Is homemade food slowly becoming a thing of the past?, as a child there was never any shortage of a home cooked roast dinner on the table on return from school. ‘Traditional’ values were a huge part of many families and still are for some, but with the increase of processed and convenience foods it seems those traditional values will soon be a tale of our youths. Meat, dairy, bread and potatoes will always be an important part of the human diet, but for many of us, they are more often in the form of hamburgers and frozen chips and not the traditional roast beef accompanied with a gigantic Yorkshire 'pud', seasonal vegetables and roast potatoes.
For and Against
With the increase of technology and food preservation methods it is no surprise that convenience foods are more readily available. Supermarkets offer butchered and rolled turkey breasts to allow smaller families to prepare a Christmas dinner on a budget, with very little room for wastage. There is often a small overhead in terms of price but supermarkets are providing a service by doing the hard work so that we don't have to.
Does buying convenience food save time and enable families to use time better?,which would otherwise be spent in a kitchen?, or create generations of people who are unable to cook, so steer further toward fast food outlets thus creating an unhealthy population?
a. Fresh ingredients are often more expensive than homemade dishes.
b. Home made dishes are more time-consuming to cook resulting in less quality time with the family (out of the kitchen)
c. You know exactly what goes into homemade dishes, and can limit the salts and fats and sugars.
d. Home made foods are a fresher product, convenience foods are often packed with preservatives and hydrogenated fats as these are popular (and cheaper) preservation methods.
e. Skills are constantly practiced by creating homemade dishes, this can help encourage the little ones to take part.
f. The taste, freshness and nutritional value of fresh ingredients outweigh the overcooked processes associated with convenience foods.
And from the suppliers perspective:
a. Many convenience foods are less costly than raw ingredients as mass production and distribution is more cost efficient.
b. Transportation of goods is less costly for packaged foods,especially in concentrated form (i.e packet soups, sauces) which means in some cases, cheaper for the consumer.
c. Less spoilage and waste occur with packaged convenience items resulting in less returns and write-offs.
It is clear that there are equal arguments for Homemade V's Convenience foods. In terms of cost, ease of use and storage, convenience food quite frankly has the unique selling point for any working family with everything but time on their hands. Its quick, simple and requires only the very basic skills of switching on an oven or microwave.
This said, there is no replacement for a traditional home cooked meal based on freshness, nutritional value and general health of the consumer. It also provides a skill of cooking through generations which will otherwise be lost.
Convenience foods can indeed compliment the British diet in moderation, but with sometimes excessive amounts of preservatives (fats,sugars,salt etc) used to support the 'freshness' and hinder bacterial growth, it is most definitely worth checking over the ingredients label before stocking up the freezer!