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To think cooking from scratch is not always cheaper?

(234 Posts)
IonaNE Sun 13-Sep-15 15:19:00

A few posts on another thread (not primarily about this) have got me thinking.

In my local ASDA Weight Watchers ready meals are £2 each. If I buy one for each night of the week (to make life easier for when I get home from work), that's £10 for a hot meal on every evening of the week. For this I get a balanced meal that, over the whole week, contains chicken, beef, prawns, pasta, rice and potatoes, vegetables and a variety of sauces. On top of that it's exactly as much as I need to eat, there are no leftovers, I am not using energy by cooling unnecessary stuff in the fridge. I don't need to keep a host of jars of sauces, oils and spices which would otherwise be needed to cook all this from scratch either. And finally, I am not using energy to cook all that from scratch, and then to wash up all that was used in the process. (I do use energy to microwave the meals, 5 mins each; and the microwave is very cheap to run.)

I can cook from scratch all that is in those meals. I don't enjoy cooking but I can do it if necessary. But I don't think that I would get that variety of hot food for just £10 a week. Furthermore, if I bought all the ingredients, they would be in portions much bigger than what I need for one supper. Then I would either need to freeze them; but also: does everyone who cooks from scratch only eat a WW meal-portion of everything before they freeze the rest? I find I eat larger portions if I cook. And while I'm not overweight, I really don't need to put on weight.

So I think eating ready meals is actually cheaper than cooking from scratch. It is also less time consuming (=more time for other things) and provided you choose the right ones and read the labels, not necessarily less healthy either.

WorraLiberty Sun 13-Sep-15 15:21:18

If you live alone and you're on a diet then it probably isn't cheaper to cook from scratch.

IonaNE Sun 13-Sep-15 15:23:37

I'm not on a diet, Worra, I simply try to live not putting more energy into my body than the amount I spend, to avoid weight gain.

XiCi Sun 13-Sep-15 15:25:23

Could you really eat a weight watchers meal every night though, they taste awful!

WorraLiberty Sun 13-Sep-15 15:26:17

Ahh ok I see.

I'm the same as you in that I never eat more than I want or need

But I honestly couldn't eat microwave meals every day, so I cook from scratch (family of 4) and we do actually freeze leftovers, or we just don't cook too much to begin with.

tobysmum77 Sun 13-Sep-15 15:26:58

I think that it isn't always cheaper to cook from scratch. Its much nicer, however.

OwlinaTree Sun 13-Sep-15 15:28:58

Yes in that situation it is probably cheaper. I suppose you could bulk cook one thing a week and freeze portions which you could then microwave. After 5 weeks you would have a variety in your freezer. But if you don't really like cooking then why bother?

whois Sun 13-Sep-15 15:30:04

I agree. Cooking from scratch is not always cheaper - especially if you take into account variety, and cooking for just one or two people.

However in absolute terms, it is cheaper to 'cook from scratch' from a giant bag of rice and onions and carrots and lentils. And eat that every day :-)

LemonPied Sun 13-Sep-15 15:31:53

I'd rather spend more money on what I consider real food and make a meal from scratch. Partly for the benefits of decent protein, vitamins and minerals and being able to control the sugar content of my food, which is usually quite high in ready meals.
But then I'm lucky to be able to afford to do so.

Sirzy Sun 13-Sep-15 15:32:17

In that situation then it probably is cheaper, although personally I wouldn't like to live off ready meals as the quality is normally pretty poor.

For a family though with proper planning and preparation I don't think if would ever be cheaper in the long term.

MorrisZapp Sun 13-Sep-15 15:33:06

Cooking from scratch is often more expensive than buying ready made.

There are economies of scale to be made but these require planning, large pots, freezer space etc.

I only cook meat based meals fully from scratch as an occasional treat. Otherwise I haven't the time or the inclination.

Oysterbabe Sun 13-Sep-15 15:36:23

It is cheaper to cook if you're feeding more than one person. I'd need to buy three of those ready meals to feed both me and DH and most meals I cook cost less than £6 to prepare.
Plus ready meals are disgusting to those of us with tastebuds.

