Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Cost of Convenience

Anyone who's read this blog for awhile knows that I struggle from time to time with keeping my eye on the prize; to get out of debt. Occasionally, it's because I get frustrated, go out on a splurge, and do some serious damage. These are the easiest to see but its actually the convenience factor that does the most damage.

If you live on your own or even if you're cooking for two, it's difficult to keep up the enthusiasm for preparing meals from scratch (or even just preparing meals.) There are tons of new products coming out every year to make our lives "simpler," but do they really?

First, lets take a look at the cost break between some comfort foods.

Spaghetti with Marinara Sauce
From Scratch Conveniently Prepackaged Nuke It
$.69 - Can of tomato paste $2.00 (on sale) Jar of Marinara Sauce $2.50 Stouffer's
$.89 - Can of tomatoes $1.00 (on sale) Spaghetti Noodles ($5.00 for two)
$.25 - Basil, Oregano, Bay Leaf $3.00 TOTAL
$.10 - Clove of Garlic
$1.00 - (on sale) Spaghetti Noodles

The cost isn't that different between these two examples and I did choose to use sale prices for the prepared ingredients because honestly, I probably wouldn't buy it at any higher rate. You'll notice I also kept this to the bare minimum, no salad, bread, Parmesan, etc. I also didn't take into account that during the growing season I have access to free oregano and bay leaves in the yard (I can't get rid of them even when I try) and I grow tomatoes and garlic in the garden.

Mac and Cheese
From Scratch Conveniently Prepackaged Nuke It
$.25 - Margarine $3.00 - 2 boxes Annie's Mac and Cheese $2.50 Stouffer's
$.50 - Milk or Half n Half $.25 - Margarine ($5.00 for two)
$1.00 - Cheddar Cheese $.20 - Milk
$1.00 - Mozzarella $3.45 - TOTAL
$.05 - Flour
$1.00 - Elbow Noodles
$.05 - Homemade Breadcrumbs
$3.85 - TOTAL

This one is cheating a bit. I know I'll have leftovers from the scratch dish.

While the homemade always sounds more appetizing than the frozen dinner or even the "conveniently prepackaged," I have to argue for both sides. There are those nights that you get home late after a hard day and the last thing you want to do is cook. Be prepared for those nights just make sure its an exception to the rule rather than the norm. My great aunt taught me to always keep a box of Mac and Cheese in the cupboard just in case.

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