Quick and easy mixes, just add water, helper, and in a jiffy, are just a few ways the boxed food industry tries to lure us into believing that if we will use their mixes we will save time! They put dishes of beautiful looking food on the fronts of the box, making the food look delicious, and making us feel that WE TOO can have this for dinner, a tasty and less expensive option. I had a elderly friend that once said, “If you are what you eat, well then I must be fast, cheap and easy!” This brought a roar of laughter from the church group of ladies as we were learning about nutrition one day. And as hilarious as this statement is, isn’t it just a little bit true?
I have been as guilty as anyone for falling for these tactics! I didn’t know that I could even make these things on my own! But as I learned more about cooking and baking over the years, and I delved deeper into “all from scratch” cooking, I learned these 5 things.
- Making it from scratch really didn’t take much more time!
- With most mixes, I provided a large portion of the ingredients!
- Mixes have preservatives that aren’t as good for our health.
- There is no way a mix even held a candle to the taste of a fresh ingredient recipe!
- Boxed food is expensive!!
Let’s break down these 5 reasons, I’ll give you some facts and opinions, and then a few panty staple ideas for making this stuff on your own!
- The boxed mixes really didn’t save time. As I have learned to make muffins, cakes, cookies, chicken pasta dishes, scalloped potatoes, etc.., I noticed that making it from scratch or mostly from scratch, didn’t take me much longer at all. So, let’s say you are making pancakes. If you have a mix, some require you to still crack eggs and measure water and oil, or you can get the very delicious option of ‘just add water’, but you still measure, pour and mix. There is still a ‘time’ element to doing these things. I timed myself on 2 mornings just as a comparison for time with a mix vs. from scratch pancakes. I made buttermilk pancakes, Better Homes and Gardens Book recipe. I got out my electric griddle plugged it in and then started timing. I got out ingredients, the recipe, and got to work. In under 6 minutes on one day and 9 minutes the other, ( that second time I think I was asleep at the wheel, I literally poured the sugar on the counter next to the bowl! ) in that short amount of time, I was pouring fresh buttermilk pancake batter onto the sizzling griddle for breakfast. In 10 – 13 minutes from starting on both days, they were on the plates being slathered with butter and syrup. That’s all. I wasn’t rushing any faster because I was being timed, I mean I rush somewhat in the mornings to get breakfast on the table, and maybe if I had never made them before it may have taken me a few minutes more. The point is, the $4+ box of pancake mix would have saved me maybe 3-6 minutes. Now with a noodle and meat type boxed meal, you still have to simmer the pasta, you still have to cook the meat. Those things take the same amount of time to cook regardless. Why do we buy these mixes?! Yes you may have to chop a few veggies or buy some mushrooms or buttermilk, but lets not fool ourselves into thinking the mixes really save us time. Are they easier? Well, ya. A little. But if 6 minutes is going to make or break your day, you may want to reevaluate some stuff.
- I still had to provide ingredients to add to the mix. Let’s face it. If we are providing the eggs and butter or oil, what else is there? What are in these mixes? I started looking into the ingredients on the back of the boxes. They sell us flour, leavening, spices, salt, sugar, cornstarch, artificial nonsense like blueberries, (what ARE artificial blueberries!?) a few little chocolate chips, powdered eggs and milk, or a very small portion of noodles/rice. Come on guys, we HAVE all this stuff! Most mixes comprise of staples we already have! I think we fall for the IDEA, more than anything. “Oh, lets have stroganoff, I don’t know how to make it from scratch, so I will just buy this box of dehydrated potatoes or pasta and seasonings.” GAG!
There are a gazillion recipes on Pinterest or in easy meal cookbooks! We have more resources for ways to cook than anyone ever in the history of the world. What it takes, is having a meal plan when you go to the store, a list for buying the fresh ingredients like blueberries and such to have ready to go for making those blueberry pancakes or muffins.
