I see a lot of the moms buying convenience food for their families. Here are two reasons I rarely do this:
1. Because they are processed, convenience foods are far less nutritious and healthy than homemade.
2. Convenience foods are far more costly than homemade.
But YES! Just like every other mom, there are times I'm way too tired to cook from scratch! The good news is, we can have the best of both worlds, if we make homemade convenience foods. All it takes is a little thought, followed by just a little time. (Think you don't have the time? It doesn't take much longer to double recipes - one excellent way to make convenience foods at home.) Here are a few ideas:
* Frozen Meals/TV Dinners. This is a great place to start. Just cook double every time you make a meal. Cool the food, then freeze it. Next time you don't have time or energy to cook, all you have to do is grab a meal from the freezer and warm it up.
* Pizza. It costs us at least $15 to purchase delivery pizza for our family, and at least $7 if we buy frozen or deli pizza. But I can make pizza at home for a couple of bucks. To make homemade pizza a convenience food, try these freezing options.
* Baking mix. I don't find it troublesome to make biscuits, pancakes, waffles, and the like from scratch - especially if I keep all the ingredients in one location. However, if you prefer having a ready made mix, these are super-simple to make and cost pennies compared to store bought. Here is a recipe for a white flour, Bisquick-like mix. If you prefer something with more healthful whole wheat flour, substitute up to half the white flour with whole wheat flour, then store the mix in the freezer. (No need to thaw before using.)
* Frozen biscuits. Once you make these from scratch, you'll never buy Pillsbury again. Just whip up a bunch (try Light as Air Biscuits or Buttermilk Biscuits), and either freeze them after the first rising, or after they are baked. (I recommend the first approach. To use, thaw, let rise in a warm location, and bake.)
* Frozen Pancakes or Waffles. These are just too easy to make at home. Learn how to freeze pancakes here - waffles here.
* Frozen Burritos. Again, seriously easy to make at home! I whip up large batches, wrap in foil, toss in large freezer bags, and reheat when needed. Here's my recipe for breakfast burritos, but any type of burrito - or enchilada - works.
* Store bought bread. Admittedly, it takes a little time to make bread at home if you don't have a bread maker. But a consumer-model bread maker pays for itself pretty quickly if you normally buy a few loaves of bread each week. There's also no point in buying store bought loaves to accompany dinner - just make a bunch of dough ahead of time and freeze it. (To use, thaw, let rise, and bake.) Or freeze baked loaves.
* French Fries and Hashbrowns. Once again, these are so cheap to make! If you like a lot of French fries, it makes sense to invest in a good mandolin for faster cutting. Here are instructions on freezing homemade fries. Hashbrowns are even easier to make. Just peel, cut into halves, boil until just tender, then strain. Pour the potatoes in a bowl and cover with cold water. (This keeps them from overcooking.) Shred by hand or in a food processor and place in freezer bags.
* Cookie dough or mixes. Homemade is both better tasting and cheaper. If you want to be able to make cookies at the drop of a hat, make extra next time you bake from scratch, then freeze the dough.
* Canned beans. Use dried and save a bundle. If you have trouble remembering to prepare the beans enough ahead of time, make large batches and either freeze or can them. The same goes for baked beans or refried beans. (Hint: Can pinto beans and mash them as you reheat; viola! Refried beans!)
* Pre-cooked Meat. I honestly can't believe anyone buys precooked meat; it's very expensive yet easy - and cheaper - to make at home. Cook up more than needed when making a particular meal, allow to cool, and put in freezer bags. This works for ground meat and chopped or shredded poultry, beef, or fish.
* Chicken Nuggests/Tenders. My kids love these things, and they are my go-to food whenever the main meal I fix is not to their liking. Here's a recipe; just wrap individual tenders in waxed- or parchment-paper and pop them into freezer containers.
* Soups. Once you've had good, homemade soup, it's pretty hard to eat the canned stuff. The good news is, any soup can be frozen and many can be canned.
* Powdered or Ready Made Pudding. Shelf stable pudding is scary. Plus, you'll save a bundle making it at home; store this mix in an air tight container.
This list is just the tip of the iceberg. Chances are, if you do a Google search, you will find recipes for nearly any convenience food you buy in the store. And that's good not only for your bank account, but also your family's health.
What are your favorite home made convenience foods?