Why We Eat Some Processed Foods

Why We Eat Some Processed Foods & Why I'm Okay with That - I know some moms cook everything from scratch but as much as I love to cook, this is real life. Here's our food approach.

A couple years back, one of my favorite bloggers, Andrea Dekker, wrote a great article about why her family eats some processed foods. I loved the honest reality of it because this is the story of our family as well!

As we begin a new year, we’re all thinking about eating healthy. That’s good! We’re also thinking about our grocery budgets. That’s good, too! For that reason, I think it’s time to share why we eat some processed foods…and why I’m okay with that! I love to cook but I’m also a busy Mom who’s a realist. This is the approach that works for our family and here’s the why of it.

If you’ve followed my blog for awhile or my shopping trips in pictures, you’ll notice that I buy a mixture of processed foods as well as non-processed items. My grocery trips often look eclectic for a couple reasons. Because I am a bargain shopper, some weeks I’m filling in gaps and buying lots of fresh produce while other weeks, I’m stocking up on great deals for our freezer and pantry.

Meijer - 11/2/15 - $45.98

While eating healthy is important to me, I don’t believe an occasional frozen pizza or chips with our lunch time sandwiches are the worst things in the world. I’ve been known to buy Lean Pockets (on sale, of course) for a quick lunch meal and we eat frozen french fries when we grill hamburgers. We don’t drink soda regularly, but we still drink an occasional glass of Diet Coke (me) or Coke (my husband) when we need the caffeine.

My reasons for buying processed foods can be summed up in two simple words – money and time. Let me explain.


The first and foremost reason I buy some processed foods is that we are on a tight budget.

One of the ways I save our family money is to keep our grocery budget low. I watch for sales and stock-up on the best deals. I use my freezer and utilize our stockpile, which yes, has processed foods in it.

We all know that organic produce is higher priced that conventional. Some people choose to buy organic things and that’s fine! I choose to buy a bigger variety of conventional produce so we can still eat healthy on our budget. The same can be said of non-processed foods at the store. There simply aren’t sales and coupons on these higher priced items like there are on regular boxed and canned goods. I wish there were more sales on these items but it’s simply the way things are.

As a frugal shopper, I attempt to stretch our dollars as much as I reasonably can. I’m constantly looking for creative ways to save money and do try to buy minimally processed foods when I can. For example, I started baking our own bread because I can do it cheaper and with less processed ingredients. I do so mainly because it saves our family money…but also because homemade bread really does taste so delicious!

When your loaves have doubled, it's time to bake your bread! Read more bread tips and an easy homemade bread recipe here.


I love to bake! I really do. The dishes that result from all the baking? Those I don’t love as much. I also know it would probably be healthier to buy everything all organic and cook every single item we eat from scratch. I am also thankful that we do not have any food allergies in our family that require me to do so. Still, it comes down to time. Even though I stay at home, being a mom is busy. Life is busy!

You see, I’d much rather use some processed foods (like cream of chicken soup and Ritz crackers in our family favorite poppy seed chicken) that allow me to fix a homemade meal for my family quickly. Processed foods help me save time in the kitchen!

Sure, I’d love to make homemade from scratch tomato sauce every time we eat pasta but some of the jarred sauces taste just as good – or better than mine.

I like to bake simple and delicious recipes – that sometimes rely on processed foods! I bake cookies that start with cake mixes and I still haven’t perfected a brownie recipe that tastes as good as the boxed ones.

5 Ingredient Cake Mix Cookies

As with so many things, I truly believe eating processed foods is an issue of everything in moderation. I know we could find issues with many of our diets so I choose to take the middle road and focus on the positive. Some processed food is okay when you’re still eating lots fresh fruits and vegetables with it.

If you are one of those amazing women who cooks everything from scratch and feeds your family all organic produce, good for you! Yet, if you are one of those equally amazing women who feeds her family every night a mixture of processed foods with from scratch ones, you won’t get any judgement from me! Let’s remember that as we cook dinner tonight. As women, we all have to feed our families as we believe is best – using our time and money to the best of our abilities. 

What are your thoughts on eating some processed foods?

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    1. Thanks, Liz! Real life is exactly that – real. We busy Moms do what we can to keep our families happy, health and fed! 🙂

  1. Love your blog thanks for keeping it real. I am a working mom of 5 and do cook meals every night. Lets just face it some of the process foods when on sales and I use a coupon are way cheaper then I could ever make.

    1. Thanks, Sara. And yes, indeed! Coupons and processed foods make for good deals. Even with cooking meals, we do what we do to keep our families fed and happy! 🙂

  2. We don’t eat too many processed foods. One of the reasons is because everyone in my family but myself is allergic to dairy. So that really limits what processed foods we can eat.

    I purchase some processed food to help us save money. I’ve found that if I keep a variety of quick to make items we don’t eat out as much on the weekends for lunch. Which in turn saves us money. The weekends are usually busy and having those quick to make items is always a help.

    I also buy store bought cookies when I can get them on sale at the discount grocery store for $1 or less a package. I do this because my family likes cookies and they won’t eat up the store bought ones as fast as the homemade ones. If I make a batch of homemade cookies they are gone in a flash. 🙂

    1. Ha, that’s too funny, Shelly! I’ve never heard that reason for buying store bought cookies before, but it does make sense! 🙂 I can’t imagine all the adaptations you’ve had to make over the years with your recipes. Well done! And yes, processed foods do save money when they keep you from eating out!

