Busy people shop indiscriminately, quickly, without consideration and purchase convenience foods – at a cost. Manufacturers charge for the labour, packaging, marketing, and administration, plus a handsome profit. Add to this transportation, and distribution costs, plus the profit of the grocery store, you can imagine the impact!
In reality, convenience food is always based on inexpensive ingredients. There is no advantage to buying convenience food, and you must be aware that preservatives are used to prolong shelf life. Freshness is something you can only buy in ingredients and even then it is questionable. How fresh can a head of lettuce be when it was grown in California, and transported to Toronto to be distributed to retailers?
Fresh means 24 hours after picking, or for fish, caught in the morning then out on the table for lunch. The same applies to spices. Unfortunately, spices in North America are always stale.
First they to be picked, sorted, packed, and shipped. The distribution across the country requires time, and finally regional distributors deli very to grocery stores. This may take up to a year or more.
Refrain from buying any of the following: bouillon cubes, bottled salad dressings and marinades, imitation grated parmesan, imitation vanilla, canned beans or peas, bottled lemon juice, aerosol oil, inexpensive balsamic vinegar, dried herbs, tomato paste in a can, frozen pizza, ready made hamburgers, minute rice, boil-in-a-bag grains.
True balsamic vinegar is expensive and very flavourful it comes only from Modena in Emilia-Romagna, and nowhere else. Similarly, sherry vinegar can be produced only in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain, Orleans vinegar in the city of Orleans in the Loire valley and Champagne vinegar from Champagne. Do not settle for imitations. They fail to provide value. You can whip up vinaigrette dressing in a very short time, using olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper and mustard. Feel free to experiment with fresh and chopped herbs like flat leaf parsley, tarragon, oregano just to name a few.
Bouillon cubes are mostly salt, mixed with some chicken fat and little else.
Grated Parmesan has little to do with the authentic product that can only originate in the town of Parma and from cows that graze on pastures delimited by law.
If you like rice you know grocery stores offer several types. You can buy regular rice, or sticky rice, converted rice, risotto rice, broken rice or the Rolls and Royce Patna or Basmati from India. Basmati particularly Dheradouni form India is dainty, perfumey, and cooks in less than ten minutes if you soak it for a few minutes. It is excellent and affordable. Risotto rice is short grained and lends itself to a specific preparation. Sticky rice is preferred by Orientals for ease in eating.
Prosciutto from Parma, San Daniele from Italy, jamon Iberico or jamon Serrano or jamon Iberico de belotta , from Spain, and ham from Smitfield from North Carolina taste different, and well worth the extra expense. It is better to eat one slice of fine ham, than three slices of mediocre product!
Buy a grinder and whole peppercorns. Grind, as you need. The moment you grind anything it starts to lose flavour.
Buy lightly roasted coffee beans, and grind, as you need it. Do not buy ground coffee regardless of packaging and what the manufacturer tells you.
You want to enjoy your food, and save money at the sae time follow the advice above, if and when possible.