Updated on 03.11.10

Convenience Foods: What They Really Cost

Trent Hamm

Every time I visit the grocery store, I’m amazed to see how much of the fresh produce aisle is taken up with prepackaged fresh foods. You know what I’m talking about – bags of prewashed lettuce, pre-cut apples, pre-cut celery, pre-cut pineapple, and so on.

I understand why such items are for sale – they’re convenient. It’s easier to just grab a bag of prewashed romaine lettuce than it is to grab a head of romaine and deal with it when you get home.

Yet, when you look at the prices, you’re actually paying a significant markup. Two bags of Dole romaine lettuce at my local grocer costs about the same as a single head of romaine. The bags cost about $4.50 together, while the head costs about $1.60 (with some variance, of course, due to weight, sales, and so on). By buying the head, you save $2.90 – or, from a different perspective, you’re paying $2.90 for the convenience of someone else washing your lettuce.

Is that really worth it? I bought a head of romaine lettuce myself, put it in one of those handy bags that they provide, and took it home with me. Upon arriving home, I set a stopwatch for myself, then chopped the leaves off of the head of lettuce, rinsed them thoroughly, rinsed the bag a bit (leaving some moisture inside), then put the leaves back in the bag, tying it. I then tossed the knife in the dishwasher and stopped the stopwatch.

Total time? Three minutes. Actually, it was just a bit shy of that.

Let’s say over the course of the next year, I repeat the same action twenty times. I buy a head of romaine, put it in one of those bags from the store, take it home, chop it myself, and store it in that bag. Each time, I’m saving myself $2.90. Over the course of a year, I spend an hour chopping up the lettuce and save myself a total of $58.

The same holds true for all of those convenience foods.

Apple slices? I found apples I like at the store for $1.29 a pound, whereas pre-sliced apples added up to $4.76 a pound (I found four four-ounce bags of them for $1.19 each). I have a nice little apple slicer, so I’m able to slice up a few apples at dinnertime and completely clean up from it in about thirty seconds. My estimate on this is that buying un-cut apples saves me about $80 for every hour of apple-slicing I’m willing to do.

Celery sticks? I can buy a bag of celery for $1.49 or I can buy about three containers of pre-sliced sticks for $1.99 each. I spend about four minutes cutting the sticks and it saves me $3.47 – or about $52 over the course of a full hour.

I can go on and on with these items, but in each case the central idea is true: the convenience has a really, really high cost, much more than it might seem at first glance.

To me, this type of convenience food is a perfect example of how the little things really add up when it comes to personal finance. There are so many little conveniences that we pay for in life, whether it’s pre-sliced apples or take-out food or a lawn care service. When you actually step back and calculate the hourly rate that these things are costing you, it’s truly astounding. Yet people fill their lives with these conveniences and question those who skip out on them, then they wonder why it’s challenging to make ends meet.

Take a stand today. Slice your own vegetables. Then put that saved money aside for something for yourself.

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  1. AC says:

    Slice your own fruits/vegetables, and take your own bags to the grocery store instead of using theirs. :)

  2. djc says:

    The cost in nutrition has to be taken into account as well, as vitamin C leaches out of cut fruits and vegetables, especially in the presence of water. So you save money and get more food value from what you are buying.

  3. JW says:

    I am very frugal, but this is an area in which knowing myself has won out over frugality. I am currently functioning as a single mom, working full time, and managing about 10 rental units, as well as putting my home on the market, (which, with a 5 year-old, means constant cleaning). I also try to make supper for my son and I several times a week, and pack my own lunch 4 days a week.

    If I buy non-convenience fruits and vegetables, I have found that they go to waste. What’s more, my son and I end up eating more convenient, but less healthy foods. I have thrown in the towel for the moment. I agree 100% that I could save money by cutting my own carrots instead of buying baby carrots. However, the best is sometimes enemy of the good. And right now, my priority is keeping my own sanity and making sure we still get fresh fruits and veggies. There are certain veggies that I do cut and clean myself (apples, mushrooms, green peppers), but there are others that I buy washed and/or cut (spinach being the main one).

    So while you make a valid point, it’s also important to know ourselves and face our own realities. After buying celery with the best of intentions many times, then letting it go to waste, I realized it is cheaper and wiser for me to buy cut celery if that means I will actually use it. Stressing over the veggies right now – for me, that way insanity lies.

