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Convenience foods: I wish I could quit you

By on April 23, 2010

tomato soup
photo by house of sims

Frugal people cook from scratch frequently. But there are some recipes they’re not willing to make themselves regularly. If you have time constraints or don’t have health restrictions, then there’s increased value placed on ready-made and convenience foods. Homemade isn’t always cheaper, but it’s a surefire way to control ingredients, so it can be healthier. Take into consideration the number of people in your household, whether you have a well-stocked pantry and your cooking skills when making your cost-calculation comparisons.

What convenience products do you buy even when on a tight budget?

Here are a few common ready-made products that are the hardest to let go. But keep in mind that their homemade counterparts can be found on my forums ( if you’re looking to make some changes.

SPAGHETTI SAUCE: You can make it with canned and/or fresh vegetables, but it can be hard to beat jar sauce when it’s on sale. It doesn’t taste as good as homemade, but when you’re faced with a busy schedule, jar sauce is a pantry staple in many frugal kitchens.

SEASONING PACKETS: These are relatively cheap and make cooking dishes such as chili, stew, tacos, sauces and gravy or fajitas a quick and easy task.

CAKE AND BROWNIE MIX: Box mixes are one of the top convenience foods that frugal people still buy. Often, they haven’t found a cake or brownie recipe they prefer. There are coupons available so often that not many people want to pay more money and spend more time making homemade. And most people without a baking background opt for ready-made frosting tubs, too.

TOMATO SOUP: Homemade soups such as chicken noodle or vegetable and even cream soups are preferred over canned, but making a good tomato soup at home can be a challenge. Rather than experiment with multiple recipes and inevitably comparing it to canned, it’s simpler to just buy the canned tomato soup and be done with it.

MACARONI AND CHEESE: Homemade macaroni and cheese and boxed are worlds apart in taste, yet the price and convenience of boxed makes it tough to refuse. Homemade macaroni and cheese is a favorite comfort food, but boxed continues to get prime shelf space in frugal kitchens. This is especially true in households with kids.

SALAD DRESSING: Homemade dressing is easy to mix up yourself, but when you’re used to prepared salad dressings, it can be hard to replace it with homemade without resistance from family members. But when spending time on making a quality salad, homemade dressing is the only way to go.

RICE AND NOODLE MIXES: It’s hard to believe that flavored pouches and boxes can be preferred over homemade considering taste and cost. Often, it’s the portion size and variety that makes this the winner.

CHICKEN NUGGETS: Fast food and frozen nuggets are far less work. They’re not nearly as tasty as homemade, but we’re conditioned to love those little premade hockey pucks.

TORTILLAS: Tortilla presses have made the task of making tortillas much easier, but most people, frugal or not, will still pick up a bag of premade tortillas. They’re cheap and easy.

STUFFING AND BREADCRUMBS: Preseasoned packaged cubes and crumbs are quicker to make and bake. Homemade is a great way to use leftover bread, but many people don’t want to bother with the time and effort it takes.


  1. Ali

    4/23/2010 at 12:57 pm

    I say ..pick your battles. Life is way too short to worry about whether buying a can of tomato soup will break the bank or the famous “homemade is best”… I think pancake mix & Jiffy mix is better than any homemade & I will continue to buy it!

  2. Darlene

    4/23/2010 at 3:28 pm

    I used to always buy potatoes for fries but now I do it on my own.That said, I won’t be making my own onion rings, ravioli or pierogies anytime soon, I just think things are just easier and often taste better bought. I definitely agree with you on the brownie and cake mixes, you can often buy those practically free with coupons and they really are good!

  3. Ken on selling bad health to kids

    4/25/2010 at 11:29 am

    Convenience foods are great if you are too busy or unable to do the real thing. But read the labels! There is a lot of weird stuff in much of it.
    .-= Ken on selling bad health to kids´s last blog ..Selling Bad Health to Kids =-.

  4. Paula Smith

    4/25/2010 at 8:11 pm

    Tomato soup and chicken noodle soup. I am the only one who eats tomato, so it’s not worth making it from scratch for me. I don’t eat it often enough to can it. I’m sure that home made chicken noodle is very good and lower in sodium, but this too it nor eaten enough to even justify canning. I do make soup to can that can’t be bought in stores as well as vegetable soup.

  5. Carla

    4/25/2010 at 10:58 pm

    I can’t give up the taco and fajita seasoning, I haven’t found a homemade recipe I like. Although, I find that the more I cook from scratch, the less I am able to handle the sodium levels in processed food. We don’t have them very often now.

    Of course, I also have the stereotypical Canadian obsession with Kraft Dinner.

  6. Ken on selling bad health to kids

    4/26/2010 at 4:15 pm

    I like the Craft Dinner too Carla. I boil for 8 minutes, throw in a cup of frozen peas. bring back to a boil and drain.
    .-= Ken on selling bad health to kids´s last blog ..Selling Bad Health to Kids =-.

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