It works hard for the money
Walk into any supermarket in Australia and you'll discover a wealth of "convenience products" on the shelves; ready-cut vegies, diced fruits, minced garlic, prepared pestos, shredded cheese, ground nuts, dips and condiments that exist to take the time and hassle out of food preparation.
But expect to pay a pretty penny for the privilege. That is, unless you pull your trusty food processor out of the kitchen cupboard for some serious savings.
Sure, you have the upfront cost of buying the machine – they're priced from $49 to $1200 in our latest food processor reviews. But you could make that back pretty quickly if you like sliced onions and coleslaw for your weekend barbies.
Convenience at a cost
There's no denying the convenience of ready-prepared foods. Sometimes, when you've just got to smash out a meal and just don't have the time or energy to do it, these products can be a godsend. They exist to make our lives easier, but at what cost?
Say you're at your local Woolies supermarket and you picked up a bag of frozen diced onions ($4.20/kg) instead of loose onions ($2.90/kg), which you could easily chop in your food processor at home.
You're paying 45% more per kilo for the convenience.
How about adding cauliflower rice ($10/kg) to your cart instead of blitzing a whole head of cauliflower ($3.77/kg)?
That'll set you back $6.23 more per kilo.
Rather buy pre-cut Coles carrot sticks ($13.33/kg) to munch on instead of using your food processor to cut up loose carrots ($2.20/kg)?
Congratulations... you've just forked out six times as much.
If you buy a 150g packet of Coles almond meal ($29.34/kg) to use for baking, or adding to smoothies or yoghurt, you're paying $8.34 more per kilo than if you bought Coles whole almonds ($21/kg). That's nuts!
Process the (food) savings
Your food processor is literally made for cutting, chopping, slicing and mincing; it's arguably one of the most convenient tools in your kitchen and it can help you save some serious dollars, too.
CHOICE home economist, Fiona Mair, says there are many reasons to put your food processor to work instead of buying expensive ready-made products, including a reduction in unnecessary packaging and more choice and awareness of exactly what's in your food.
She says that, unlike ready-made products, when you process food yourself you’re in control of the quality of ingredients and can ensure there are no added nasties.
"Packaged chopped, shredded and sliced prepared foods may not be the freshest or highest quality," she says. "It's a good way for manufacturers and supermarkets to use offcuts or foods nearing best-before dates, as they can be easily disguised when repurposed.
"Cheese, nuts, breadcrumbs, biscuit bases and vegetables can be processed in bulk with a food processor and stored in the freezer, which can save money in the long run.
An inconvenient truth
On the other hand, for those who value convenience over cost, using a food processor at home to save money inevitably defeats the purpose of, well, 'convenience' foods. The time it takes to process the foods, the messy cleanup afterwards and the potential to waste food are all important considerations when you're money-rich but time-, space- and motivation-poor.
Plus, the convenience of these foods may be more than just the way they're prepared; it could also be in the smaller quantities in which they're often sold.
Buying a 500g bag of almonds when you only want 230g of slivered almonds means you'll inevitably have to store the excess – slivered or whole. Purchasing a whole block of cheese rather than a smaller bag of shredded cheese means what's leftover will need to be stored appropriately in the fridge, and used before it goes mouldy. Should you pick up a head of broccoli instead of buying a small bag of pre-cut florets, it’s possible the excess may ultimately end up a slimy mess at the bottom of your fridge. Wasted food is also wasted money, after all.