Brooding On

A Look at Convenience Foods

We all want things to be easy.  The problem, when it comes to food, though, is that typically the easier a food is, the more processed it is . . . and the more processed it is, the more unknown ingredients it contains.  Generally speaking, trying to stick to natural ingredients that have names we recognize is a good idea. 

There once was a time when little was convenient.  Convenience just wasn't a choice homesteaders of the past had.  Now, though, we have to look at the variables of our time, our money, and our health and make decisions accordingly.  And, one person's "convenience" food may not be the same as the next person's. (I did recently discover that our grocer store sells pre-shelled, hard boiled eggs in nifty little 4 packs.)

Let us consider, for example, the pancake.

I suppose the ultimate in convenience would be a trip to IHOP, where someone else is left to clean up the sticky countertops.

Short of that, though, are these.
(Yes, I did snap this photo in the freezer section of the grocery store.  Yes, I got a couple of weird looks.)

What cracks me up most about these is the "8 Individually Wrapped Packages." 

Let's assume, that we have the time and resources and inclination to make our own pancakes.  Still, there are various levels of convenience involved.  Are you going to reach for a box of Bisquik?  I did for years and years.  Or, will you throw together your own mix of baking powder, flour, milk, and egg?
That's the level of convenience we now go with.  Who knew it was so easy to mix up a batch of pancakes?  Still, some crazies might argue that it's still "convenient" because I don't grind my own flour. (If you're laughing, you  must not have spent much time around hard-core homesteaders on the blog-o-sphere.  They have a way of making me feel lazy on even my most industrous day.)

Just so that you don't think I stick exclusively to the more time-consuming route, here's an example of a convenience food that I'll defend.  We love our grapefruit around here.  I typically buy 2 5lb. bags per week for our morning juices.  I've also started buying jugs of this stuff for snacking.  (My grocery checker may be starting to wonder whether there's some new way of manufacturing meth that involves grapefruit.) 
This little heavenly jug contains the perfectly prepped wedges of 10 grapefruit.  Do you know how much time it would take to do that by hand?  Also, like I'm someone from an episode of Hoarders, I'm stockpiling the used jugs.  They'll make great cannisters in the pantry for beans, rice, and such.

All of this to say, when the grocery list includes items that are more processed or contain ingredients that I can't pronounce or that wouldn't fit on a notecard if I tried to write them all out, I find myself wondering "could I make a version of this myself that would be better for us?"  My experience with pancakes and other things has given me the confidence to ask this question.  And, with the power of the internet and, specifically, Pinterest :) on our side, how can we fail?

Also, I look for other ways to create convenience.  We all know that some days are busier than others.  On a day when I have more time, I could mix together all the dry ingredients needed for multiple batches of pancakes and store it in the pantry, ready to be used just like Bisquik.  Or, when I've made a few too many pancakes, I could lay the cakes out on a baking sheet to freeze individually before stacking them up and throwing them into a freezer bag (or several -- hey, I could even wrap them in "8 Individually Wrapped Packages"!)

If you're interested, here's the recipe I've been using for pancakes lately:

1.5 c. flour
2 Tbs. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1.25-1.5 c. of milk
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 Tbs. vegetable oil