When is Convenience Worth the Money?

by Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom on March 10, 2010

Not long ago, Kathy wrote and asked the question “When is Convenience Worth the Money?”

  • Pre-washed Salad vs. Head of Lettuce
  • Make your own Spices vs. Buy Spice Mix Packets
  • When to make from Scratch vs. When to buy Pre-Made

You get the idea…

What are YOUR thoughts?  What convenience foods do you pay a little extra for???

Photo by Dorothy

{ 66 comments… read them below or add one }

Traci March 11, 2010 at 11:33 am

Usually, when I buy convenience foods – it’s not really for time-saving, but because they happen to be able to get it cheaper than the “scratch” alternative. Yesterday, I got a bagged salad mix for 7 cents because it was on its last day! If I happen to shop after work, I check the deli section – they often package up “leftovers” and sell them super-cheap. My 10 yr old loves to cook, so I try to stock up on dessert mixes and other items he can “play” with when I find a good deal.

I also try to keep a couple of the Wanchai Ferry Chinese box dinner kits on hand – Asian ingredients aren’t easy to find in our area, and these are a quick, easy meal that keeps us from getting takeout when time is an issue. But for the most part, I just find things taste better when I make it myself.

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Vicky March 11, 2010 at 12:43 pm

It is just myself and a 8 y/o (rather picky) daughter at home so I try to keep a balance. I often buy shredded cheese because it (for whatever reason) goes on sale once or twice a year for less then the equivalent block cheese so I stock the freezer then. A head of lettuce will last longer then the bags, but if I run out of lettuce and/or it isn’t on sale and the prewashed bags are on sale then I will get a the bag. I will say that most of our prepared food is in the form of snacks….cheese crackers, ritz, tricuits, chex mix and occasionally ice cream. I purchase bread from the local out let, but make all my tortillas and pizza crusts. I try to plan ahead for those busy days, but there are times when we may break out a TV dinner or two b/c mama needs a break. Daughter thinks those nights are a real treat though so I am ok with that.

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Leslie March 11, 2010 at 2:32 pm

Taco Seasoning. I tried to make my own but it just didn’t work out as well and everyone thought it tasted weird.

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Iris Robin March 11, 2010 at 3:20 pm

I try to make most of our foods at home, with all the nitrates, msg and salt that is added in some convenience foods, I would rather have control of what I am putting in our food.

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Kristine March 11, 2010 at 6:12 pm

I am not ashamed to say that I will buy almost any convenience food that tastes good, especially if it’s on sale or I have a coupon. Why not save on time whenever possible?!

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Sarah Cassill March 11, 2010 at 8:07 pm

Is Iowa just WEIRD?? Here shreeded cheese goes on sale for 99 cents an 8 ounce package every 6 weeks or so– WAY WAY cheaper than block cheese. And it freezes great. Another CHEAP convenience thing I buy at Fareway is the frozen diced green onions and the frozen diced green peppers. They’re a dollar for a 1 pound bag. Which makes the peppers at least CHEAPER than fresh. Plus there’s no waste (stems and seeds) and no finding half a rotten veggie in the back corner of the fridge. Not to mention no tears chopping onions!

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Karen R. March 12, 2010 at 8:30 am

I buy salad at Sam’s club premixed. I can get a 2.5 pound bag of the Romaine blend for $2.67. If I were to buy everything in the blend, it would cost a lot more. Plus it’s a good filler to start the meal.

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Jaime Davis March 12, 2010 at 1:51 pm

I shop at Trader Joes, so I don’t feel bad about buying their convenience items:

I always buy prepacked spinach. I agree, to wash it would be a chore, and I would rather have it than not eat a healthy meal.
I buy their whole wheat pizza dough and shredded cheese.

I buy some spices premade, mostly taco spice (It’s just so cheap to get it at Costo) and chilli spice. I don’t have the time to make my own jerk, curry, or garam masala seasonings, so I always buy that (I get the organic kind at the farmers market)

When I had my daughter I said I would not give her processed foods, but she has turned out to be such a picky eater, and she is in the low percentage of her age range in weight, I would rather she just eat, so yes, I bought TJ’s chicken nuggets, chicken egg rolls, and potstickers. I just bought their mini tacos and I hope she likes those.

I dont know what I am doing wrong, but she would rather eat Krafts mac and cheese than my baked version :( So I admit I will buy that when its 3/1$. I am going to try to make another homemade version for her with whole wheat pasta and cheese sauce and see how that goes.

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Lanna March 12, 2010 at 6:20 pm

Right now being on my own (hubby at least has a job, but it’s an entire state away) with a 3 week old, 20mo, 3.5yo and 6yo, convenience is the name of the game, and I didn’t have a chance to get a bunch of freezer meals going on this time around since this last pregnancy kicked my rear end. It’s just easier to pop things in the oven/stovetop/microwave when 2-3 kids are screaming at me when mommy never gets a break. We’ll get back to better (less processed) food at some point this year, but for now? It is what it is.

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Tammy March 13, 2010 at 10:38 pm

Generally I only buy “convenience” foods in the form of pre-washed salad leaves mix. Makes it easy and so quick to throw together a healthy salad for dinner when we are really time-poor – and it is still cheaper (and sooooo much healthier) than buying a takeaway :)

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Val March 14, 2010 at 1:47 pm

I usually try to cook from scratch because it tastes better. However, I buy pre-washed greens (mustard, collards, etc.) because washing them are so difficult. I also buy bread products, although I try to get them on sale at the local bakery or outlet.

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Jennifer March 20, 2010 at 6:29 pm

I am not a fan of convenience foods. It has nothing to do with the price, but instead the health aspects. Most if not all convenience foods has too much salt, sugar, white flour, perservatives, corn syrup, etc. I make as much as I possibly can for us to eat. In my opinion what we put in our bodies is very important so I will cook and look for other ways to save time such as not taking the kids to as many activities as before, freezer cooking, giving the kids more responibilities around the house, and not keeping the house spotless. I have choosen my priorities – homeschooling so I spend quite a bit of time with the kids teaching, playing, and taking field trips, my relationship with my husband, and cooking so that I know I am doing the best that I can in helping the kids to not struggle with weight and health problems in the future and that I know they will be able to cook for their families when they grow up as well. The rest I try not to stress about as much so that I can save time on things that are not as important.

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The Saved Quarter March 21, 2010 at 12:03 pm

This is the premise of my weekly posts, Scratch vs. Store Bought. I compare the home made version to the convenience food version, and I’m surprised to find that home made doesn’t always win on taste, and convenience doesn’t always win on price. Sometimes, I’m finding, it’s worth it to buy store bought, especially on sale. Bisquick was cheaper than my home made mix, for example. That surprised me! Most of the time, though, I’ll continue to make it from scratch for the health benefits.

http://thesavedquarter.wordpress.com/category/scratch-vs-store-bought/

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Jenny in CG March 24, 2010 at 5:25 pm

I do what I call Half-Scratch. I will use box mac-n-cheese but I improve it. Gravy mixes are cheap and quick (my10 yo makes it in the microwave) and can really improve a meal, especially cheap mashed taters – butter is way more expensive than gravy packets!
I have also found certain package mixes to be both good and convenient. for instance, McCormick Beef Stroganoff is really very good (passes the hubby test) and rice-a-roni-style (store brand & on sale) mixes can be a great shortcut to half-scratch meals.

the trick is to be honest with yourself about why and how you want to use the items, try a few different brands to find what fits your tastes best and don’t rely too heavily on the short cuts. For the most part, your family will be happier with a simple meal and a happy, healthy mom than they would with extravagance and variety.

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