Why We Eat Some Processed Foods

posted by Andrea | 03/18/2014

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Almost EVERY time I share a recipe or meal-planning post, I get at least one comment or email from someone who claims to “make everything from 100% scratch” and thus has an issue with part of my recipe… because no, I don’t make everything 100% from scratch.

Usually the questions are about how I could change the recipe to be 100% from scratch with absolutely no processed ingredients… to which I respond “I don’t know”.

I’m not trying to be silly or rude, I just honestly don’t know!

As I clearly state on My Recipes Page, it’s not my goal to live without any processed or convenient foods. And it’s not my goal to make everything my family eats 100% from scratch.

I have 500 other things I need to do each day, and while eating a healthy balanced diet IS important to me, I’m also fairly confident that we will not wither and melt from eating an occasional frozen pizza or a boxed brownie mix.

In fact, this is a direct quote from My Recipes Page:

My recipes are simple, delicious, family-friendly, and budget-conscious.

My recipes are easy enough for the busy home chef, delicious enough to impress your guests, and “normal” enough that even your picky eaters are bound to like something!

My recipes use common ingredients you will find in any grocery store (or in your pantry), most offer simple substitutions to fit your family’s tastebuds, and many start with a boxed mix or some pre-made ingredients to help you get dinner on the table even faster.

My recipes are freezer-friendly, and most can easily be made ahead in double or triple batches to save you even more time.

Compare to many people I know, I actually cook and bake from scratch A LOT. However, we have at least one or two meals each week that comprise of some semi-homemade and/or processed foods — and there are many times when I start with a boxed mix for one of my baking recipe… I’m totally OK with that.

Yes, I am fully aware that it would be healthier if I did everything 100% from scratch with all natural and organic ingredients; and I realize that processed and pre-packaged foods are not as healthy as homemade foods.

BUT…

I also know that if I put the pressure on myself to make everything from scratch without ever being able to fall back on a can of soup, a frozen pizza, store-bought cookies, or mac & cheese from a box, I would go crazy and probably give up cooking all together.

We would eat out a lot more, I would be more stressed, I would spend WAY more time agonizing over what to make, our grocery bill would be a lot higher, and our freezer wouldn’t be half as full as it is right now.

I realize not everyone would fall into this trap — but I would.

I like to cook and bake but I don’t LOVE to do either for mass amounts of time. I enjoy spending time in the kitchen if I can be quick and efficient about the meals and snacks I make.

Also, I personally know MANY people who claim to “make everything from scratch” and “never buy any processed foods” but then I’ve seen those same people chowing down at Subway, McDonalds, and Pizza Hut with their family (on more than one occasion).

And while I most definitely do NOT think it’s bad to go out to eat if you can afford it, I also KNOW that these “everything from scratch, no processed food families” eat out much more regularly than Dave and I do — costing them many more dollars and calories in the long run.

When I questioned some of these people as to why they eat out so often, it almost always comes down the fact that they get completely burnt out trying to make everything from scratch — and then they just give up and resort to frozen pizza and fast food for an entire week straight. Then they get back on their healthy-food kick and are super diligent for 2-3 more weeks until they burn out again.

Honestly, I don’t blame them!

There’s just no way I could grind my own grain, make ALL my own bread, make my own cheese, and obsess over every single ingredient that enters my kitchen on a regular basis.

Sure it’s fun to cook from scratch and make time-consuming recipes every now and then — but not every meal, every day, every week.

Everything in Moderation:

Yes, sometimes I make homemade oatmeal with fresh fruit and real maple syrup or homemade omelets with whole grain toast for breakfast. But there are plenty of other days when we eat cold cereal — and I even buy PopTarts for Dave because they are his favorite.

Often we’ll have leftovers or a big fresh salad for lunch, but there are plenty of days when we have lunch meat and cheese on store-bought bread… with chips 🙂

And for dinner, I have absolutely no qualms about incorporating a can of cream of mushroom soup into my casserole with fresh veggies, roasted meats, and home canned applesauce — because I know that if I had to make my own cream of mushroom soup, I would shy away from even making the casserole in the first place and we’d resort to fast food or a frozen meal.

I am not stupid… I realize that processed foods are not great.

But I’m also pretty practical with my approach to feeding my family and realize that SOME processed food with LOTS of other fresh fruits, veggies, meats, and grains is much better than a stressed out, burned out mama who resorts to fast food and frozen meals day after day.

As I mention on my recipe page, I’m an advocate for “everything in moderation” (for food and most other things in life).

We are not going to live a horrible life because I served store-bought garlic bread with my homemade meatballs and homemade pasta sauce, or even because we eat a frozen pizza (with soda) every once in a while.

I’ve never once claimed to be a gourmet chef or a Real Food fanatic, so if that’s the only type of food you’re looking for — you probably won’t find tons of useful recipes on my blog.

However, if you’re looking for simple, delicious, budget-conscious recipes that your family is sure to love, I can probably help you out!

And by all means, feel free to modify ANY of my recipes to substitute out the processed foods you don’t love — just don’t ask me how to do it!  🙂

What are your thoughts on eating some processed food?

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