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Cost of convenience

Cost of convenience
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First Published: Mon, Jul 27 2009. 09 04 PM IST

Updated: Mon, Jul 27 2009. 09 04 PM IST
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.
Breakfast
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.
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.
Lunch/dinner
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.
Snacks
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.
Click here to discuss other aspects of this and comment on ‘What price convenience food?’
The author is a deputy features editor at Mint. Write to her at foodfactors@livemint.com
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First Published: Mon, Jul 27 2009. 09 04 PM IST