  3. I would love to make breakfast every morning. And always make homemade bread, and buy cheese only from the deli. But it is not always within budget, nor is it convenient. Thank you for affirming what I already do (and sometimes feel guilty about). Shortcuts are sometimes necessary, I think that is why God gave us reason.

    1. Grace, Lisa! Give yourself grace. And you are exactly right. God gave us free will to make these choices as are best for our families – and those decisions can change by the day! You have 3 little boys. Shortcuts are indeed necessary sometimes. Budget and convenience certainly factor into these all these considerations. You are doing a good job, so just keep doing what you are doing!

  4. I completely agree with you! I try to cook my meals from scratch, but I can’t do that every night. Some nights are just too busy and I use processed foods to get dinner on the table. If I didn’t then I would just end up going out to eat or doing carry-out which would be processed foods and more expensive.

    1. Exactly, Julie! It’s much cheaper to use processed foods than to go out to eat. It’s all a matter of balance and perspective…and I’m glad I’m not alone in this!

  5. I agree with you! There are certain processed foods that we eat for convenience sake too. My husband likes to have cookies in his lunch and for a snack everyday. I was making them each week, and it just took up so much time. Now, I only bake cookies once a month and the rest of the month I buy packaged cookies that are on sale. And yes to the box brownies tasting better than homemade!! I made a pan of brownies from scratch a couple of weeks ago, and my husband said, “Are these DIET brownies?” LOL

    1. Ha! My husband said something similar when I once tried to sub some applesauce for oil in a box of brownies. There is just something about boxed brownies! And I’m all for saving time – even when it means using convenience foods! Some times I go on baking stretches and freeze lots of cookies, but I’m glad you’ve found the a cookie solution that works for you – and keeps your hubby happy! 🙂

  6. This is the best post I have read about this subject! I think that being a mother and a homemaker is the hardest job in the world. Everyone needs to do what is best for their own family and that is the bottom line. I think in some small part due to social media there seems to be so much of the ‘this way is best’ attitude with so many things when in fact what is best for your family may not be best for mine. As for your approach to eat well overall with some processed foods that seems reasonable to me, so much so that my husband and I adopt that plan for us.

    1. I think you are exactly right, Barb. Social media does try to convince us we should be doing more – or eating differently – but sometimes we just need to keep our heads down and focus on what is best for us and our family. Reasonable is good!

  7. I agree this is a hard balance to strike and our budget is definitely higher because I am pickier and even when I do buy something from a box (like mac and cheese or a can of soup) I’m more likely to choose a higher priced natural or organic one to make me feel better. Generally those items don’t have as good of sales as frequently either. I’m also picky about meat when I can be, but like you said, I’d rather choose MORE conventional healthy stuff than less but organic. Also, growing up my mom cooked and baked a lot from scratch so mostly I just follow her recipes. I’ll have to post her brownie one sometime…it’s to die for!

    1. Oh, I’d love to see your Mom’s brownie recipe, Kate! Most of my Mom’s recipes are from scratch as well, but with the occasional processed item, so I don’t feel too guilty about those. And yes, it’s harder when you don’t have sales as often on certain things. I try to balance that out with finding sales on toiletries and cleaning products, so I have a bit more wiggle room in my grocery budget. Again, it’s all a balancing act!

  8. I think just like in most things in life, finding and sticking with a balance is the key to better things. Some people can do things like save 70% of their money or recycle 95% of their waste or….eat no processed foods. But, for the vast majority of us, those things just aren’t targets that we can or want to hit, yet we still strive to save a good chunk of money, recycle what we can, and limit processed foods.

    It sounds like balance is key for your family and I wouldn’t lose a single moment of sleep over that!

    1. Good point! If someone wants to make it their goal to eat no processed foods, they most certainly can! For the majority of us, we’ll strive to limit some processed foods and save money in the process. No lost sleep here! 🙂

  9. I also buy some processed food. I do make alot of things from scratch but sometimes time just doesn’t allow for that. Especially during the week work mornings. I think we eat have to do what we do and we also have to be ok with the things we have done. As moms, our most important job is to take care of our children and as wives it is to take care of our husband. If we are ok with how we have gone about doing these things then that is A-Ok with me!

    1. Love this, Rebecca! If I cut all the processed foods from our diet, I don’t think I would have a very happy husband. Ha. I make a lot from scratch as well, but sometimes the shortcuts that come with processed foods are just what we need to do in a pinch. Thanks for weighing in on the topic!

  10. Kristen, I agree with you. While I would love to have time to make everything we eat from scratch, that is just not going to happen. And while I do try to steer away from some processed foods, I still use some in moderation. With that said, thanks for the link to your cake mix cookies! I recently got several cake mixes for $0.50, but I’m not really a cake lover. So I usually use the mixes as a base for some other treat. With this basic recipe, there are all sorts of possibilities!

    1. Ha! I’m not a cake lover either, Addy, but these cake mix cookies are the reason I buy cake mixes! I’m glad to hear that I’m not alone in balancing the processed and scratch decisions. Balance is everything. Thanks for your feedback, as always!

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