During this time, I started realizing that, on a very small scale, Sandra Lee has hit the nail on the head. Whilst I do not at all believe her 70% packaged/30% fresh ratio is at all the way to go (switch those numbers and we might talk), I started picking up old favorites to keep in my cupboards because I wanted them, they were quick, and I could round out a meal when I didn't know what else to do. For example, Rice-a-Roni. Man, I am a whore for that stuff. One night I wanted something quick and simple; I knew I had a pack of chicken breasts in the fridge but didn't want potatoes or fries or garlic bread, ergo, Roni for a side dish with some veggies. It was just the push I needed to put together a proper meal. And that night I had seriously considered caving and calling out for Chinese.
Second item of dissention, the once-ubiquitous green can of parmesan cheese. Yikes! I am someone who always--always--has a block of pecorino romano and Grana padano in her fridge, ready to grate at a moment's notice. But one night we were eating pizza and it needed something. I couldn't find the rasp I use for grating so, whilst I enjoyed the pizza, I wanted more. Next time I was at the market the Green Can was on sale so I grabbed it. And now I use it whenever it's too much trouble to grate fresh. I love it on a hot slice of pizza but it's also nice to grab in the morning when I'm putting together a pepper & egg sandwich; it's salty, it's tasty, and it's fast. Do I think it's better than grating fresh off a block? Hell no. But it's not a bad little thing to keep in the fridge for when you need it.
Now, this doesn't mean I'll succumb to the lure of box mac & cheese or Hamburger Helper or--heaven forbid!--jarred pasta sauce (truth be told, I busted out a jar not long ago [found in the back of the cupboard] and even the chittlins got rankled). I love making mac & cheese and pasta sauce as I want it and Hamburger Helper, well, I grew up on that and it's best left as a childhood memory. I guess what I am saying is that I'm still very, very picky about processed food. I try not to keep it in the house but, on occasion, if it makes the difference between getting a proper meal on the table or hitting up the golden arches, well, I'm keeping it on standby. Rice-a-Roni can be served alongside a nice piece of quality protein, a salad or some veg, and you can eat happily, knowing that you made the right decision. Same with jarred curry sauces, instant mashed potatoes, frozen side dishes, all of which can be called into play to round out a meal.
And wouldn't you rather go to bed not feeling like garbage because you took the lazy way out? Plus, it means you can have a wee treat for dessert. :-)