  4. ~M says:

    Produce stays so much fresher when its whole, too! And there are tutorials online for everything from cutting a mango, avocado, or pineapple to pitting cherries with a strong straw.

    My personal favorite convenience food to mock is hard boiled eggs. Really!? Add eggs to cool water, boil, turn off stove and cover for a few minutes depending on how cooked you want them, immerse in cold water, peel. Older eggs peel more easily. Done. :)

  5. sarah says:

    I’m with JW. Completely get that it’s cheaper, but when the difference is eating vs either not buying or buying and throwing away, I would rather get some nutrients into my body – and it still costs less than buying a lot of junk food!

  6. Stephen says:

    The counterargument to this post is the immediately preceding post about time.

  7. Steve says:

    I have bought a few bags of convenience lettuce when they were on sale. They sure were convenient – just open the bag and dump it into a bowl, voila instant salad! We ate a lot of salad the weeks they were on sale, certainly more than in weeks we had to wash our own lettuce.

    Still, I’m not willing to pay non-sale prices for them. I think my time is worth $58/hour.

    OTOH, sometimes it’s better to work around your own limitations than try to ignore them!

  8. Laurie says:

    What has driven me crazy lately are the commercials showing how “inconvenient” fresh fruit is and detailing the need for the fruit in a liquid form.

    The particular commercial that really gets me is a woman biting into a peach and juice squirting out. The commercial then goes on to extol how much cleaner and better their brand of smushed up fruit in liquid form is.

    Seriously? Learn how to eat a peach!

    Personally, I buy almost everything uncut, but I’m a SAHM and thus have the time. The one exception is spinach – which I HATE washing myself. I can certainly see buying a lot more pre-cut items if I was working full time.

  9. Mike says:

    One exception I find sometimes. Frozen vegetables are sometime cheaper and fresher. One in particular are bell pepper and onion mixes. I get a bag for $1 where I’d have to buy several peppers at up to $1 each.

  10. Jackie says:

    I’m with JW. I’ve known myself for 30 years and I know that my best intentions are often spoiled by 1.laziness 2.fear of cooking 3.regularly getting home after 9pm, starving
    Yes, whole lettuce is cheaper than bagged lettuce. But bagged lettuce is cheaper than an unplanned run to get thai take out because I don’t see anything easy when I open the fridge. Multiply that by 2x per week and bagged lettuce is saving me hundreds!

  11. Maureen says:

    Of course another option to buying convenience food such as chopped veggies is going to a restaurant where everything is prepared for you. Suddenly the bagged salad is a bargain.

    I can certainly see JW’s point. Sometimes those convenience foods are worth it!

  12. Peggy says:

    Great point, but this sentence seems to be incorrect — at the least, it’s a complete counterargument:

    “Two bags of Dole romaine lettuce at my local grocer costs about the same as a single head of romaine.”

    I’m confused.

  13. Johanna says:

    I agree with JW and the others. If, realistically for you, it’s a choice between eating convenience veggies and not eating veggies, then don’t feel bad about buying the convenience veggies.

    Another thing to consider: If you’re a single person who doesn’t eat salad every day, you might not get through a whole head of lettuce before it goes bad. Price per unit weight is not the best measure of value when some of the weight goes to waste. With the numbers in the post, you still save money by buying the whole head and throwing half away versus buying just one bag, but suddenly you’re “earning” a lot less than $58 an hour.

  14. Johanna says:

    In fact, whatever you decide to do for yourself – eating whole veggies, eating convenience veggies, or eating no veggies – and whatever your reasons for doing it, don’t feel bad about it. Frugality is not morality, and neither is nutrition.

  15. Barbara says:

    In my case, I choose to buy the smallr bags of lettuce as I am only cooking for one person. Also, Im a “know myself” person. I dont eat enough fruits and veggies and buying the little plastic containers of the cut up berries and watermelon makes me ten times more likely to eat it.

  16. Adam says:

    Good lord. If you’re a housewife, then yes, buy big blocks of whole veggies and take the time and effort to wash/chop/store everything.

    But for a single guy like me who works 10-12 hour days, I have better things to worry about than the extra $1 I spent on buying a pre-washed pre-cut bag of veggies. All I have to do is not go out for dinner one time and I’ve made up the difference for about 5 grocery store trips.

    This is the kind of side of personal finance I will never agree with, that nickel and dimes are worth more than the price of hours of convenience.

