I read an article this morning about how the tanking economy is benefiting companies like Campbells, General Mills and Kraft. Apparently, people are eating at home more to save money, and that’s great. The trouble is, people don’t want to cook, necessarily, so they’re going for cereal and convenience foods. Not so great.
In our family we have sensitivities to MSG and high fructose corn syrup. We did a stint with lactose intolerance, too, which thankfully was outgrown. Out of necessity, I’ve been a label reader for close to twenty years. Yes, I’m one of those people getting in your way on the soup aisle. I still buy some convenience foods, but for the most part, I buy ingredients. It’s not just my kids saying, “There’s nothing to eat.” I put away the groceries and do the same thing! By doing more of my own cooking, though, I know we’re not going to have food triggered migraines. I have more control over what goes into our bodies. Our grocery bills have never been out of control, even when we were homeschooling and eating at home all the time.
I thought it might be an anomaly so I went to Netgrocer.com. I chose one Hamburger Helper meal, went through the ingredients list and wrote down the actual food that went into it. (I skimmed past the thickeners and chemicals.) Then I did a price check of the ingredients. Here’s how it shook out:
Hamburger Helper Beef Pasta $3.05
Elbow Macaroni $1.29
Chopped Onion 1.29/bottle
Garlic Powder 2.75/bottle
Actual cash layout for the ingredients (not many, are there?) came out to $5.33, but you wouldn’t use an entire bottle of onion or garlic. If you use an ounce of each, it shakes out to $2.82. I didn’t include the ground beef because you have to buy that either way. Not buying the box only saves about a quarter, but have you looked at what else is in Hamburger Helper? It’s not pretty. What’s worse is that because HH has MSG (a flavor enhancer), most people think it tastes better than plain macaroni and beef with some seasonings so it’s worth the extra quarter.
Most people eat the way they do because it’s what they were raised with. They don’t think about it. I did that, too, until we started getting debilitating headaches. Cutting out chemicals had a positive effect, and while I don’t remember how we narrowed it down to MSG and HFCS, I can say that most of the doctors we saw threw drugs at us to stop the pain. I haven’t seen many comprehensive studies about the effects of our current eating habits. I know our great-grandparents were healthier, although they died of diseases we don’t see anymore. I’m not so sure modern science has done us many favors. We’ve traded small pox and polio for coronary artery disease and diabetes. We’re living longer, but are we living better?