- Mixes have preservatives, and are completely nutritionally inferior! Processed pre-packaged food has taken over the diet of most Americans! Let’s consider the nutritional value of processed food. Processed food gives us a dose of factory-created fats, hormones, additives, unnatural genetic material, colorings, artificial flavors, high fructose corn syrup, refined grains, salts and chemicals that change the texture and preserve the food. And unfortunately, the food is also STRIPPED of nutrients by chemicals and heat treatment processes to lengthen it’s shelf life. Nutrients that by nature protect our organs, like healthy enzymes, vitamins, minerals, soluble fiber, antioxidants, and good fats. As a general rule, processed food, including some restaurant and most fast food, and frozen food, have been changed extensively from their original and raw state. We need to remember that the closer our food is to it’s natural state, the better it actually is for us. Vegetables and fruits from our own gardens and trees will be better for us than the vegetables at the grocery store. The grocery store fresh produce will be better for us than frozen, and frozen is generally better for us than canned food, and so on. Does this mean I don’t have any prepackaged or frozen food in my home? No. Because I do. Do I try to limit the ‘damage’ so to speak, by taking the extra time and possibly money to grind my own wheat, use raw honey, make my chicken pot pies and waffles from scratch? Yes, I do. Did you know, that even if you buy the pre-ground whole wheat flour in the bag, that it has lost nearly all of its nutrients? Sad but true.
- Taste! To me this is really one of the biggest reasons for making food from scratch! I am sorry if you have loved your mixes over the years, and some of them do taste pretty good. But I can safely promise you that a made from scratch biscuit, homemade garlic mashed potatoes or a fresh out of the oven pumpkin muffin will knock the socks off any pop the can, dehydrated trash, quicky mix out there! Let’s stop feeding our families garbage food. Nothing tastes better than food made from fresh ingredients and lovingly prepared by your hands! Food really can be infused with love. The rave reviews from your family will be motivation enough! Give the people you love your very best. That is my motto in the kitchen. And the smell of GOOD food cooking in the oven! Heaven. As I write today, there have been loaves of bread, raising and baking. The smell in this home is absolutely fabulous. Pretty soon my family will come through that door, and the ooooo’s and aaahhhh’s will commence. We will cut into fresh warm loaf and slather it will butter and honey, it will melt and drip onto our hands and plate. We will probably lick them clean. We will devour a whole loaf. Are your mouths watering yet? Ya, I know they are. That is the point, nothing tastes better. Look in our recipes for Grandma’s white bread.
- The 5th thing I found about boxed mixes was the expense. . When we pay $1-6 or more for things that we already have in our pantry, that’s a little silly. Of course there are always sales. And I know that it is easier for kids to make themselves food this way. I know, I get it. It’s fine. I have a few boxes of mac-n-cheese in the pantry too. But, as far as cost goes, a bag/box of pasta with seasonings you buy for a $1 or $1.50 on sale, but you can get a whole pound of pasta for $1 on sale too. You also provide the chicken or ground meat, which is the most expensive part. So for bigger dinner meals, it just makes sense financially to buy the pasta, make or buy the sauce and put together with your meat. Now let’s talk about a $4 cookie mix. You will only be able to get a dozen or 2 cookies out of it, and you will still provide the butter and eggs. Butter and eggs are the more expensive part of making cookies anyway, aside from the extras like chocolate chips or nuts. Just spend the money instead on the good stuff to put in the cookies, and don’t pay for a box of flour, baking soda, sugar and salt. It really won’t take much more time. And it really isn’t worth what they are charging you. The one box mix that I feel is worth occaisionally using is a cake mix. Here’s why; cakes can be very tricky, especially up in the altitude. They taste pretty dang good and you can also add good things to the mix to make it even better. But I have been trying to make more of my cakes from scratch, and I know that with practice, I will get better at it. And that’s all we can really do right? Give it a try.
Here in Part 1, hopefully I have convinced you to give it a try, my next post will be a few tips on where you can start on a pantry list, and posts 3 and 4 will be super great recipes that you can use in place of the boxed food crutches we are used to. Get inspired, and get in that kitchen and make your meals awesome! Don’t do it ordinary, do it extraordinary!