This week I went through our pantry and found deeply buried in the recesses of our closet about five Top Ramen packets and two Cup of Noodle Soup packages. They were expired in 2005. Oops that I hadn’t thrown them out sooner! So, when did I buy them? 2002? 2003? I may have had this food in my pantry for a decade taking up valuable real estate! We haven’t eaten that kind of “food” for years, and I immediately threw them away, instantly feeling lighter to get rid of the processed food and excited to have more shelf space to store dried beans and nuts.
My girls also found some Maple and Brown Sugar Quaker Oatmeal packets in the pantry. They had a “best by” September 12, 2011 date. I thought they might be okay to eat, so my kids and I all ate two packets each this morning. Whoa!! I couldn’t believe how sweet they were!
This whole process struck me in four ways. I thought:
- it is expensive to buy prepackaged food, so we pay a premium in convenience.
- the American society in general doesn’t know the basics of food prep, because if they did, they would most likely make their own oatmeal or oatmeal packets, because it’s SOOO easy.
- our processed foods are highly artificially flavored, which has destroyed the American palate. Our taste buds have been overly stimulated, so the apple doesn’t taste sweet anymore. The great thing is that YOU CAN CHANGE your own palate. I know because I have changed mine.
- processed food should be used for an Act of God Emergency, if you are camping (maybe), or if you are in outer space.
I thought I would do a little cost analysis here. At our local grocery store, WinCo Foods, you can buy bulk oatmeal for $0.60/lb. I buy their organic bulk oatmeal which is $0.87/lb. One packet of the Quaker Instant Oatmeal packets is 1.51 ounces. For $0.0566 I can make my own packet of oatmeal, and for $0.082 I could have a packet of ORGANIC oatmeal. Let’s round up the numbers to include the fraction of a cent that cinnamon or organic sugar may cost you.
- $0.06/homemade oatmeal packet
- $0.09/homemade ORGANIC oatmeal packet
At Walmart.com the same Quaker Oatmeal costs $2.88 for 10 packets of 1.51 ounces of oatmeal. I picked Walmart because it is the biggest store in the United States, and you may have one in your area. So for $0.29 a packet, you can have your convenience. Or you can pay $0.60 for 10 homemade packets of oatmeal, or $0.82 for 1o ORGANIC packets of oatmeal. You can buy almost 5 times the amount of oatmeal with conventional oats and 3.5 times the amount of oatmeal with ORGANIC oats if you just buy the actual oats yourself. This saves:
- $2.28/10 packets of conventional oats and
- $2.06/10 packets of ORGANIC oats.
No, that doesn’t include the savings you may get in coupons.
Can you believe you can pay less than $0.10 for a hearty meal?
Other processed food we have eliminated over the years with real food alternatives are:
- granola bars: I might have had an addiction to Quaker Chewy Granola Bars about a decade ago. No more! That is long gone. Ever since I started I started making my own granola bars, I can’t go back to the overly sweet processed junk.
- pancake and waffle mixes: We were faithful to Krusteaz and Bisquick for too long!
- pop tarts: When I first started teaching high school, my lunch consisted of a banana, yogurt with high fructose corn syrup, a Quaker Chewy Granola Bar, and Pop Tart. How can that be good for you? All that fake sugar!! I used to think that was a healthier lunch. I have come a long way.
- boxed cakes: Now with no eggs, since I am off of eggs for a while.
- boxed brownies: Now we make gluten-free brownies, and they are made of beans!
- ice cream: Now we have non-dairy options!
- fruit roll ups: Now it’s real fruit leather!
- candy: I used to stock up on candy bars when they were $0.25 each. Does that date me? Now I am my own candy that is way less sugary sweet.
- soups: We would often have grilled cheese sandwiches (on highly processed bread) with soup as one of our go-to Sunday lunches. Soup is really so easy to make, and you can make bunches more, for the price of a can.
- broth: It’s practically free to make your own by using scraps.
- chili: About a decade ago Jonathan used to take a can to work and eat about one a week. So much better and cheaper to make your own, even if you use canned beans as a base, but we have started soaking dry beans.
- salsa: Making my own salsa is so much fresher and better, but I admit, I still do buy store bought salsa most of the time. The difference now when I do buy it, it’s organic.
- salad dressings: This one is huge. I used to ONLY buy Kraft and Wish Bone. I only occasionally buy dressings now. About 90% of the time we use homemade salad dressings or just olive oil and vinegar.
- popcorn: We buy the actual kernels now and pop them on the stove top.
- pizza: We ate fake pizza for years! I admit, I do enjoy a good Papa Murphy’s Pizza once in a while, but at least that is more fresh than the Tony’s Pizzas I used to keep stocked. I typically make our pizza from scratch, though.
- chicken pot pies: When I was in college, I used to eat these all of the time and thought I was doing pretty well!
- mashed potatoes: Dare I admit this? My first job was at KFC, and I loved their mashed potatoes. Then I used to buy the Betty Crocker Garlic Mashed Potatoes for years. I used to prefer the powdered kind!! Real potatoes that I actually mash, or just blend are so much better.
and more!! The links provide healthier, homemade alternatives.
All that to say, you can control the ingredients that you eat, the quality of the food for health’s sake, save lots of money, and it doesn’t take much longer at all!! What will you choose? We are all at different stages in our foods journey. Have you gotten rid of all prepackaged food in your house? Do you have anything of which you need to let go?
Have you read…?
- How We Paid Off $38,000
- Grocery Prices to Meet or Beat
- Budgeting for 2012 Part 3
- Eating Out with Coupons
- Couponing and Extreme Couponing or Not
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