Prepared foods? Or cook your own?

(Saving with 6abc - Amy Buckman)

May 25, 2012 12:55:04 PM PDT
The grocery store is full of prepared items like frozen waffles and canned soups, but are these really time and money-savers? We went to an expert to find out.

Christina DiMacali is the owner of Clean Your Plate, a personal chef and a cooking instructor.

She says, too often, we grab prepared foods because we think cooking our own is too complicated.

"What it comes down to is time and money," she says. "So, a lot of the time the pre-prepared foods are a little bit more expensive than doing it yourself, but, there are a lot of quick ways that you can prepare foods at home to make it worthwhile."

Dimacali says salsa's a perfect example. In a jar, it can cost about four dollars for two cups. But with a few tomatoes, onions, a hot pepper and a blender, you can make your own for about $1.50 for two cups.

"It really is very simple to make and we have lots of different tomatoes in the store now, so you can actually find them on sale a lot of the time," she says.

Canned soup's another staple in most pantries. Two cups of Progresso lentil soup will cost you about $3.49. But making your own with dried lentils, onion, carrots, and chicken broth only takes about twenty minutes. The result: just over one dollar for two cups.

Dimacali says, "It's definitely cost-effective, it's going to have just a better taste over all. In terms of cost, whatever you pay for that one can of soup, which is about 14 ounces, you could probably make two quarts of this soup and you can most definitely cool it down, freeze it for later."

Other do-it-yourself items that will save you money over prepared: salad greens. Rinse and cut your own and you'll pay less than a dollar versus four dollars for six ounces. Shredded cheese: buy a block and shred it yourself to save about a dollar on every eight ounces.

"One of the tricks I have, is you can actually take the block of cheese, put it in the freezer, for a couple of minutes, it'll firm up , and it will be much easier to grate it," Dimacali advises.

The one prepared item that Dimacali picked was frozen waffles. Though making your own cuts the price by at least half, on weekday mornings, for most people it's just not practical.

She explains, "In terms of making the waffles yourself, it's really more something you can do on the weekend. I really recommend that. That's when you can really take the time to do it well."

To see Dimacali's recipes for lentil soup, salsa and homemade waffles, click here and then click on the "recipes" link toward the top of the page.