Remember when I used to make all my food from scratch? Those were the days I thought we ate a lot but we really didn’t (compared to now). Those were the days I thought we were busy but we really weren’t (except that we were). Those were the days I thought all processed food was evil (and some of it is). Those were the days.
Nowadays I’m doing everything I can to simplify so that I can enjoy every last minute with these kids while they are under my roof. Seeing as we’ll graduate Boy #2 this school year, it is becoming more and more apparent that these truly are our last minutes.
Senior pictures, here we come…
Every new recipe I come up with to share takes very little time to make. I want to nurture my family and build on my marriage – not stand at the kitchen counter rolling out tortillas.
I still make wonderful homemade food. But every meal I put on the table consists of something very basic that is quick to put together and offers a few simple fruits and veggies on the side. My menu plans are created to make great use of my minimal efforts in the kitchen while still putting real food on the table. (Thank you, God, for Simple Meals Plans that take away all the thinking and planning and hard work each day!)
My choice to slide back into purchasing more convenience foods hasn’t compromised our great food options. Our meals and snacks are still incredibly delicious! I am still spending our grocery budget wisely. I still use real butter, freshly ground flour, and whole milk. I still avoid high fructose corn syrup, margarine, and MSG.
Choosing to use some processed foods in my cooking doesn’t mean I’m back to buying cans cream-of-whatever-soup and boxes of poptarts. It means I’m buying canned beans instead of soaking and cooking them from dry. It means I’m buying jarred tomato sauce instead of spending hours and hours every fall canning my own. It means I’m buying pre-made pizza crust from Azure Standard so my kids can quickly throw together some pizzas for lunch or dinner (which is healthier and saves money compared to ordering pizza).
It means so many things. It means I can survive this busy season of raising teenagers and continue to be their biggest cheerleader and support in all their activities and preparation for adulthood.
It means love. This is how I’m loving my family now.
I recently shared that I definitely have started buying processed food more than I used to. But I also shared that processed food is nothing to fear – so long as it’s real food and nourishing. I check ingredients, I find brands that I feel good about, and I save myself an amazing amount of time in the kitchen.
Many of you have asked about the specific brands of “processed foods” I buy and feel good about. I absolutely avoid many bottles and jars and cans that have junk in them that will hurt our insides. But there are brands I trust and feel good about – even if they aren’t organic, top-of-the-line options.
Real Food “Processed Food” Brands I Buy and Where I Get Them
~ Canned Beans
The Simply Nature brand at Aldi is an awesome choice for canned black beans (at only $0.85/can!). I buy them by the case since I don’t live close to an Aldi or get to shop there often.
I will say that now that I’m a proud owner of an Instant Pot I may start making them again because of how easy it is. But in a pinch, I’ll get cans from Aldi to keep on hand for fast meals!
~ Canned Baked Beans
The Walnut Acre brand is a little more expensive compared to Bush’s or Van Camps, but I feel good about the ingredients, plus we like how they taste. (I can tell a big difference in quality, which is why I’m sticking with the Walnut Acre brand for now.) If I have Vitacost credit, I get a few cans of Walnut Acre, or sometimes I buy a case with subscribe and save at Amazon.
~ Beef Hotdogs
I buy a variety of brands of hotdogs depending on which store I’m able to go to and what is available at each store. Any brand that is 100% beef and free of nitrites I feel okay about. We use these for quick meals on the grill in the spring/summer and for Beanie Weanies all year long.
~ Turkey Sausage
I know, I know! Homemade Turkey Sausage was one of my first great recipes I shared here at Heavenly Homemakers. It’s awesome stuff…stuff that I don’t have time to make right now. So I buy cases of Diestel brand turkey sausage from Azure Standard to keep in my freezer whenever it goes on sale.
While I miss the taste of homemade tortillas, I love the convenience of these that I get at Azure Standard. The Stacey’s brand has ingredients I’m okay with (which is very difficult to find in a packaged tortilla!). Plus they freeze well and taste great, so I just pull them out to use for tacos, burritos, and quesadillas as needed. What a life saver!
~ Pizza Crust
I recently discovered Sprout California Frozen Pizza Bread at Azure Standard and buy a case every couple of months to help get my family through busy school days. They don’t beat this recipe for homemade pizza crust, but they sure are handy to have in the freezer!
~ Pizza Sauce
Lately I’ve been buying Muir Glen Pizza Sauce by the case with Subscribe and Save through Amazon. It’s tasty and reasonably priced! (I recently got it for $1.45/can.)
Each time I go to Aldi, I buy a case or two of their Simply Organic Salsa. We love how it tastes, and it’s usually about $1.85/jar.
~ BBQ Sauce
I’ve had a more difficult time finding a quality BBQ Sauce. (Aldi used to carry a Simply Organic variety and now I can’t find it!!) I finally found Stubbs brand at Walmart, which has all real food ingredients. After we tried it and liked it, I bought a case from Amazon! :)
I’ve been buying cases of Muir Glen Ketchup through Amazon for several years and it is, hands down, our favorite brand. But I do always watch for it to go on sale because it’s pricey otherwise.
~ Cream Cheese
I’m all over the place with cream cheese. Every brand I have available to me has a few ingredients I don’t love, but it’s also not something I stress over. I don’t like the Walmart off-brand because it never softens nicely! The Aldi brand is great and inexpensive (when they actually have some in stock!). Whenever there’s a price-match for Philadelphia Cream Cheese, I stock up at Walmart.
The only mayonnaise I’ve found that I feel good about is Hain Safflower Mayo. It is absolutely not cheap, no matter where I find it. I usually buy it by the case from Azure Standard because expensive as it is, it is at least less expensive there.
~ Spaghetti Sauce
Once again, Aldi comes through with their Simple Nature brand. And once again, I buy the sauce by the case. Since I’ve been pleased with this brand and can afford it ($1.89/jar), I haven’t checked other non-organic brands to see if there are some that contain trustworthy ingredients.
~ Frozen Hashbrowns
I recently discovered that the Mr. Dells brand of frozen hashbrowns contains only “potatoes” in their ingredient list. Score! I find these at Walmart.
What healthy brands of convenience foods have you found to work for your family? I’ll add to this list as I think of more foods that are worth buying “for the convenience!”