    NO. They aren’t.

    Making dinner at home and freezing leftovers to make another dinner or two is much better than going out to eat for your wallet, this I can get on board with.

    OR Take a cheaper stay-cation one time and you’ve saved enough money to have pre-washed veggies for 10 years.

  17. Adam says:

    Forgot to add, single people can rejoice in frozen veggies, which don’t spoil, are already cut and washed, and are also relatively inexpensive! Win/win/win!

  18. Susan says:

    For us, it depends. If it’s a night where we have a lot going on and I’m tempted to order some unhealthy food from a take-out place, I’ll now swing by the supermarket and grab a freshly made refrigerated pizza (which just needs to be cooked), and a bag of pre-cut salad. That will run me $10 and the 3 of us can eat in 15 minutes (6 minutes to pre-heat the oven, 9 minutes to cook the pizza). To me, that’s worth it.

    On 6 out of 7 nights, I’ll cut up the veggies myself and keep them in a green bag.

    You just have to find what works for you.

  19. About the only thing we ever buy in the produce section that is already pre-cut is pineapple. I simply hate cutting those things. They’re prickly, not exactly soft, and create a miserable mess. For us, pineapples are worth it. Everything else, not so much.

  20. Erin says:

    Susan – when you pay extra on your car loan, make sure you call the lender and ask how you can ensure the extra goes to principal only. When I was paying extra on my car loan and a student loan, I called and they told me I had to send the payment separately with a note that said “apply to principal only” each time. Otherwise they just advanced the payments and put part of the payments towards interest, instead of applying all the extra to reducing the principal of the loan.

  21. Stephanie says:

    Normally I do this too- but we have a water main break with no clue when the water is coming back and I can’t wash/cut the veggies or cook/clean up so we are eating out tonight.

    This is one of those moments prewashed veggies would be handy for my stepson’s after school snack.

    We eat out about once a month so this will be a treat.

  22. Moby Homemaker says:

    My wife does almost all the shopping….and she ALWAYS gets that pre-bagged lettuce.
    Thanks for the heads up, Trent. I had no idea that it was a weekly waste of almost $3.00!!!
    I’m taking $156 outta her rear tonight!!! lol

  23. thisisbeth says:

    It’s been brought up before, but as a single person I often buy the bags of lettuce. I get a mix of lettuces. While it would be cheaper to buy heads of lettuce, much of it would spoil, so the cost-per-serving eaten would be higher.

  24. anne says:

    jw- i could have written your post, word for word!!

    i don’t know how long it took me to figure out what i was really like regarding food. plus i have a bad habit of not throwing something out when i should- i’ll wait until i’m 100% sure it’s turned, rather than just getting rid of it when i think i’m probably not going to cook or eat it.

    and sometimes it just feels good to buy all of the ingredients, but it’s kind of a fantasy- i’m just imagining i have the time to cook. when i figure out what my day and night really allows, cooking a meal entirely from scratch is an unrealistic goal. i’d have to eliminate sleep, laundry, or bathing from my agenda to fit everything in.

    and one thing about convenience foods- sometimes it’s a higher price per pound, but you’re getting just the “food” and none of the waste- like if you buy a bowl of fresh fruit salad, you’re not also buying the seeds and rind of the melon, or the core and leaves and thick skin of the pineapple.

    i’ve long been tempted to buy the ingredients, prepare a fruit salad, and weigh the peels and rind and seeds and such that i dispose of, just as an experiment. but i don’t have that kind of time.

    i work and commute over 12 hours a day, i have a husband and 3 kids, and i often do take short cuts in the kitchen. it’s still cheaper than eating out or having food delivered.

    but when i have time i make pizza dough, home made bread, sauce from scratch, etc. but it’s when i have time. i can only do so much.

  25. J Brown says:

    We buy the organic pre-package salad mix, not the stuff in a bag, but a box. This is most of the time on sale and more importantly it lasts about 2 weeks! If we buy the -fresh- stuff it only lasts a few days before it is bad. In the summer time we buy from farmer’s markets.

  26. michelle says:

    Or if you have the time you could just cruise the market early in the morning when they’ve marked down the salad bags to $1 and buy them.

    I definitely let whole heads of lettuce spoil because washing and cutting is really annoying when it’s 9 and you’re starving. But opening up a bag of pre-washed goodness means you’re ready to eat in 5 minutes instead of 20, and sometimes you really need that. Most of the time, however, I do just buy whole heads.

