Sunday, February 24, 2008

frozen foods have gone too far

frozen foods are certainly a staple for a many people. i was lucky when growing up & i was never introduced to frozen food. frozen food at my house included things like leftover homemade pasta sauce, italian sausages that we couldn’t get in texas & that my papa would pick up a bunch of them from this little grocery store in louisiana, & leftover chili that again was homemade. while i did enjoy lots of cereal & little debbie treats as a kid that was about the extent of the prepackaged food in our house. my mom, even prior to marrying my stepfather tom, made it a point to cook & ensure we sat down for dinner together all after working a typical 8 – 9 hour workday.

even when i first left home & was on my own i rarely purchased frozen meals/foods. even the “best” of frozen meals don’t taste all that great to me & rarely are any frozen meals enough to satisfy my hunger. now i understand that many folks depend on frozen foods daily. most common are the ones that are really bad for you like pizza, burritos, hot pockets, etc. at the same time i know it is possible to find healthy frozen meals. in fact, kristin enjoys amy’s rice bowls (tofu, vegetables, & brown rice) for lunch often & a couple other of amy’s organic frozen dishes. i too have more recently have taken a liking to some frozen foods to include boca burgers & a handful of frozen vegetables/fruits (edamame, peas, & various berries that are good for blending in a protein shake).

i use frozen meals as a means of eating healthy foods that are super convenient while the majority of our population simply rely on frozen foods for the convenient factor & the healthy part is secondary if thought about at all. my problem with frozen meals though is when frozen meals are taken too far. like today when i saw frozen hot cereals (rolled oats, cream of rice, mult-grain, & steel-cut oats). the *worst* part about it is that this wasn’t at HEB & the brand wasn’t some off brand or lean cuisine type of meal. this was at whole foods & the brand was amy’s!

come on people – are quick oats/1-minute oats not easy & convenient enough for you? you don’t even have to use a microwave with a good number of hot cereals today – just add hot water! i was shocked to see amy’s producing these meals & whole foods selling them for a hefty $2.39 might i add. not only do i think the concept is bad, let’s not forget the amount of waste (cardboard packaging, plastic container, & plastic saran wrap lid) that is produced from one of these meals. was it not whole foods that just said NO to plastic bags & has been encouraging all of their shoppers to re-use their bags? if whole foods really took going green serious they would not allow such a product to be sold just because of the volume of waste that is produced from one of these meals compared to the simple & almost non-existent waste that comes from selling more traditional hot cereals.

doesn’t this seem like a bit much? tell me that i am not alone on this topic? any of you know about the individually wrapped peanut butter slices? – don’t get me started :)


Trevor Baca said...

you know what i think a good alternative to all this packaging is? better urban design. done going out at night in mexico city? or taipei? or amsterdam? plenty of food from street vendors. everywhere. some of it's crap. some it's damn good. but here? not so much. so why the difference? i'm pretty sure the market for *food* is the same everywhere. the difference is whether you can *walk* to get it. cities before cars let you walk. and all sorts of local food stuff springs up. cities after cars make walking hard. and fast food (and packaged) foods result. urban design is responsible for everything. absolutely everything.

Kearney said...

I think a lot of the people who shop at whole foods are trying to feel good, by over compensating for things in their lives that they are doing wrong. These are the people who want to feel good eating so they don't have to exercise; feel good about not using plastic bags being told their helping save the environment. If the shopper recycles plastic bags, no harm is being done to the environment. Just like if the shopper buys a cloth bag, and then throws that bag away when an egg breaks instead of washing the bag, how is that any different?

so, I agree with you, to much trash is being produced, and because recycling is not easy (as I'm finding out in the office) as throwing items in the trash can, there's no incentive to use less. Everything has become about convenience. And everyone is seeking "instant gratification". Which is why the demand for fast food, and individual peanut butter packages is so prevalent.

when I buy frozen vegetables, I chose the ones which come in paper cartons. Why? well, first, it doesn't take me 5 minutes to figure out how to open them. and second, I can throw the container into my paper recycling pile.

If everyone took time out to try and be more patient and efficient, we would have a lot cleaner America. Case and point: I know a couple who stopped using paper towels. Think of how much money and waste is generated via paper towels. I try to recycle mine, but sometimes I just throw them away. But, by buying cloth napkins, I no longer need paper towels. Cloth napkins are reusable, washable, and produce no waste.

I doubt package design is urban design issues. I attribute the packaging to companies wanting to keep food meant to last a week, tops, edible for a month. And also to the fact that those frozen containers are plates. After eating from a container, there's nothing to wash, just pitch it. Again, it goes back to instant gratification. And the sad part: people are willing to pay exorbitant amounts for instant gratification.

So is Whole Foods to blame for creating more trash? Or is it the consumer who desires convenience above all else the one to blame?

I think back to what my friend from East Germany said when I asked him about if East Berlin was cleaner under democracy or communism. He told me, "There wasn't any trash in our country during the GDR because we didn't have anything to throw away."

So is the solution to lessing trash to deny everyone of items which produce trash?

Brian Kirk said...

i agree with so many of your points kearney. instant gratification is a BIG part of the problem. do you consider instant gratification & laziness as the same thing? no doubt that cloth napkins as you noted are much better for the environment. i for one waste way to many paper towels both at home & at the office. i wonder if i do it out of laziness or the need for instant gratification though... in both cases the cloth napkin & the paper towel serve the immediate purpose (dry up the sink, wipe my face, etc.). it's the need to wash/dry this napkin after i'm done using it that the laziness factor comes into play. so again i ask - is it laziness or instant gratification to blame?

Eryn said...

i'd like to point out that alex and i are kearney's "couple friends" who have stopped using paper towels altogether and use cloth napkins/rags for all clean up and eating purposes.

i heard from a little bird that someone made a recent trip to Costo to stock up on paper towels....hmmm.

anyway, lots of good points made by both kearney and trevor. you guys are so smart :-)

Brian Kirk said...

a little bird... i said in my response to kearney that i use way too many paper towels - it's no secret.

good for you & alex! kristin & i haven't gone that far, yet.

i was telling kearney that casa uses cloth napkins, a compost pile for left over foods, & even their urinals recycle your pee!