Buying Convenience Food for Family Dinners: My Favorite Non-thrifty Vice

First, let me clarify. I am still on the the outer fringes of frugality when it comes to mainstream culture. We buy almost all our clothes and  housewares at thrift stores, usually at their monthly half off sales. I get my hair cut for four dollars at the beauty school and cut my husband and children’s hair myself. Some of the resourceful green strategies we’ve used while cloth diapering and clothing our children has saved us thousands of dollars, which we carefully document in our book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide.


Still, I have to say that there are some money saving strategies I just can’t commit to:

-I don’t make homemade crackers, bars or other substitutes for packaged snacks.
-We buy some pre-made dinner and lunch items at Trader Joes.
-Once a week we go out for a meal.

Growing up, store bought bread, yogurt and cookies were utterly out of the question, so I feel a bit like an underachiever when I seek out prepared foods.  And I only started to lean on prepared items once my babies entered the scene.

There was a point (before children) where my thriftiness was so hard core that I would never have considered crazy extravagances like cheese sticks.   (I once got a half dozen pumpkins free from a grocery store on the day after Halloween just so that I could sort out the seeds and roast them for free food.  It took me three hours, I burned half of them, and we quickly tired of the crazy amount of pumpkin seeds I had acquired.)

But parenting has helped me realize that my time is precious.  If I’m spending it doing things that I don’t really enjoy and that stress me out, I’m missing out on moments with my children.  Also, if I don’t preplan by buying snacks and convenience foods, we end up going out to eat more often than we should–which is more expensive and less healthy than stocking up on sauces, macaroni and cheese, and even frozen lasagna for those tough evenings a few times a month.

Have you found that parenthood has caused you to slack in your thriftiness?  What is your favorite splurge?   Or has being a parent caused you to be more careful with money than you were before?  Do you prepare all your family’s snacks and meals or indulge in some convenience foods?

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