed Mac n cheese enough to go to the trouble of boiling the water for it, but I'll eat Stouffer's frozen if I have a craving and no time to make my own.

Bottled BBQ sauce makes appearances in my pantry-I doctor with vinegar/hot sauce etc--and since I don't have a pasta maker, will buy good-quality deli-made if I want fresh--otherwise it's boxed.

When I'm sick, it has to be Campbell's chicken noodle soup with saltines--I love homemade chicken soup, but it's not what I wan't when I'm sick. :wacko:

Jan

Seattle, WA

"But there's tacos, Randy. You know how I feel about tacos. It's the only food shaped like a smile....A beef smile."

--Earl (Jason Lee), from "My Name is Earl", Episode: South of the Border Part Uno, Season 2

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Also... you need to have some common sense when it comes to cooking. Nothing too complexed either. If you are trying to fry bacon and it burns really fast... what is the problem? My gas stove shows low,2-6,high. Where is medium?

4.

Assign the number 1 to low and 7 to high, then look at the sequence.

Agreed, though, that gas range controls can be confusing (or nonexistent)--but I suspect that may be because the manufacturers figured the cook could gauge the heat level by looking at the flame.

I wouldn't assume all cooks could accurately do that, either. Words (or pictograms--small flame, medium-size flame, large flame) would be a better guide.

Hehehe you made my day! :biggrin:

I guess sarcasm comes off pretty blah in short posts eh? I do 3.5 for medium :wink:

I have found a lot of people that see low, and high, but no medium... just can't figure out where the middle would be.

Oh and for you hamburger helper lovers out there... YUCK! :biggrin:

That was all my father would cook when I was a kid... we did everything in our power to steer him away from that section at the grocery store... but never failed.. they always had a display by the check out!

Oh... and I like 7-11's hotdogs .. with chilli and cheese, and some mustard :shock:

~K

Thank you as well for the conversational haitus. I generally refrain from speach during gustation. There are those who attempt both at the same time. I find it coarse and vulgar.

Big Dan Teague

O Brother, Where Art Thou?

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Hehehe you made my day!  :biggrin:

Glad to be of service. :wink:

Oh and for you hamburger helper lovers out there... YUCK!  :biggrin:

That was all my father would cook when I was a kid... we did everything in our power to steer him away from that section at the grocery store... but never failed.. they always had a display by the check out!

I've only seen Hamburger Helper at the end of the aisle when my local supermarket's running a big special on it (like BOGO free).

As for your overall assessment of the cake mix of main dishes: I won't hold it against you at all.

And it is indeed interesting to see what sorts of similar convenience foods people will and will not use. I've already mentioned how popular Hamburger Helper is in my house, but I refuse to buy Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Dinner or anything like it--it's never as good as what I make from scratch, and it's not all that hard to make mac & cheese from scratch, though I will grant that it is a bit more time-consuming--you do have to grate the cheese unless you buy pre-shredded.

I really don't consider canned beans "convenience" foods--all the canner has done is soak them for you in advance, admittedly a huge time-saver. Okay, and sometimes season them (I keep a can or two of America's Choice Hot Chili Beans handy for whenever I feel like whipping up a batch of chili).

Oh... and I like 7-11's hotdogs .. with chilli and cheese, and some mustard  :shock:

Yeah, but they're not Dietz & Watson!

(Truth be told, I wish I were...)

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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I think a lot of it has to do with the way people are raised. I grew up in a large family and we didn't eat convenience foods for economic reasons. If we had rice, we ate buttered white rice. Not Rice-A-Roni or rice that came with flavor packets because it wasn't economically feasible for my parents. When I first moved out on my own, I was fascinated by the rows of frozen and dehyrdrated convenience foods that were off limits when I was growing up. But, frankly, I was also working in an entry level advertising agency job from 9 in the morning until as late as midnight every night. Back then, I was lucky to get one weekend off a month and the agency paid for take-out when we worked after hours. I ate from local restaurants that delivered pretty much every night. California Pizza Kitchen was a food group for me back then.

Now, I eat the way I grew up. I buy almost no convenience foods with the exceptions of snacks I keep in my desk drawer for late nights (I work for a non-profit now -- no more free meals) that I usually get at Trader Joe's (those deydrated peas are the best!).

I think people's adult eating habits are a combination of the way they are raised and their current lifestyle.

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  • 1 year later...
I think many people are enthusiastic eaters without having the slightest interest in learning how to cook. I think it's common, and I think they keep our economy healthy. If everyone had the time and inclination to cook from scratch, supermarkets would be one-third their present size, Kraft Foods would collapse, millions of fast-food workers would be layed off.... It's the same in many industries, like for instance the computer game industry. The vast majority of consumers are happy to use the commercial products as they are released. Only a tiny minority is inclined to figure out how to write their own.

