You've seen them. The 100-calorie snack packs, the single-serve Pringles, the individually wrapped Cheesecakes, the toddler-sized containers of ravioli, the mini cups of diced fruit, the pre-portioned celery and carrots sticks with a mini serving of dip.....the list goes on and on. It's ridiculous what Americans will buy when they are perfectly capable of doing the exact same things on their own for a lot less money.
I think the main problem is that Americans are gluttons. Myself included. If we open a can of peaches, we're going to eat the whole can. (Okay, maybe a healthy food wasn't a good choice. Let me start over). If we open a can of Pringles, we're going to eat more than the recommend 13 1/4 chips. Like they say....Once you pop, you can't stop!
In an attempt to curve our all-American gluttony, we have opted into a whole new line of foods: individually portioned menu items. Now, I'm not saying there is anything wrong with these. In fact, I think it's an excellent idea! The problem comes on the pricetag.
Example: You can buy one toddler-sized ravioli dish for about 89 cents. I'm going to estimate that there are about 8-10 pieces of ravioli in that container. -OR- You can buy a large can of ravioli for $1.29. Total number of ravioli pieces: closer to 40. Now, I don't know about you, but 10 cents seems like an awful lot of money to pay for one little piece of ravioli - especially when I know I could be buying them for about 3 cents a piece and simply pulling out 10 pieces for my toddler to eat at lunch.
By now, you're probably wondering why I'm talking about the cost of each individual piece of canned ravioli. Aren't we supposed to be talking about how to develop a system for your kitchen? Why, yes we are. And I'm getting to that. I just had to get all the preliminaries out of the way first. :)
Instead of buying all those pre-packaged individual servings for everything, just learn to do it yourself. If you have a baby around the house and you purchase baby food, I highly recommend the Gerber plastic containers. (They are worth a few extra pennies in my opinion). These baby food containers are about 2 inches x 1 inch x 1 1/2 inches and they are absolutely PERFECT for toddlers - but also for adults. If you don't have a baby in the house, simply purchase some small plastic containers (or save them if you buy something that comes in them). Yogurt containers used to work well but now I believe they are all without actual lids. Anyway, just find some small containers to store your food.
You will find that this method is more efficient for your kitchen because it keeps you organized. If you use clear containers, you're more likely to see what you have and use it. You can also pre-portion things that are not yet sold individually to grab as a snack on the way out the door (i.e. pretzels, peanuts, etc.). It's more efficient for the environment because you're using reusable containers. And obviously, it's more efficient for your wallet.
In case I have completely lost you in this whole process, I will post a picture of a few things that I have pre-portioned this week:
Since I have toddlers in the house, I try to keep easy-to-grab snacks on hand at all times. You can see that I have some cheese cubes in one (cut by yours truly), pretzel sticks in another, and that steamy-looking one is blueberries. I plan on taking all 3 of these containers for our weekly Tuesday sack lunch at the church.
The other containers are mini cheesecakes. I bought a box of cheesecake mix at Aldi yesterday for $1.29 and made 8 serving-sized containers like this. Total cost: 16 cents each! Quite a bit cheaper than those individually wrapped Cheesecakes in the grocery store, huh?
If you have kids in your home (and even if you don't), I encourage you to give this a try - especially if you are currently buying serving-sized items. See what kind of difference it makes in your time and your checkbook! :)