Packaged Foods

It is handy to have some packaged foods around.

A lot of people complain online about how tired they are - "too tired to cook!" - so they send out for food with DoorDash or a pizza.  $20 later, they are stuffed full of carbs and sodium.  Hey, I'm not taking a piss on bad food here - we all eat it on occasion.  But as a steady diet, it will make you ill, over time.  Ask me how I know.

Fresh food, particularly fruits and vegetables, are better for you. But since they have a fairly short shelf life (in many cases) you have to go shopping more often, which is time-consuming.  And having groceries delivered is expensive.   If your refrigerator is empty, well, it is tempting to go to a restaurant, order carryout, or order delivery food, which is expensive.

For example, a new sub sandwich shop opened up here on the island, advertising "giant subs."  The subs are not "giant" but OK.  The prices, on the other hand, are indeed quite large.  A 12" sub with chips and soda, plus a 15% tip, is close to $20.  Granted, that is enough to feed two people, but it is a long way from the $5 foot-long of yore.  One of the cheapest items on the menu is a Gyro, which can be split in two, but still costs $10.20 with the 15% tip and tax.

Now, granted, we live in a tourist area, and people are staying in hotels and can't open up a of beans and heat it on the television.  So the restaurants have the customers over a barrel.  But even on the mainland, prices aren't much cheaper.

Traveling by RV, we often end up in places far from grocery stores, so we have to plan in advance our meals - and also keep a supply of "packaged foods" ready to supplement our diet.  These are foods that often do not require refrigeration and thus have a very long shelf-life.  It is handy to have these in the camper - or at home - to prepare a meal on a moment's notice, even if the refrigerator is bare.

And the cost is pretty low, too.

For example, Mark picked up this Betty Crocker pasta salad kit for $1.25 at the Dollar Tree.  "Serves 2" the package says.  They recommend adding something like tuna to it and a can of that runs $1 to $1.50 at the wholesale club.  So, for $2.50 you have lunch for two - and quite a filling lunch at that.  Maybe it ain't health food, but it is a meal, for cheap, and always ready to go and requires no refrigeration.

Beats spending $10 or $20 on lunch.  That's a huge savings.  If we ate lunch at restaurants every day of the year, and spent an average of $15 on lunch, the savings of making something like this every day would come to.$4500.  Bet you didn't see that coming!

Of course, you can "doctor" these kinds of things up - add some sliced peppers or celery or whatnot, or serve a salad on the side.  Healthier and the cost is still well under $5.

There are a lot of packaged foods like this out there.  You can buy canned chicken, cooked and ready to eat.  We even found canned beef in sauce - just dump it over a plate of egg noodles, heat and serve - instant beef stroganoff!

Of course, the granddaddy of all packaged foods is canned soup, which has fallen out of favor with the new generation (according to some marketers).  Back in the day, I always had a half-dozen cans of store-brand soup in my cupboard.  When I was in school, I would buy things like that (and a bag of rice, pasta, peanut butter) when I got paid, so I would know I would have something to eat until next payday.

Back then, soup was three-for-a-dollar.  For some reason, they have decided to make canned soup "gourmet" and ask $2 a can for it.  It no longer is the poverty bargain it once was.  But sometimes you can score a deal.  Dollar tree - before it was $1.25 tree - had clam chowder for a buck.  Not a lot of clams in it, but for a second buck, they had canned clams.  Another buck for crackers and you've got a New England dinner!

"But Bob!" you say, "That takes time to prepare! And I'm too tired to cook!"   Maybe true enough (or you are just lazy!) but Mark boiled the water for the noodles this morning while we were making breakfast - so the whole thing was done and in the refrigerator.  If we were still working, it would be a simple matter to put it in a tupperware and take with us.  A lot of hassle?  For $4500 a year, not really.

To those making $100,000 a year, who say, "Well, I can afford to eat out for lunch every day!" I say three things.  First, even if you could afford it, could your waistline afford it?  Over time, you will accumulate weight, just as people accumulate debt (or wealth if they are smart).  And one way to accumulate wealth is to not spend $4500 a year on forgettable junk food.

Second, $4500 a year is still nearly5% of your income - that's a big chunk.  But worse than that, if you subtract the taxes you owe, your rent or mortgage payment, your car costs, and other "fixed" costs of living, you may be lucky to have maybe $10,000 in discretionary spending - money that you can invest, or buy something for yourself, or splurge on a vacation or whatever.  Now think about it - $4500 additional would be a 50% increase in that discretionary spending - enough to take a nice vacation or help fund your 401(k).

Or, you could spend it on a pile of hamburgers.  Your choice - and America is all about making choices, good and bad.  And you can see, driving down "the strip" in your hometown, all the bad choices you can make.  Buy-here-pay-here used cars.  The mattress store.  Rent-to-own furniture.  Payday Loans.  Title Pawn Loans.  Fast Food.  Convenience Stores.  Nearly everything you see, particularly things advertised with bright logos and light-up signs, is a shitty bargain.  The shiner and flashier the sign, the shittier the bargain generally is.  It is a pretty good "tell" if you think about it.

But young people don't see that - they see glitz and glamour and a chance to practice "adulting" and do what they want to do.  As a kid, they begged and screamed at Mom to stop at McDonald's on the way home from the mall.   "No, we have peanut butter sandwiches at home!" she says, and you melt-down in a full-fury temper tantrum.  Shitty peanut butter sandwiches!  When I grow up, it's McDonald's every day!  And many young people - or even middle-aged ones - live that "dream" for years or even a lifetime.

It is only when you get older and realize the money train doesn't go on forever, that you start to understand what Mom and Dad were getting at - that spending a little extra here and a little extra there all adds up to a shitload of money.  Frittering away dollars on stupid things is fine - once in a while - but as a lifetime daily habit it gets expensive.  Better to put that money to better uses.

Of course, I say that and realize that many Moms and Dads today are those minivan kids of yesterday, and they learned nothing about financial responsibility.  They've remortgaged the house three times now, to pay off credit card debts - having learned nothing from the 2008 debacle (except perhaps, to blame Obama).  Their kids are spendthrifts because they are.  And when it all goes horribly wrong, they demand a bailout.  The sense of entitlement is strong.

Having some packaged foods in the pantry means you never get into a situation where "there's nothing to eat and I'm too tired to go shopping and too tired to cook!"   There is always something to eat, and if you have a power outage, you don't have to worry about the food going bad.

Our parents' generation always had some packaged foods around the house, and I recall on more than one occasion, having soup for dinner, with maybe a side salad or some vegetables.  Simple and easy to prepare and it's always there in the pantry.

And cheap, too!

Now, I'm not saying you should go on an all-prepared-food diet.  Geez, I hate it when people are reactionary like that or just play dumb to troll.  But a packaged-food meal certainly is no less healthy than take-out restaurant food.  And if you have a half-hour to wait for DoorDash or Domino's, well, you have more than enough time to boil water.


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