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What's Wrong With Glamorous Shortcuts? - How To Incorporate Sustainability In Your Cooking

Updated on January 24, 2013
By Onatos on
By Onatos on

Some Shortcuts are OK


A noun used as of the year 1637AD.

Definitions: 1) a route more direct than the one ordinarily taken; 2) a method or means of doing something more directly and quickly than, and often not so thoroughly as, by ordinary procedure.

["shortcut." Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2009. Merriam-Webster Online. 1 April 2009 <>]

Definitions Applied

This work is about finding useful mealtime shortcuts and not about controlling the behavior of people. Folks will do whatever they want and are entitled to do so, if they harm no one else. However, some will use this information wisely, especially in economic downturns. In the end, others will continue on more wasteful paths and while that is uncontrollable, I choose not go with them.

  • Shortcuts can help us live more easily in a hectic world. These miracles include cooking a full week's meals on Sunday afternoon with help of the entire family and freezing them for quick access during the work/school week. Once a week on Saturday the family can eat out. They can even include Sunday lunch or dinner out or pizzas ordered in with the money they save by planning and frugal (non-wasteful, not cheap) preparation. These types of shortcuts require work at the front end. Over time, that work becomes more streamlined and less time consuming, so it affords more free time for family members.
  • Another food shortcut is to spend a little extra money and go to an increasingly popular catering service and pick out your week's meals and take them home with you to freeze. If both parents in a family are working, then this saves a lot of time. This shortcut still contains work - in the form of the work you did to earn the money that you spent on the prepared meals. Here, they are not very expensive and take a little time to pick up.
  • A less superior shortcut is to use the fast food drive-thru five nights a week for dinner. This shortcut entails more money (derived from work) and can be wasteful. Because a lot of fast food contains high levels of sugar and salt, as well as preservatives and non-natural ingredients, it takes more fast food than natural foods to make a person feel full. This is also wasteful. Eating fast food a couple times a month can be a good shortcut, but eating it regularly can be wasteful.  

There is one fast food outlet at the end of my street that uses mostly natural ingredients and serves a good-sized sandwich and a large cup of coffee for $1.68 (in 2009). That is a very good occasional shortcut that is not available very many places. If you find something like this, it's a miracle.

  • The worst food shortcut to me is found in consistent speedshopping to quickly purchase the most expensive items on the shelves without a grocery list or reading labels realted to any of these causes:
  1. A sense of entitlement without the resources to back it up long-term.
  2. Image management used in an attempt to persuade others to think one is rich.
  3. An incorrect belief that this behavior stimulates the economy. These products are usually not local, are overpriced, overpackaged, and under-nutritious. Some individuals use the excuse that cereal is so expensive, they cannot pay the Cable bill but they deserve to have the Cable anyway.
  4. A plot that one's spouse/roommate/neighbor will take one out for every meal when the food runs out. These individuals sometimes even THROW AWAY the groceries and demand to be taken out to eat. I know 3 people that do this.
  5. If single and sharing rooms, one can always "steal the roommate's food."

Two individuals and one family I know lost their houses, directly because of the actions listed above, but you be the judge - should a single person that receives two nutritious, varied, and good tasting meals a day at his place of employment spend $600 a month on groceries of which he throws out half?

Food Voodoo in a box.
Food Voodoo in a box.

TV Cooking Shows - Let the Viewer Beware

There seem to be as many television cooking shows around now as there were rock and roll bands emerging after the Beatles came to America. Everywhere you turn, there is a new chef with a new show with a new line of equipment and cookbooks to purchase. Some of these are high quality, Others are simply reruns. Some of these shows suggest useful shortcuts in meal preparation - and some of these are good and some are more expensive than the time they save.

