Grab ’n’ Go: Homemade Convenience Foods

Convenience foods can come from your own kitchen. Drop processed, store-bought options, and try these quick meals, freezable snacks, and other healthful snack food recipes.

| October/November 2015

Convenience Foods

Prepping ahead is one key to convenience foods. This weekend, make fresh, cultured yogurt and some nutty granola to pair together all week.

Photo by Fotolia/lilechka75

Perhaps since the era of the TV dinner, “convenience” has reigned king in food marketers’ appeals to consumers. From the overwhelming variety of store-bought snack options to instant meals in boxes and bags, food is always at the ready, and its preparation is largely outsourced. Even homesteaders and advocates of eating nourishing, local foods may have difficulty avoiding processed, store-bought options when the goin’ gets busy.

But all of this so-called convenience comes at a cost. Additives, stabilizers, preservatives, artificial coloring and trans fats — along with sugar-packed, sodium-stuffed, and refined-carb-loaded recipes — are part and parcel of processed food. In a nutshell, we lose control over ingredients. But convenience food doesn’t have to equal junk food, and quick meals don’t have to mean a stop at a drive-thru. Some MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors, plus a few of our resourceful readers, rallied together to offer you these fresh ideas for using seasonal produce and healthful ingredients to create simple, make-ahead snack foods and meals. For two homemade snack food recipes, see Nutty Energy Bites Recipe and Homemade Fruit Roll-Ups Recipe.

Pantry Prep and Meal Planning

A good first step is to pack your pantry with an arsenal of ingredients you can use to make grab-and-go foods. One smart approach is to buy certain ingredients in bulk, and use large jars with screw-top lids to keep these foods at the ready. Dried beans, whole grains, nuts, dried fruits, maple syrup and honey are a handful of items worth stocking.

Keep plenty of serving-size, freezer-safe containers around, so that when you make a big batch of a shelf-stable or freezable food, you can easily stash it. Ideally, for snacks, you’ll want the containers to be small enough so that you won’t have to re-portion foods when you’re hungry or heading out the door — 4- and 8-ounce Mason jars will work well.

Don’t wait until your tummy’s grumbling, you’re leaving for an appointment, or it’s 10 minutes to dinnertime before you think about preparing something wholesome to eat. Carve out a bit of time once a month to prepare freezer-safe or pantry-stable meal and snack recipes, plus a bit of time weekly to prep fridge-friendly morsels.

Kitchen Equipment for Making Convenience Foods

Arm yourself with a food dehydrator and a good blender or food processor, so homemade beef jerky, dried fruits and vegetables, hummus and other dips, healthy smoothies, and so much more become readily accessible.

10/19/2015 11:13:28 AM

Freezable Snakes! now that is a fun spelling correction error. This article is loaded with lots of great tips. I look forward to giving them a try. Thanks.

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