  27. Mol says:

    Trent, what times WOULD it be appropriate to pay for the convenience? ie. running late to a party where you are expected to bring something?

  28. Amy B. says:

    I had to laugh – I uncharacteristically purchased two bags of sliced apples for my daughter’s preschool class’ snack today. Why? Because I knew that it would just stress out my morning to have to cut all those apples before sending them in! This morning, my sanity and a bit more relaxed pace was worth the extra dollars. (But, I did get them for about 50% of regular price – that helps!)

  29. MP says:

    As some of the posts show, they are very convenient and a healthy alternative for people who have very busy lives, who work long hours etc.

    I am more astonished by the fact that once you get out of the produce aisle, 75% of what’s in the rest of the aisles is unhealthy pre-packaged, loaded with chemicals or tons of sugar or salt. I’d rather see people pay a few extra dollars for baby carrots than on unhealthy pre-packaged sodium or sugar rich convenience foods that guarantees them negative health consequences later in life.

  30. Kai says:

    I do not buy sliced vegetables, but I do buy the bags of salad. Why? Because I can’t finish a head of lettuce as a single person cooking for one. The bags of prewashed are simply the smallest volume available to me, and I’m willing to pay a premium to not waste food.

  31. Gena says:

    Michael (#19) took the words right out of my mouth re: precut pineapple. I hate having to cut them, much less figure out if they’re ripe or not. Buying them precut on occasion from Whole Paycheck is worth the expense.

  32. Tammy says:

    I buy bagged lettuces, especially the lettuce blends all the time. Why? Because we’ll EAT THEM while a whole head will mostly go to waste. I might make a single salad or two from a head of romaine, or use iceberg for tacos, but lettuce heads sit there and slowly go limp. Bagged salads, tho, are 1 meal units. I am happy to pay for that convenience and not have to toss out wasted produce.

  33. J says:

    You know, Pampered Chef has some nice stuff to make prepping fruits and veggies easier ….

  34. Stefanie says:

    We tend to buy the 3 romaine “hearts” in a bag from Trader Joe’s for $1.99 or from the regular grocery store when its on sale (right now there is a sale on organic ones for $1.50 a bag of 3). They stay fresher longer, they are cheaper than 1 regular whole head of lettuce of any kind, and they are heavier than those heads as well. Plus, they are my partner’s favorite. I also only buy spinach in bags because you get a lot more for the money (between $1-$2 for 6-10 oz.) than when you buy a bunch that has to be carefully cleaned and the stems cut off, making half of it waste anyway. And we buy a lot of frozen veg when they are on sale to always have something around when we haven’t made it to the store.

  35. greg says:

    I have seen a supermarket where single Chiquita bananas are sold at the checkout for 1 Euro, the same price you pay in the fruit isle of the same supermarket for 3 or 4 bananas. So, you are paying for the convenience of NOT having any bananas leftover after eating one banana. And apparently there is a market it – I suppose in this case the competition of the single banana is not more bananas, but sweets and candy bars.

  36. anna says:

    You forgot to mention those bags of salad also usually have a small bag of dressing, croutons & even some cheese in them. Also that the romaine lettuce is different than the iceberg lettuce you are chopping & eating. These make a bagged salad a lot cheaper than a restaurant salad. If you are going to eat a salad at work than this is a much cheaper version than going out to get a salad. Add in the cost of all of these sides and the different lettuce type to your costs and you just might find they aren’t as outrageously expensive like you think.

  37. JB says:

    I understand what you are saying but certain things I buy prepackaged when I probably wouldn’t do it/eat it otherwise. The lettuce is already pre washed and dry and I really do eat more salad when I have them. The lettuce almost always goes to waste when I purchase a full head.

    Based on the comments it seems a different fruit/veggie is a better example. I have only bought cut apples once in my life, when like the commenter above it greatly helped a stressful day. Normally though I don’t buy any pre cut fruit or veggies besides frozen. I highly recommend frozen veggies for those concerned with waste. I don’t know if the nutritional content varies frozen versus fresh though.

