The advent of preportioned, prepackaged foods is really a very clever marketing scheme -- 100-calorie packs cram the shelves of the supermarket, next to the individual packages of almonds and the portioned, foiled-up wedges of cheese.
Why are they so popular with consumers? They take the guess work out of portion control, and their convenient packaging makes it easy to grab-and-go when on the run. Points for convenience, for sure, but shoppers definitely pay the price (and then some) for those seconds saved. Furthermore, consumers fail to recognize the benefits of portion control and measuring, because they’re allowing a middle man to take over. That’s where your new best friends come into play: resealable plastic bags and containers.
One hundred-calorie packs, like the kind Nabisco offers, are indeed substitutes for the real thing, like the Oreo wafers (versus prepackaged versions of the real thing). So, products like that may be worth the extra buck or two when you’re looking for a sweet treat. Still, there are other satisfying snacks out there should you not want to fork over the extra cash. For instance, bag a couple squares of chocolate graham crackers; or, scoop out 1 cup of chocolate Chex cereal. Relatively the same taste and texture, right?
When you think about it, not much more time is involved to: (a) purchase foods in bulk, (b) measure said foods and (c) bag the portions or split up serving sizes into reusable containers. At the end of the day, you’ll have more control over what you’re eating and pocket the extra, saved cash.
Need some help? Here’s some tips:
- House a large bin of homemade trail mix (peanuts, almonds, dried fruit, baked oats) on the kitchen counter so it’s easily accessible. Keep a 1 cup measuring scoop in or near the bin so there are no guessing games involved -- it’s just scoop and go. Eat this mixture dry, add to cereal or mix in with yogurt.
- Buy a large plastic container of almonds in bulk. Empty out the container and bag the contents into 1/4 cup portions. Then, place the bagged almonds back into the container for an easy, nutritious snack that’s ready to go when you are.
- Don’t take a box of cereal or that gigantic plastic container of animal crackers to your office. Instead, divide the contents of the container into bagged portions before stashing the snacks into a bottom desk drawer. Why? Because you’re less apt to mindlessly eat handful after handful of a snack while sorting e-mail after e-mail.
- Blend OJ, frozen fruit and low fat yogurt together. Pour the smoothie mixture into a plastic bag or freezer-friendly, plastic container and freeze for a later date. When you’re craving a healthy shake, simply thaw out the mixture. Then, blend the contents with crushed ice for a simple smoothie that takes less than 60 seconds to prep.
- Pick up plastic containers that do triple duty: check out Ziploc’s Twist ‘n Loc containers that go from freezer to microwave to dishwasher. The brand touts its product as airtight, leak-resistant and easy to handle (thanks to its wide rim and ridged lid, similar to that of a jar).
- Don’t browse too quickly past the fruit aisles. Sure, there are those fruit cups that are filled with precut fruit (did you know that they’re often packed with loads of syrupy sugar, too?), but ever think about nature’s own prepackaged bounty? Don’t overlook those apples, bananas and oranges.
- Invest in a food scale. Keep it out on your kitchen counter so that weighing food becomes second nature. Then, after a trip to the food store, wash, cut and divide up produce into single portions. For instance, weigh and bag baby carrots into 3 ounce servings. You’ll be more inclined to stick a bag of carrots into your workbag that morning for a later, mid-day snack.
- Buy your whole grains in bulk. Bag up crackers and cereals, and store them in the pantry. Items like whole grain breads can be stored in the freezer for later use when needed.
The list of tips could really go on and on. These days, consumers are so distanced from the preparation of foods that self management of portion control is like introducing an entirely new and foreign concept. But, in reality, every 10 minutes spent dividing up foods is a buck or two saved at the checkout lane. So the next time you reach for that box of 100-calorie packs in the store, reach for the same product in bulk, instead: your budget will thank you.