Friday, 12 August 2016

Weekly Column: Convenience Costs

Convenience Costs

It seems that people are living at a faster pace these days. An interesting question might be: what came first, the hectic pace or the drive thru? Did we begin cramming more activities into our everyday lives and thus require a faster way to pump food into our bodies, or did the availability of cheap food-on-the-fly allow us more time for the things we want to do? While picking up take-out and hitting a drive thru have become a daily or weekly ritual for some, hopefully we can all remember a time when that wasn’t the case.

If fast food wasn’t an option

Imagine for a moment that grabbing supper on your way home was not an option. Or, if the only alternative to cooking was a sit-down restaurant meal that took an hour or more to prepare. Would it be more convenient to eat at home? If fast, ready to eat food did not exist would you make any changes to your schedule? Would you cut out a few activities that right now seem essential, or would you put more effort into preparing for the week?

Of course, fast food is here to stay and, likely, so is the busy lifestyle that most people have adopted. It is not easy to work all day, pick kids up from school or day care or sports and arrive home to a whole new set of chores and demands. If there is an evening every week where you work late, the kids have activities, or you have plans of your own, how do you prepare for this?

Beat the temptation to order in by cooking double batches and freezing portions for busy evenings. Thaw your supper while you are out, then reheat it when you arrive. But your kids are starving animals after sports? Let them eat some of their daily recommended servings of fruit and vegetables (which you prepared yourself, earlier) while they wait. Better yet, distract them with a few chores while supper cooks.

But what to make?

Mixing up a few pounds of hamburger does not take long and can yield several meals: freeze meatloaf and meat balls for later and BBQ some homemade hamburgers for a treat. While you are doing that you could also brown some hamburger to use in chili, lasagna, shepherd’s pie or other casseroles.

But meat is expensive, you say? Yes, it is. But if your back up plan to feed your family when you are tired is hitting the drive thru, you have probably become accustomed to spending around $40 per meal for a family of four. That $40 could feed your family home cooked meals for several days if you are organized and plan ahead. Saving $20-30 on a meal is like putting in more time at work—except that you can “earn” yourself that money from the comfort of home.

Fast meals like bacon and eggs, beans and toast or soup and sandwiches are no less healthy than drive thru. If you would rather some vegetarian options, or if going meatless is something you are interested in trying, there have never been more recipe ideas online. Start looking!

There must be a healthier way

If someone told you they could feed your family healthier food for a fraction of the cost, would you be interested? If they said that a time commitment of a couple hours per week would make you healthier, save money and possibly bring you closer as a family, could you find the time? Cooking at home is not necessarily a family activity but you can involve the kids by having them chop or wash veggies, set and clear the table, or even help with the cooking if they are old enough. When all members of a family are going in different directions it can be hard to connect with each other. Committing to eating together at a table as often as possible is good for your relationships as well as your budget.

It’s not a step back in time

It is no one particular member of the family’s responsibility to prepare the food. If you can eat you need to learn to feed yourself. If you are a parent and have your kids in activities to strengthen their bodies and people skills, consider this another opportunity for their growth. Teach them the difference in value (both nutritional and monetary) between a fast food meal and one you prepare and eat together. If you seriously do not have the time, ever, to prepare food for the work week it may be time to re-examine your schedule and priorities. There may be times you need a fast meal on the go, but hopefully you can find a way to slow down and eat at home more often. 


  1. Something for all to consider, truly. Moving to a rural location has drastically reduced the amount we spend on eating out. We can no longer just say, "I don't want to cook," without committing to a half hour drive each way, give or take. Makes a huge difference.

    1. I can very much relate, Kirsten. Although I could grab food when we are in town and bring it home to eat, we are usually disappointed in the quality and mortified at the price! I've gotten much better at organizing so that I have easy meals I can make in a hurry. Thanks for commenting!

  2. Great post! Although I have to say that the best fast food is frozen fruit and vegetables - healthy AND convenient and I cannot imagine life without them (nor would I).

    An interesting question (for me but also for so many others) is how would employers react if there were no fast food options? While we as individuals have come to rely on these options, if there truly were no availability, how would that impact our working lives? Since I am an urban-ite, there are so many places that are open late to accommodate folks like me that can't run errands etc. until after work. Be interesting to see how life would change if all those accommodations went away.
    ~ Pru

    1. Such great points, Pru. I believe if there was no fast convenient option for food employers would not expect late nights of work nearly as much. It makes you wonder if it would be a friendlier world or if people would just starve to death ;) you are right though, the convenience of frozen fruit and vegetables is often cheaper and picked at the peak of freshness. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that!!