Blame my musings on the economy: What exactly are you paying for when you choose “instant” meals? Using some popular examples, I’m going to do the math, and serve it up for you to chew on.
• Time: 10-30 minutes to buy your morning meal at a cafe, canteen or shack round the corner (conservative estimates for bread-omelette, microwaved instant noodles, or a sandwich). Cost: Rs10-150 or more.
• Time: 1 minute to bung a banana in the fridge the night before, plus 10 minutes to blend it with a cup of yoghurt, maybe some other fruits, and peanut butter. Cost: Rs15, give or take Rs5 for the extras.
• Time: 5-10 minutes to boil/fry an egg. Cost: Around Rs7 for the more expensive, free-range or organic ones.
• Time: 3-5 minutes to make toast. Cost: Rs2-3 for two slices.
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• Time: 12-15 minutes to make chillas (gram flour pancakes), including chopping chillies and onions. Cost: Rs12-15 for three-four servings.
• Time: 20-25 minutes to bake your own muffins. Cost: Rs20 each for a fairly basic recipe.
• Time: 5-7 minutes to unwrap and microwave ready-to-eat rice/dal/curry. Cost: Rs65 for one-two servings.
• Time: About 7 minutes to cook short-grain rice, and 10 minutes to add a grated carrot and peas, or 3 minutes to toast some nuts and dried fruit. Cost: Rs7-20 for three-four staple-sized servings.
• Time: 20 minutes to heat four ready-made parathas. Cost: Rs45-50.
• Time: 30 minutes to knead the dough and make your own parathas. Cost: Rs12-15.
• Time: 10 minutes to cook split lentils in a pressure cooker, plus 2 minutes for tempering. Cost: Rs12-15 for two.
• Time: 45 minutes to get a sandwich delivered. Cost:Rs75-150.
• Time: 20 minutes to fix your own sandwich (including chopping veggies and boiling an egg). Cost: Depends on what you put in, but you’d be hard-pressed to cross Rs50.
• Time: 30 minutes to get kebabs delivered. Cost: Around Rs150 (for one platter).
• Time: 10-30 minutes to cook kebabs that have been premarinated. Cost: Rs150-350 for four servings.
• Time: 10 minutes to marinate your own kebabs (done some hours prior to the cooking), plus 10-30 minutes for cooking. Cost: Rs120-225, depending on the kind of meat and the cut, to serve four.
• Time: 10 minutes to make fish curry (+15 minutes to chop veggies by hand). Cost: Rs150 for four servings.
• Time: 20 minutes to make a simple sabzi. Cost: Varies widely, but Rs100 is good for four.
• Time: 10-12 minutes to make “instant” or 2- to 3-minute noodles. Cost: Rs10-15 for one serving
• Time: 15-20 minutes to boil non-instant pasta. Cost: Rs25 for one serving.
• Time: 2 minutes to open a can of pasta sauce. Cost: Rs65 approximately for three-four servings.
• Time: 2 minutes to grate cheese. Cost: Around Rs30.
• Time: 20 minutes to make tomato-based sauce. Cost: Rs15-20 for four servings.
• Time: 10 minutes to toss a cream sauce or salad-style dressing, including chopping a few herbs, some garlic, etc. Cost: Rs10-20 for four servings.
• Time: 30 minutes to get a pizza delivered. Cost: Rs120 approximately to serve two.
• Time: 10-12 minutes to make “instant” soup, from opening the packet. Cost: Rs55-75.
• Time: 20 minutes to make thick tomato soup or clear chicken noodle/sweet corn soup. Cost: Rs15-35.
Summing up: I’m making no claims for or against “convenience” here. This is purely a cost/time comparison.
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The author is a deputy features editor at Mint. Write to her at email@example.com