  38. deRuiter says:

    Dear Baby Carrot lovers, They’re not baby carrots, they’re carved out of large carrots, that’s why they’re all identical in shape, size, weight. They have less nutrution because the entire surface is exposed to air so nutrients can leach out and are more likely to have germs as the protective outer skin is non existant. They are also a lot more expensive because of the machine and time to make them into baby carrot shapes and the waste. They are cute and have an attractive name, but if you’re buying them because you think they are actually made from immature (sweeter) vegetables, you are wasting your money.

  39. Peggy says:

    One thing that hasn’t been brought up is food safety. The more hands (or machines or processing plants) that handle a food, the more susceptible it is to pathogenic infection. Remember the salmonella in the bagged salad not three years ago?

    Even bagged or boxed salad needs to be washed before it is eaten, taking all the convenience right out of the equation.

  40. Jules says:

    The advice really only makes sense if you have a family who will actually eat the food. During the week, when I live alone, I buy packaged foods because it’s healthier and cheaper than McDonald’s, but also because I’ll eat everything by Thursday night and not have to chuck out too much.

  41. Gretchen says:

    I hate washing lettuce. Hate it. Not exactly sure why. Perhaps because sometimes it’s still dirty tasting despite how much water I use.

    meanwhile, I find baby carrots to be slimy so I cut my own.

    Both options are much better than the middle aisle chips and cookies as others pointed out.

  42. Melissa says:

    A large bag of frozen mixed berries at Sam’s Club completely trumps the cost of buying the individual (tasteless, expensive) berries out of season. Same goes for many frozen veggies. They’re frozen in their peak and there is little waste compared to buying fresh.

    As for lettuce, I usually don’t buy the bags – just the loose mixed greens in the bulk bin. Baby spinach is sometimes ONLY available bagged or boxed even at the farmer’s market.

    A neat-o thing I keep in the kitchen for lettuce washing is my Oxo spinner. Seems a bit goofy, but when you eat as much lettuce/greens as we do, wow! Saves a lot of time and you end up with perfect (not soggy) clean greens every time.

    I agree with most of the post, but there are a number of exceptions.

  43. Anna is now Raven says:

    @Peggy, I’m with you. Prewashed? How clean is the washing solution? How clean are the workers’ hands and equipment? How thorough is the process? No thanks. I know that my water and hands and tools are clean, and I can eat my washed-at-home lettuce and other veggies in confidence. I will sometimes buy bagged lettuce when it’s on sale, but then I always wash it at home.

  44. Elizabeth says:

    Trent, you’ll get a longer lifetime out of your knife if you don’t put it in the dishwasher, especially if you’re using knives with a wooden handle. Since the handle and blade are almost always made of different materials (unless you’re using ceramic), they are stressed differently in the high heat environment and more susceptible to wear and tear. Just a quick handwash and rinse takes only a couple seconds more than the rinse you’re probably doing before loading in the washer.

  45. Emily says:

    Trent, you leave some moisture in the bag with the lettuce? Wont that make it spoil faster? I always thought moisture was the enemy of fresh romaine.

  46. Jonathan says:

    @Adam – “This is the kind of side of personal finance I will never agree with, that nickel and dimes are worth more than the price of hours of convenience.

    NO. They aren’t.”

    It seems that maybe you read a different post than I did. Trent wasn’t talking about saving nickel and dimes for hours of work, as you seem to be suggesting. Trent is talking about saving dollars for a few minutes of work. Each of his examples worked out $50/hour or more.

    There are several good comments about why in some situations it might be better to buy convenience foods. Obviously in some cases the extra cost is worth it. Perhaps that is even true in your situation. It is not true, however, that buying whole vegetables requires you sacrifice hours just to save a few cents.

  47. I’m slicing, I’m slicing!
    I recommend to ‘time-shift’ the slicing chore to the weekend or do it all in one night. During the week when you come home from work and are tire you can still pull out your slice up salad or vegetables, dump into a bowl and EAT!!!
    I find I eat more vegetable when I batch my slicing of vegetables. Also, they are handy for a healthy snack.

  48. Adam says:


    Over a few meals, maybe 3 or 4, I could probably spend close to an hour cutting/peeling/washing vegetables. Or I could pop open a bag and put them in the pot/pan/bowl immediately. Yes, hours of time over the course of a month is VERY possible. And the difference in cost will amount to a few dollars. Dollars that I could easily make up by not going out to dinner one time in that same month.

    So yes, it is hours of time to peel carrots/potatoes/squash, wash and spin dry and cut up lettuce/spinach/etc.

