Ready or Not #213: The Dumbing Down of Food Preparation

I was at the grocery store the other day and I was mortified.  There are so many things that are “dumbing down” America and the food industry is right in the thick of it.  I think the most obvious in-your-face dumbing down was the advent of the pre-made peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

The food industry has been pre-preparing our meals for us for years and I see the wisdom in pre-made soups and such, but really – a pre-made peanut butter and jelly sandwich?  I know that these little monstrosities are not new on the scene (they haunt your child’s school lunchroom as I write), but really, how much more of our brain does the food industry intend to try and take away from us?

The other day I visited the grocery store looking for candied ginger.  I hadn’t bought candied ginger for quite some time and I couldn’t remember if the grocery store had it or if I would need to find it elsewhere.  The grocery store didn’t have it, but while I was looking around I visited the spice aisle and couldn’t believe what I saw.

I don’t visit the spice aisle very often because I buy my herbs and spices in the larger containers, and they last me for quite some time, so I was shocked when I saw the “latest and greatest” – pre-measured spices for individual dinners!

The spice company was so considerate.  They measured a half teaspoon of this and a teaspoon of that, and a couple of teaspoons of the other and put them into cute little individual plastic dividers on a convenient little recipe card.  How thoughtful. Okay enough with the sarcasm.

Are we so busy that we can’t read a recipe and measure out our own spices?  Are we so inept at using kitchen implements that we need to pay “them” to figure it out and to do it for us?  And at a hefty price at that!  What is so darn hard about using a set of measuring spoons for a half of a teaspoon of this, or a teaspoon of that?

The cost was outrageous – nearly three dollars per “convenient” spice card.  Just a half dozen of those cards and you could have bought all of the spices you need to make all of the different meals you want for an entire year.  Find the same recipe for free on the internet and get out your measuring spoons.  By doing this you will save time and money – time spent shopping and money not spent paying for silly little conveniences.

Have you ever added up how much convenience costs you?  After working so very hard all day, every day, do you really want to spend your time and money buying something that is only a perceived time saver?  I go back to the peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  Does making a decent PB&J sandwich take much more than 30 seconds of your time to assemble?  You say that it is time that you could be spending with your children?  Of course it is – and you should be, while you are both fixing your meals together!

If you and your children are going to be eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch, then instead of heading for the freezer to take out a plastic sealed (and plastic tasting) frozen conundrum, make them from scratch with your kids – together.  That night, when you come home to fix dinner, have your kids use their growing dexterity skills and math skills while measuring the spices and herbs you need for your favorite evening meal.  That is time well spent with your family while you are teaching your children valuable skills – AND you are saving money at the same time that you could spend to build your food storage!

Next time you are tempted to buy something that you are told by advertisers you “deserve” or that they are just trying to “help” you live easier think about what it is really costing you – and then go home and make something from scratch with your kids, even if you have to get out your measuring spoons!

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