We try to shop carefully, but there are several notable convenience items that have a firm place on my grocery list. We just try to make sure such items have a good excuse for themselves.
Most items are not as costly as they may seem. Others save enough time to justify the additional per-use cost. Others, we just like to have on hand. A few fit into 2 or 3 categories.
- Pam, or the store brand equivalent. I believe the label when it says that a single can will grease as many pans as 3 gallons of oil. This stuff lasts forever and is a timesaver – just saves a few seconds/use, but each can gives many hundreds of uses. Those seconds add up, and it costs a lot less than 3 gallons of oil.
- Preseasoned bread crumbs. At $1/3.5 cups, this is another timesaver for me. It’s an ingredient in another of our fast-and-favorite dinners, and it only adds about 30 cents to the cost of our dinner (actually less, because I would have to pay for the bread and seasoning to make our own – and there’s no such thing as old dry bread in our house).
- Paper towels and paper napkins. Hubby likes to have them available.
- Freezer burritos. At 28 cents apiece, these are a great fast breakfast-to-go for hubby, who never seems to tire of them. Making my own would save only 10 cents or less each. My time is worth more to hubby and me.
- Zipper bags. Hubby likes them. I like them. The kids like them. Prices on these have dropped over the years, so they’re no longer the expensive luxury that they used to be. At 2 cents each for the small ones, it doesn’t take much to justify the expense. And they’re great for freezing cooked ground meat for quick meals: flatten them uniformly so that they stack with no wasted freezer space, and they defrost in a snap!
- Breakfast cereal. We eat very little of this, and try to buy only under 10 cents/oz. But it’s great for breakfast in a hurry, and there are fairly nutritious choices available in the lower priced categories (bran flakes, store-brand shredded wheat, toasted oats).
- Pre-shredded cheese. I would be willing to pay slightly more for this, but at Costco pre-shredded is as cheap or cheaper/lb. than buying the blocks. It’s another real timesaver, and I can use directly from the freezer so it never gets moldy or yeasty.
- Paper plates. We buy the cheapest, and consider them part of the Friday Night Pizza tradition. These are a great treat to whoever would be doing dishes, and are applauded when we bring them out at other times during the week. In Thrill Factor for the children of dish doing age, paper plates rank somewhere between homemade cookies and a trip to the library – but a lot cheaper than either.
I’m sure I’ve missed a few things, but you’ve got the general idea. We try to strike a balance, being good stewards while still enjoying the blessings God provides. Yes, paper plates are a blessing from God. Just ask my kids.