    The whole attitude of pinching pennies is lost on me, especially to give up on convenience and costing me precious time. I have a lot pennies than I have minutes.

  49. I can think of no “convenience” food out there that saves me so much time that it is worth spending the extra money on.

    Except for peeled garlic. I will pay extra for that, because cleaning those little suckers is a real pain!

  50. T says:

    This greatly depends on the store and the particular market area you’re in.

    In my experience buying heads of lettuce or broccoli crowns usually are more expensive than pre-packaged options.

  51. Karen says:

    Funny – I just bought a whole canolope and cut it up last night – delish!!!! And didn’t take any time at all.

  52. Christine says:

    Consumer Reports’ March 2010 issue has a story on the cleanliness (or lack thereof) of bagged salad. The article recommends always washing bagged greens, even if they are triple-washed. I imagine one should also wash cut-up veggies and fruit before serving. So… there goes the convenience.

  53. Jonathan says:

    @Adam – This sounds more reasonable. While the time requirement vs savings you mentioned in your latest post do not match what Trent found from his tests I realize that it may very well be the case in your situation. My point wasn’t that you should be buying whole vegetables, it was just that based on the numbers Trent provided there is a significant savings by not buying convenience foods. For some people the convenience is worth paying extra, for others it is not. If the convenience is worth savings of $50/hr (when viewed over an extended period) or if takes longer to prep the vegetables than it does for Trent then it makes sense to buy the convenience versions.

  54. Rebecca says:

    One thing I haven’t seen mentioned–I find the price per bag/box/whatever of mixed greens to be a lot better than individual heads of lettuce, especially for a single person. Think about it–I can buy a single bag of spring mix for $2-5 (depending on sales, etc.), or I can buy a head of greenleaf for $1.69, a head of romaine for $1.69, mustard greens (if I can find them) for a lot more than that, radiocchio, argula and any other ‘exotic’ green foe even more …. and then have the joy of washing/combining all of them and hoping they don’t go bad before I can eat the massive pile of salad that I end up with. Not a good deal, at least for me ….

  55. Nicole says:

    So how does the fact that we spent $500 on a cooking class for DH so he’d chop faster factor into the cost benefit analysis?

    Personally, I think the improvement is priceless…

  56. Larabara says:

    I buy romaine hearts, 3 to a bag, at the 99 cents store. A 1 lb bag of baby carrots is also sold at the 99 cents store, as is a big bag of shredded carrots. I’ve seen bagged lettuce there too, but I don’t buy it because I get a lot more lettuce when I chop up the romaine hearts. Only one time the 99 cents store was out of romaine hearts, so I bought them from a national chain grocery store for almost 2.50. I didn’t use it for 3 days. When I got ready to use the lettuce, it was covered with aphids! But I never had any problems with produce from the 99 cents store. I’ve bought asparagus, artichokes, and bell peppers from there, too. But the potatoes and onions were a little iffy, so I never bought those from the 99 cents store.

  57. Bill in Houston says:

    The only prepackaged veggie I buy is baby carrot. They cost 40 cents more a pound in my local Korean market (and are sometimes on sale for that same price at Kroger). My wife and I take carrots and some other vegetable with us for lunch every day. It takes me ten minutes to peel and cut up a pound of carrots, and the yield is roughly 12 ounces. Carrots are 59 cents a pound at H Mart, so the 12 ounces I get left are equivalent to paying 79 cents a pound. Factor in the notion that the baby carrots are already washed and peeled. Well worth it!

    On the other hand, we buy everything else from bell pepper to watercress unprocessed.

  58. Candi says:

    Ok yes you should wash all produce before you eat it. I would like to point out, however, that in a lot of E. Coli cases washing makes no difference at all. The E. Coli is inside the plant and cannot be removed except by the high temperatures associated with cooking. . .

  59. reulte says:

    Peggy (#39) – Well, not all of the convenience. It takes less time to wash a bag of lettuce than to cut and wash a bag of lettuce. But, yes — definately wash your bagged greens.

    I also use a spinner to dry my leafy veggies. With the proper tools – a sharp knife, garlic press and peeler, right size cutting board on a non-slip surface, sharp vegetable peeler – you should not be spending ‘hours’ prepping veggies. I enjoy preparing vegetables (except lettuce!) for eating or cooking.

