I was grocery shopping the other day, and I saw in the frozen food section a bag containing a pre-made slow cooker meal. Okay, so these things aren’t exactly breaking news — I’ve been seeing them for awhile and I haven’t seen fit to comment before now. But I guess with the colder weather I’m thinking more about hauling out my crock pot or something. Whatever, for some reason the idea is particularly getting on my nerves today.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not at all against prepared food. I’m a regular visitor to the frozen food section at our local BJ’s warehouse. I am so all about time-saving and convenience.
But a pre-made slow cooker meal is just wrong, in my opinion. And here’s why:
- It’s not all that convenient. I mean, it’s not as though it’s that time-consuming and complicated to put something together in the crock pot to start with, ya know? I mean, fer cryin’ out loud, the ones I’ve seen are for things like beef stew or chicken noodle soup — not exactly the most complicated recipes out there in the first place. Basically, whether you use one of these “convenient” frozen bags o’stuff or you make from scratch, you toss the ingredients in, turn on the slow cooker, wait a few hours and eat. In the end, how much time do these particular frozen things really save you? Not much.
- Do it yourself, and you control the ingredients that go in. This is a biggie for me. Have you ever actually read the nutrition label on one of these products? You might be (unpleasantly) surprised. There are a lot of things on the list that don’t seem to have all that much to do with nutrition. When you assemble your own, there are no fillers or preservatives or modified food starch or partially hydrogenated oils or ingredients whose names you can’t pronounce and whose function you can’t imagine. For me, I’ll spend the extra five minutes it takes to chop up my own carrots and potatoes if it means I keep that unnecessary crap out of my family’s food.
- They’re not worth the price. Okay, I understand when you buy pre-made food it costs more than buying the raw materials and assembling the dish on your own. And I have no problem with that. You have to pay for the labor of having somebody else prepare everything for you (even if most of the “somebody elses” are machines in a factory, it still takes people to maintain and run the machines).
I seriously don’t mind paying a bit extra to have somebody prepare a food item I don’t have the time (or potentially, the expertise) to prepare on my own. I mean, let’s face it… the chances that I’m one day going to make my own homemade tortellini or ravioli (for instance) are pretty slim. Especially when BJ’s has excellent frozen varieties available — good enough to pass muster with my half-Italian-on-his-mother’s-side husband, and at a very reasonable cost.
But in this case, the alleged convenience factor isn’t high enough (see the first point above) to offset the additional cost. At least, not in my book.
You want the “convenience” of just hauling a single container out of the freezer and calling it a meal? Get yourself a big ol’ slow cooker, then next time you’re putting something together, make a double batch — eat half and put the other half in the freezer to haul out and nuke later. Voilá! It’s a trifecta: convenience, low cost and nutrition.
Sure, buy convenience food when it makes sense. But in this case, you can easily put together something yourself without much more trouble than the so-called convenience food (and at a lower cost). Don’t let some Madison Avenue ad agency types (who probably don’t even own a crock pot, much less do any cooking in one) convince you that you need this inconvenient and overpriced “convenience food.”