Just Say No: To the frozen food section
But if this prediction comes to pass, there's a good chance we won't be roasting it in our own ovens, or hobo-style over an open flame. We'd likely wait for Acme to offer rotisserie squirrel or for Tyson to roll out a line of frozen Rodent Cutlets in Gravy. Because while trips to restaurants are dropping concurrently with our fortunes, they are not, on the whole, being replaced by home cooking. According to recent reports, sales of both prepared meals and frozen foods are booming.
Purchasing premade foods to save money is, to paraphrase George Carlin, a bit like screwing for virginity. A frozen pizza or can of soup, while inarguably convenient, is flagrantly overpriced when compared to its homemade equivalent. In letting Nestl� and ConAgra cook for us, we're wasting scads of money--and eating less healthily.
Below are some common "convenience" meals, compared by price with their simplest from-scratch analogues. For once, the little guy comes out on top.
Tombstone Pizza (prices from SuperFresh)
A $5.59 Tombstone pizza is a definite money saver in comparison to a $12 takeout pie. If these are your only options, then you're indeed gaming the system. But to game it even more ruthlessly, take matters into your own hands. You'll need: • 3 � cups flour: $1.79 • 8 oz. mozzarella: $3.19
• Canned tomatoes: $1.39
• 2 tsp. yeast: $0.96
• 2 tbsp. oil,
• 2 tsp. salt
• 1 tsp. sugar
The total cost: $7.73. That $1.74 overrun makes more sense when you consider that the above amounts will leave you with two pizzas and plenty of extra flour. An added bonus: You get to awkwardly heave a wad of raw dough into the air--one of life's great pleasures.
Stouffer's Lasagna (prices from SuperFresh)
Stouffer's, which offers a wide array of faintly depressing, plastic-dished cuisine, sells its frozen meat lasagna for $4.99. Not only is it one of their more dispiriting items, it's also outrageously expensive in comparison to homemade lasagna. • Lasagna noodles: $2.19 • 1 lb. ground beef: $3.99 • Canned tomatoes: $1.39 • 8 oz. mozzarella: $3.19 • Cottage cheese: $2.39
Your total: $13.15--substantially more than $4.99, but a bargain when you're left with a 6 lb. lasagna the size of a chessboard. Plus, no sad plastic dish necessary.
Progresso Split-Pea Soup (prices from Acme)
Soup is one of the most wholesome, mindlessly simple things to cook, and pricewise it puts its phthalate-ridden canned cousins to shame. To wit: a 19-ounce can of Progresso Split-Pea Soup costs $2.49. To make a heaping vat of your own:
• 1 lb. dry split peas: $1.29 • 4 carrots: $1.29 • 1 onion: $0.50 • 1 tbsp. salt
• 1 tbsp. pepper
• 6 cups water