    On the other hand — I am a single mom who works outside the house and, like JW, prefer my sanity. I buy bags of salad mixes and baby carrots (ah deRuiter, will you leave us no delusions? *grin*). Everything else, I prefer to cut and chop myself.

    Trent, you almost gave me a heart attack at “tossed the knife in the dishwasher”. Ack! Like Elizabeth (#44) points out, you shouldn’t put good knives in dishwashers. Even if they are solid piece metal, the temperature of the dishwater changes the temper of the steel. Not only will the knife lose its edge, but the knife will cease to hold a sharp edge very long in the future. And if the handle is of different construction, then the handle and blade will start to separate, posing bot a safety hazard and a place for bacteria to grow. Unless you were refering to one of those special plastic knives that are for cutting lettuce because they don’t brown the edges . . .??

  60. Kathy F says:

    I usually buy the whole head of lettuce, but as a single person, I have to eat a straight week of dinner salads to use that up before it goes bad. Not a problem in the summer, when I like to eat a lot of salad. I have bought prepackaged lettuc, but those are not as fresh sometimes and I have had to throw some of that out as it seems to only stay fresh for a few days. I have bought the big box of fancy salad mix at Costco, but I have to some major salad eating for a few weeks to get through all that without having to throw some out.

    I buy the baby carrots in a bag and take some with my lunch every day. I have to spend some time to have home prepared lunches to take to work, so bagged small baby carrots are worth it to me. I once tried chopping my own carrot sticks, but it was a lot of work. The carrots are very hard. Also they are tougher to chew and some even have a sort of slight bitter taste. I think the bagged baby carrots are very tender, but they are often waterlogged. I find myself having to drain them after they have been in the frig for a while or leave them out a while to dry out. If they stay too watery, then they get slimy quicker. Is there a way to tenderize the bigger carrots to make them easier to cut and chew?

  61. Claudia says:

    #38 baby carrots are carved from large carrots, that’s why they are all the same size and shape—
    I’ve bought several brands, none of them have carrots all the same size and shape. The ones I bbuy you can see the top that has been cut off, how do they make those?
    I buy baby carrots and the pre-packaged salad mixes. Not all the time, but some times because we end up eating more carrots and salads when it takes only a few seconds to get them on the table. If eating more veggies is the result, I think the cost is worth it.
    Now the apple slices, not so much, I have kitchen tool – corer/slicer thing that does a whole apple is a couple seconds.

  62. michael bash says:

    I haven’t read all 61 comments, but I have to say that the person who can’t/won’t cut up an apple has a problem. I will say no more.

  63. Rebecca says:

    You really don’t waste any time when you can prep a weeks worth of veggies at home in the 20 min or so it takes to boil water and cook pasta. While I’m in the kitchen anyways I prep everything except mushrooms, they keep better whole, including garlic and onions and I am vegetarian so we eat a ton of produce. and the more you do it the better you get with a knife, making the process even easier.

  64. Bill in NC says:

    Baby carrots are made from carrots not in good enough shape to sell themselves.

    So you’re helping growers who otherwise would discard the whole carrot.

  65. Georgia says:

    I have a solution for those who say they can’t keep head lettuce or celery. I pull off the leaves I need to tear up & make a salad. The rest of the head I wrap in a damp paper towel and cover completely with tin foil. Celery lasts up to 3 weeks and lettuce up to 2 weeks. The other hint is to never put a knife to them until using. Leave the lettuce whole on the head and celery whole on the stalk. The reason is that cutting these veggies with a knife causes them to turn brown quicker. I live alone and can eat a head of lettuce in 2 weeks. I have a bunch of celery that is two weeks old in the fridge now and it is still crispy and nice.

    To the person who asked about the difference between frozen and fresh. Frozen is often much better than fresh, depending on how far your fresh was shipped. For a good article on this, see the Eat This, Not That website. It had a great article on this very question.

  66. gail says:

    Buy the bagged lettuce when it is on sale. It often is less expensive than the whole head of lettuce (per pound), and is much more convenient.

  67. leslie says:

    It really is as easy as Trent says. As soon as you get home from grocery shopping on a weekend, spend 15 minutes to chop up all your vegetables!

    Chop up your celery, carrots & peppers and put them in a container in the fridge. Rip up your lettuce and put that in another plastic container. Keep your fruit out in an open area so you won’t forget about it.

    This way you don’t have your food hiding in the crisper to rot. And you can still grab it when you’re starving at 10p!

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