Monday, September 26, 2011

Fast food without the fast-food costs

Here is my confession: In four day’s time, my family ate three dinners of pizza. Blame it on one part laziness of a mom expecting company while getting ready for a business trip that same weekend, one part dealing with a sick husband, and one part $4 Papa Murphy’s pizzas. Toss in some veggies for a side dish, and we rode that pepperoni pizza wave.

On most days though, I’m hesitant at best about putting fast-food in my family’s mouth. It’s costly, often laden in salt and fat, and frankly isn’t nearly as good as what I can make at home.

Not that we don’t suffer from our chaos. The 30-minute window between getting the kids home and when we leave for soccer or scouts seems to fly quickly by. Sometimes, there doesn’t seem to be much time to even whip up spaghetti or quesadillas. But we do it anyway.

Taking the long route to putting food on the table may not be easy, but for almost all Americans it remains a choice, and if you can drive to McDonald’s you can drive to Safeway. It’s cooking that’s the real challenge. (The real challenge is not “I’m too busy to cook.” In 2010 the average American, regardless of weekly earnings, watched no less than an hour and a half of television per day. The time is there.)
- Mark Bittman, New York Times, Sept. 25, 2011
Yesterday’s New York Times asks “Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?” and answers a resounding no. Bittman cites the costliness of his local McDonald’s, where a meal for a family of four could easily top $28. Here in the Midwest, take the simplest of meals, the kids’ meal, for each of us, and I’m out $12 to $15. That buys me on the busiest of days a rotisserie chicken, a package of microwave rice, and veggies to steam, with room for a gallon of milk. (Cooking time: Five minutes.) And there's likely leftovers for lunch, as well as the makings of chicken broth later.

Sure, my children clamor for the thrill of Happy Meal toys, but they know that eating out is a treat, not a right. It’s reserved for special occasions, and we leave it there. As Bittman writes:

Children, after all, are born without bad habits. And yet it’s adults who must begin to tear down the food carnival.


Betsy Escandon said...

It's amazing what a time-suck TV is, isn't it? And yet at the end of the day I can hardly imagine doing anything else (except sleeping more, hmmmm.....). I'm preventing from buying more fast food b/c I generally hate it. Including pizza. Homemade pizza is actually one of my fall-back meals, but it does take a couple of hours to make (less than 30 min. hands on). I like Chipotle for when I really do need fast food that won't gross me out. Your grocery store suggestion (rotisserie chicken, etc.) is also a great one. You could write a whole post about grocery store "fast food" options!

Lisa @ Granola Catholic said...

I have to admit that after I spilled my broth on the floor yesterday, my kids ate rotisserie chicken too. Tuesday happens to be my super busy day also. In between dropping and picking up kids I was able to swing by our local store and pick up a chicken. My kids started eating it in the car. So I guess it really was fast food.