One show provides recipes and advice on using partially homecooked dishes (70% store-bought) for meals, snacks, and party fare as shortcuts. In timing the preparation of several of these shortcut dishes against the time used to prepare the traditional versions of the recipes, I found the times to be equal. Philosophically, I find this akin to the cook that cannot bake, but purchases a $2.00 pumpkin pie to serve as fresh-baked from home and thinking no one will know. I understand where this originates: low income folks trying to do the best they can by "doctoring" foods to make them look nicer -- This is the origin of at least two cooking shows. One encourages viewers to spend inordinate amounts of money at the grocery and "doctor up" the purchases. In the end, these viewers spend much more money than in purchasing the dish already made or in making it from scratch. I think the 30% homecooked part is lip service to the Green Movement and guilt over not cooking from scratch, because these shows suggest to viewers that they shop for expensive foods and in expensive party stores, but be sure to do community service. During the Recession of 2009, implications were that this was good for the economy.

In addition, the national shows, along with a local show I watched twice that is a copycat, recommends the expansive use of 1) plastic zipper food bags and 2) throwing away a) extra food prepared but not used in a specific dish and b) food that is not eaten at the meal for which it was prepared. Just throw it all away.

Scratch or Frozen?

Examples and Good Things

Bisquick All-Purpose Baking Mix - Net Weight 80 Oz (5 lb)
Bisquick All-Purpose Baking Mix - Net Weight 80 Oz (5 lb)

A shortcut that may be less healthy than making your own mix.


Enjoy Some Convenience

A shortcut is using a box of Bisquick to make shortcake - or pancakes when you run out of the scratch ingredients or want to maintain breakfast as the convenience meal of the day. A shorter-cut is frozen waffles and pancakes. They don't need to be expensive.

A shortcut is not purchasing a case of Bisquick and discarding half because the half-bag of batter left in the gallon plastic bag with a corner snipped off you used because TV told you not to dirty a ladle gets thrown away because TV told you to discard it.

It's better to make the rest of the pancakes and freeze them in those plastic bags (reused many times) with paper toweling (recyclable) in between the cooled pancakes, if you do choose disposable goods. Save the plastic bag with the corner snipped off, wash it out and use it as many times as possible.Then recycle it. Or use a cloth pastry bag - they don't have to be expensive.

Or, save that expense and just use a ladle or a cup, like the cowboys and the pioneers. Native Americans made wooden cups.

Let's be informed shoppers and cooks that use good shortcuts occasionally. it makes sense to me in any economy. 

Before plastic.
Before plastic.
After plastic. In Mexico City, people live on a city dump.
After plastic. In Mexico City, people live on a city dump.
Please recycle.
Please recycle.

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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      9 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      And sometmies it's just entertainment, I think, to us. As you say - How many can afford real saffron, for instance or truffles (fungus sort, not chocolate)?

    • mulberry1 profile image

      Christine Mulberry 

      9 years ago

      I've never watched the shows you mention but you certainly make a good point. The few cooking shows I have seen provide some great looking recipes but they seem to have a lot of ingredients and expensive ones at that. I don't think a lot of strapped families can really afford it.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      9 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Raven King - I had not thought bout that - EEVO, garlic AND Sugar. Not very good. Eggs for salmon is a good ide that I like. Thatks for commenting!

      Laughing Mom - I think it's a holdover from events such as the Depression and Welfare. When they have a wide variety of nutritious food that cost a reasonable price, they don't know how to use, it because no one taught them. It's like the prisoners that save up their snacks and pour cheese packets over all the salty sugar for something different. All 3 shows I've seen do the same thing - instead of buying something cheap and trying to doctor it upscale, they buy something expensive and try to make it look different and home cooked. Straight out of an unfortunate group of people that received Relief Orders in the 1930s. It's like nails on a chalkboard to me.

    • Laughing Mom profile image

      Laughing Mom 

      9 years ago

      Hi Patty! I enjoyed your take on the food HubMob. I get quite a few tips and ideas from the Semi-Homemade show, but you are right about the being wasteful and buying expensive items. I do hope that most people on a tight budget like myself would recognize it and adapt what she's telling us to better fit our budgets and resourcefulness. There really is no reason to be so wasteful.

    • Raven King profile image

      Raven King 

      9 years ago from Cabin Fever

      It's true that food voodoo does exist. Like cooking robots they throw garlic and olive oil on everything and then proceed to add sugar and unnecessary expensive ingredients. Eating eggs instead of salmon is an option.

      You have given us huge hub to digest. Thanks. :)


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