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How hard is it to avoid junk?

The pressure is on.  How you handle it is extremely important - for your own future health, and that of your children or other family members.  How hard is it to avoid junk foods, additives, expensive pre-made meals and snacks?  Pretty difficult.

I'm not lecturing on a subject I know nothing about.  I did sales part-time until mid-'73, when I had to go to work full-time.  At first, I received little cooperation from family members in food prep and cleanup, laundry, and household chores. So little in fact, that after three years, on the point of collapse, I went on strike.  I found a family-run restaurant with unusually healthy food, opened an account and told everyone to eat there, or cook for themselves.  No laundry, no housekeeping...  until they kicked in.  It took nine months, but the situation finally became so intolerable that they called a family conference, and we divided up chores and responsibilities.

We ate out, took turns cooking, (except for the youngest daughter, who I hadn't had time to teach to cook, but she micro-waved real well!) and tried to feed each other a healthy diet.  Hubby learned to turn out simple meals; son Mark became an occasional gourmet cook.  I burned a lot of food as there was always an emergency on the phone or at the door.  Eventually I made a deal with a single man who was a fanatic about healthy, home-cooked food and had a grossly inadequate kitchen in his tiny apartment.  I bought the food, he came over every day, cooked for all of us, while he ate for free.

As women work outside the home, often in tiring, stressful jobs, cooking a full meal is really hard.  Corporations are getting rich off this, offering pre-cooked or pre-packaged food that in many cases have undesirable ingredients, lack the needed nutrients and anti-oxidants, and have made us fatter than any other generation in history.  Here's an example: just running through today's newspaper quickly I found ads or coupons for the following "foods":

Individual pkts of flavored biscuit baking mixes

Microwave red beans & rice

Two kinds of whipped toppings

Salisbury steak meal w/corn & mashed taters (starch)

Pre-cut pre-washed veggies

Cream cheese & strawberry pastries

Frozen cheesecakes & pound cake

Several kinds of ice cream

10 kinds of cheese products, spreads, etc.

4 kinds of fruit punch, splashes, & ades

6 candy ads

Rice pilaf and couscous kits

Fruit (?) snacks in cute shapes
Sweet rolls ready to bake in tubes, with frosting

4 kinds of frozen chicken pot pies

Fajita fries (?)

Packaged salads- 6 kinds

No-bake cheesecake

Frozen bread strips to dunk in syrup for breakfast

Individual microwaveable baked beans

Maybe 12 or 13 different cookies

Baking kits for various desserts

Ads for 9 fast-food places, w/coupons and pictures

2 brownie mixes

5 kinds of non-cheese dips

2 kinds of chips and dips

I'm sure I missed a lot.  This was just a quick run-though.  They are cunningly packaged, and store managers don't miss the opportunity to put them in prime places in the store, often at eye level.  You're shopping, you're hungry and exhausted, the kids are cross, why not?

Even worse than the fact that by spending the extra cash on these prepackaged foods, you are negating a lot of your earnings; even worse than the unhealthy diet these foods can produce; kids raised on these items don't like and often will never eat the healthful choices available at a lower price.   (Conversely, those who have always eaten a natural, home-cooked meal often gack at pre-packaged pre-cooked food.  Once in a while I give in and am almost always sorely disappointed.

Many homemakers have come up with creative solutions.  I know of some that swap meals with a neighbor.  (We did this to a degree once with my daughter: swapped kids on some meals).   My niece prepared a weeks worth of meals on the weekend, freezing what wouldn't keep.   Some professionals hire a good cook or a chef to come in every other week, cook and freeze, and label with instructions.  When I worked part time I collected recipes for my own "mixes" and stuck them in the freezer for freshness.  Others learn new skills that enable them to cut down on kitchen time, such as pre-cooking part of the meal the evening before, or using crock pots, or leaving oven-ready foods in the fridge with instructions for the first person home to immediately put the item in to cook.

I have three other suggestions: 

  • Involve the family;  family time doesn't have to be sports and camping, it can be food preparation as well.
  • Turn off the soaps and watch the food channels sometimes.  Rather than concentrating on the recipes, watch the chefs' hands and how they prepare the food.  Not all have equal skills, (in fact, some are downright pokey or have everything neatly chopped and arranged ahead by someone else) but by watching a good cook that actually prepares most of the meal in real time, you can find out how to cut hours a week off your prep time.
  • Invest in kitchen equipment to make the work easier - depending on your diet - perhaps an electric grill, a slow cooker, food processor, mixer, non stick pans...

Do you work outside the home and prepare home-cooked meals?  Let's hear how you handle wearing two (or more) hats.  Share your ideas here.

The Sneaky Kitchen
Web Site by Bess W. Metcalf   Copyrightę April 1999 - 201

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