I can and have written my own recipes (and have been paid very well for it, too :rolleyes: ), and still enjoy convenience foods sometimes. Just for the *convenience* of it. :biggrin:

Laziness

You may be right. In my case, I seem to have lost my Presbyterian cap somewhere, the one that kept me from being lazy, the one that hints that well-being is reached through struggle. Maybe someday I'll find it again.

There's also a matter of degree... while most who have posted here won't buy pre-made fried chicken, I'd bet that many will pick up a box of crackers rather than spending the whole day rolling out cracker dough and baking it.

It's been a while since I milked a cow or made my own soda, too. :wink:

As for my household, we occasioanlly use some convenience foods. Tonight we're having frozen ravioli with purchased sauce. I will make a fresh salad of greens, cucumber and tomato with home made vinaigrette.

Why frozen ravioli?

Why not frozen ravioli?

If it is delicious and if it serves your purposes, should there be any guilt involved?

Prepackaged convenience foods, in this context, were a form of women's liberation.

And therefore, within the structure of the "traditional family" they were a form of men's liberation, too. For no longer were they responsible for the sole financial support of the family.

And today, as more men take to the home kitchen, they might be thought to be a form of liberation for them, also.

When I read MFK Fisher, I find it fascinating that, as much of a good food lover as she was, she still wasn't above using canned soup laced with sherry and dolloped with sour cream when she needed a quick home meal (often when cooking for herself). 

If it was good enough for MFK's kitchen, well. I agree. Good enough for mine, most likely. :smile::wink:

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Something I just thought of...."Foreign Food"

As a land of immigrants anyone with a good sized market can get canned, frozen, or boxed foods based on international foods.

LaChoy chow mein in a can anyone?

Frozen ravioli and a jar of sauce?

Mrs T's pierogies

European blend salad in a bag

even a heat and eat bag of pot roast is foreign food to some Americans

now I live in a time and place where I actually look in the food aisle of Wally World just to laugh but they actually had the LaChoy chow mein in the can last week

actual conversation between my Italian heritage self and a black man...

HIM: you eat macaroni and cheese from a BOX???

ME: you eat Chef Boyardee???

"thats what grandma served"

tracey

The great thing about barbeque is that when you get hungry 3 hours later....you can lick your fingers

Maxine

Avoid cutting yourself while slicing vegetables by getting someone else to hold them while you chop away.

"It is the government's fault, they've eaten everything."

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I think it's a lot to do with how one is brought up.

My maternal grandpa could reaaaally cook. All of my mom's 12 siblings can cook--I always joke that my uncles's wives lucked out. When we go back to visit, we gather around the kitchen to decide where we are headed for our next meal, or to decide who's cooking what. So basically, a lot of our gatherings are about food.

And it's passed on to the next generation. I'm not the only 'young' one who cooks in my family--my cousins do too. We range from 12 to 30-something (I'm discounting the people who are too short to reach the stove :laughs: ). And by cook, I don't mean reheating a frozen dinner.

At the same time, I think the time factor plays a big part. I don't doubt that I won't be cooking as much as I would like to when I'm at university.

There are so many close substitutes for cooking. Restaurants, convenience foods, take-out etc. Of the lot, cooking clearly takes the most work. Unless you enjoy cooking, I imagine one would gain less utility from cooking than from buying something easy, therefore you'd buy something easy rather than cook.

May

Totally More-ish: The New and Improved Foodblog

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actual conversation between my Italian heritage self and a black man...

HIM: you eat macaroni and cheese from a BOX???

ME: you eat Chef Boyardee???

"thats what grandma served"

:laugh::laugh::laugh:

And what was YOUR response to HIS question?

After all, from an African-American perspective, that's equally inconceivable.

Although (a) I have committed this apostasy myself on occasion and (b) I have run across blue boxes in other African-American households, though usually they are kept discreetly tucked away behind other more respectable products in the pantry.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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I can totally understand the popularity of many convenience foods. But what I don't understand is the popularity of so-called "semi-homemade" recipes when the fully homemade versions are oftentimes no more complicated and vastly superior.

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I can totally understand the popularity of many convenience foods. But what I don't understand is the popularity of so-called "semi-homemade" recipes when the fully homemade versions are oftentimes no more complicated and vastly superior.

You mean like doctored cake mixes?

May

Totally More-ish: The New and Improved Foodblog

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I grew up eating convenience foods - it's what my mother cooked. TV dinners, Hamburger Helper, fast food when she wasn't cooking. When we did get a somewhat involved dinner, it consisted of Shake 'n' Bake pork chops, Rice-A-Roni, and some canned or frozen corn, or frozen spinach. When most of the items on your plate are properly capitalized, that's a bad sign.