Blackcloudsbrightsky Sun 13-Sep-15 15:36:56

I think over, say, a year, cooking from scratch might prove cheaper but initially certainly it isn't.

Mind you I can't cook so I tend to take shortcuts where possible.

jonicomelately Sun 13-Sep-15 15:37:24

I think ready made meals are incredibly expensive. They are processed foods which I can't believe can be healthy if you eat them on a permanent basis.
I think we've lost the ability to cook and appreciate simple food in the UK. My view is that home made egg and chips is healthier than some sloppy microwave meal.

TendonQueen Sun 13-Sep-15 15:38:08

Food costs you the time spent on it as well as the money. That's how cooking from scratch can be considered a luxury in some circumstances. I can totally see why you would choose the ready meals. The one thing I'd be concerned about would be the sugar/salt content. But you could also do a modified version of this and only ever eat quick, semi prepared stuff - chicken breast, bag of salad, microwaveable portion of rice or new potatoes, that sort of thing.

IonaNE Sun 13-Sep-15 15:38:38

LemonPied, the ready meal industry has come a long way in the past 10 years and you can find ones that are "real food". Yes, a lot of them have unhealthy levels of sugar and salt - which is why I have spent a long time reading labels and now I know which ones are ok.

Sirzy, I don't quite "live on" ready meals: I still cook at the weekends and when I have friends over. (And, actually, on Wednesdays and Fridays, because on these days I don't eat meat and meat-free ready meals tend to be macaroni cheese, which is not very healthy, I can do better than that with e.g. an omelette.)

OwlinaTree Sun 13-Sep-15 15:39:03

Well the op enjoys the meals, it's a bit rude to say they ??re disgusting, slop etc. That's not what she is asking.

tobysmum77 Sun 13-Sep-15 15:39:17

I think the point is that you aren't always comparing like with like. My lasagne has 500g of mince in, so 125g per person the ready made one will just contain a few scraps.

Snoozebox Sun 13-Sep-15 15:40:20

The initial outlay is very expensive compared to the example you give in your OP.

Cooking utensils alone - sieves, graters, decent pots, pans, mixing bowl, colander, stirring spoons, chopping board, knives - this cost is quite substantial. And those are just the basics.

However I think over several years, providing you stick to mainly veg in your meals and not buy meat every day, the cost savings compared to buying ready meals will be noticeable.

And fgs noone should be eating WeightWatchers meals. They're full of crap.

Artandco Sun 13-Sep-15 15:41:45

But there's 7 days a week. Presumably you need to eat breakfast and lunch also though so still need actual ingredients like oats/ milk/ eggs/ bread

14 meals a week (lunch and dinner every day), is £28. Plus breakfast things and odd extras say £35 bill a week.

We spend £100 a week on 4 people for all meals. That's all organic and free range. Large variety. Includes wine. That's £25 each. So cheaper by £10 per person.

BrendaandEddie Sun 13-Sep-15 15:42:11

i like to cook from food.

Not from scratch

LemonPied Sun 13-Sep-15 15:42:21

IonaNE as long you're happy with your food then that's all that really matters? Different strokes and all that.

bakingaddict Sun 13-Sep-15 15:42:47

No it isn't always cheaper to cook from scratch. I make my own pies and it costs me about £5 to make a pie or if I bulk out the steak with potatoes I might get 2 pies out of it if I'm feeling frugal.

Regarding taste there is no comparison as mine win hands down but I'm lucky as I don't have a tight food budget unlike a lot of people trying to feed a family these days. I think we should be careful not to demonise people who don't always cook from scratch

MaxieMouse Sun 13-Sep-15 15:43:21

Sure, if you cook from scratch every night and throw away the leftovers then of course it's cheaper to buy ready meals. But who does that? Surely you can buy a pack of chicken breasts and veg for less than a tenner and have a different meal every night. No need for bulk cooking or freezing.

The only things that I find more expensive to make from scratch than to buy are cakes.

Sirzy Sun 13-Sep-15 15:44:01

Having just looked at the ingredients list of a couple of weight watchers ready meals I don't see how they can be deemed a nutritious or healthy option for 3 days a week.

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