Pre-packaged salad
I read an interesting article the other day about how much the "convenience premium" really costs you when buying convenience foods. Most people don't think about the fact that they pay a premium for foods that are partially prepared for them. When considering the things you can do to save money, buying whole foods and preparing them yourself is quite a bit cheaper. Is it really worth it to buy pre-cut vegetables, when you can easily chop them yourself in just a few minutes?

As the author points out, you might save 2 minutes by not chopping your own onions, but you also had to work extra to pay for the convenience of having the onions pre-chopped - which means more time at work, and less time with your family, friends, or just relaxing and taking care of yourself.
So how much did you really save?
While it may just seem like a few dollars here and there, it certainly adds up over time - especially with the amount of "convenience" foods that so many families buy on a regular basis. 

The article offers several suggestions for avoiding the convenience fee. From planning ahead for vacations and travel, to packing your own lunches (this is a HUGE savings - if you eat lunch out every day, you can easily spend five times or more what you would just by packing a lunch and bringing it to work with you), to avoiding pre-made foods, and enjoying the process of making things yourself, he has some pretty good tips here for keeping your spending in check, or at least not spending more than you need to on "convenience."

However, one thing that he didn't mention is, not only do you pay for convenience with your hard-earned dollars, but you also pay with your health! Many convenience foods are highly processed, and contain a bevvy of preservatives and other artificial ingredients that really aren't so good for you. Even simple items like pre-packaged salads may be irradiated and packaged with a gas to preserve freshness. Chopped vegetables may be washed with chlorine or other chemicals to preserve their color once they are cut.

Even if you buy organic, most vegetables tend to lose nutrients quickly once they are cut. The more of the internal surface of a fruit or vegetable that is exposed to air, the more quickly the nutritional quality will degrade, so keep that in mind before purchasing pre-cut vegetables.

Freezing may preserve some of the nutrients if it is done immediately after the vegetable is cut, but you won't really know that for most items, so regardless of the method of preservation, the best way to get the most nutrients from your food is to prepare it yourself. And even better - if possible - grow it yourself! Fresh picked foods right out of the garden of course have the highest levels of nutrition available. If you can't grow it yourself, join a CSA, or shop at a farmer's market, where most of the produce was probably harvested within 24-48 hours. For much of the produce in the supermarket, you have no way of knowing exactly how long it has been sitting there - and how much nutrition it still contains.

But if you simply must shop at a supermarket, at least purchase items which are in their whole state, then wash and chop them yourself at home. Not only will you be saving money, you'll also be eating healthier - and while you may be able to put a price on convenience, good health is priceless!

To your good health!


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