When I visited my father on weekends, he would often cook something for dinner, and try to involve us kids. His use of processed foods extendeded to canned tomato sauce (as a base for pasta sauce), frozen vegetables, bagged salad, and bottled salad dressing. Unlike my mother, he had kitchen tools and knew how to use them.

Once I moved out and started cooking on my own, I must have rebounded, as I tended to completely avoid processed convenience foods. Frozen vegetables are okay, as are certain canned vegetables, and bagged salads; but I never bought TV dinners or canned soup or anything easy like that. I wanted to make everything from scratch, my own way.

These days, I'm back on convenience foods almost entirely, but I have an excuse that was only barely hinted earlier. I have health problems at the moment, including anemia, so my energy levels are rock-bottom, and I just don't have the motivation or drive to get up and cook. I'm lucky if I have an appetite at all.

That's my excuse.

-- There are infinite variations on food restrictions. --

Crooked Kitchen - my food blog

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actual conversation between my Italian heritage self and a black man...

HIM: you eat macaroni and cheese from a BOX???

ME: you eat Chef Boyardee???

"thats what grandma served"

:laugh::laugh::laugh:

And what was YOUR response to HIS question?

After all, from an African-American perspective, that's equally inconceivable.

Although (a) I have committed this apostasy myself on occasion and (b) I have run across blue boxes in other African-American households, though usually they are kept discreetly tucked away behind other more respectable products in the pantry.

I'm just guessing here, but I think they both replied "that's what grandma served".

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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Time, Time, and Time.

And occasionally, fondness & familiarity. My husband loves a certain brand of pizza. So, for every 3x we have pizza, we have his favorite. The other two times, we eat the pizza we are learning to make (which has been less than pleasurable a time or two).

Sometimes the desire for a fat/salt fix that I can feel but dont have to be intimately familiar with the actual quantities involved.

And sometimes, because I dont know how. And in those cases, sometimes I want to learn how and sometimes I dont care. I am interested in learning to make ravioli. I am not interested in learning to make potato gnocci, tho I enjoy them equally.

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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I didn't grow up with an awareness of convenience foods, but looking back, they were definately there. Mom certainly used cookie/brownie mixes, frozen vegetables with cheese sauce (though most often without), Texas Toast, jarred pasta sauce, frozen meatballs. Dad used to make the best pizza every once in a while, and, while I was a little disappointed somehow when I learned that it was just a Chef Boyardee pizza kit with added sausage and canned mushrooms, I still angle for an invitation to dinner when he makes it. They never went full tilt into frozen dinners or hamburger helper though. The things they kept around that weren't raw ingredients were like jump-starts to a meal. Now that my brother and I are out of the house, they lean more heavily on convenience. Their freezer is full of breaded shrimp, pre blackened salmon, chicken fajita kits, commercial twice baked potatoes. They eat pretty well, and they're not eating out every day.

So, for my parents, these kinds of foods are about saving time and energy, now to a greater degree than in my childhood.

I loved convenience foods in my dorm in college - they were a great way to break the monotony of the dining hall, especially things that could be bought in bulk at Sam's club. Ramen noodles, Easy Mac, flats of soup, microwavable pasta bowls, frozen White Castle cheeseburgers, flats of chips.

When I started cooking for myself and my 3 roommates, I first leaned on my mother's hybrid style of cooking. So I might serve spaghetti with frozen meatballs, jarred sauce, and frozen garlic bread. I think of that as a transition to real food. These days I make my own meatballs for the freezer, make my own spaghetti sauce, make my own bread for garlic bread. Essentially the same meal. No convenience foods in sight, but also less convenient. That's the trade-off right?

Somewhere along the line, I started making an effort to avoid processed foods as much as possible. So most kinds of convenience foods are de facto off the table. But it's been an evolution. I haven't bought a frozen meal or a frozen pizza in over a year, but I am sorely tempted at times. When that happens, I find a reason to visit my parents and eat from their freezer. I think in my own mind I've rationalized that if it's not in MY freezer, it doesn't "count".

This thread got me thinking. I'm not sure why my craving for White Castle frozen cheeseburgers is something I feel I have to rationalize. Or why a frozen meatball lovingly made by my own hand several months ago seems superior to a frozen meatball from the grocery store. For me, these kinds of foods have been about many things - breaking up the dorm monotony, transitioning to scratch cooking in a familiar way, and now, satsifying a specific craving or nostalgia.

"Nothing you could cook will ever be as good as the $2.99 all-you-can-eat pizza buffet." - my EX (wonder why he's an ex?)

My eGfoodblog: My corner of the Midwest

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