What's the cost of convenience?

My Story: Convenience & Culture

contributed by Mary from WA

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I recently read an article called "Money lies that Cost You Big." This author failed to mention one of the big ones. That is the one that says, "Convenience and quality come at a price." What we consider a necessary convenience is all too often a matter of "popular culture." It may have begun as a promotional or novelty.

Take the coffee shop craze. A few days ago, a spokesman for Starbucks was quoted by our local newspaper as saying that the company wants to build more shops close together so that people could get through the morning lines quicker than three minutes and would not have to cross the street to get coffee. Isn't that interesting? I can prepare a pot for brewing in less than five minutes a few feet away in the kitchen. To make good coffee, you just need filtered water and the right grind and amount of quality beans. The remainder goes immediately into a jar and into the refrigerator. The next time someone wants coffee, we heat it up in the microwave for two to three minutes. As long as it doesn't get scalding hot, it will not have an after-taste. You can even buy disposable commuter cups with lids at the club warehouse store. As a bonus, I can heat milk up in the microwave to go with my coffee, something I can't get with the daily brew at the coffee shop. If you prefer specialty coffees, a machine will pay for itself in a few months, and the grounds may be put in the compost, under acid loving plants, or down the disposal to deodorize.

No time to pack a lunch? How much time does it take you to get your lunch during the lunch hour? You can eat a packed lunch just about anywhere and have time to do something else.

Too tired and hassled to cook dinner? Is it really easier to go out and get it or wait for it to come to your door when you can just reach into your pantry or refrigerator? I buy convenience foods, when grocery shopping, that are on sale. I love those frozen bagged boneless chicken breasts. When I know it is going to be one of those days, I put a few of them in the slow cooker (no need to thaw). On top of the chicken, I add clean, unpeeled, halved potatoes and then cover it all with some bottled salad dressing. This process takes about five minutes, which is quicker than I can grab my car keys. For some fast food, I put frozen French fries on a cookie sheet and put it in the oven at the desired temperature. There is no need to preheat the oven. They are ready in less than fifteen minutes. Meanwhile, I put some sandwiches on the George Foreman grill. I especially like melted cheese with deli meat. (I'll cut up some fruit for extra nutrition). And speaking of convenience, how much time does it take to pour a beverage? Yet, how much more do we pay for it in the establishment?

A little creativity will go a long way to cut down your kitchen time. Have everyone clear the table. Put leftovers in clear containers where you can easily spot them next time around. Air dry dishes that won't go into the dishwasher. Take the trash can to the table if there are lots of things to be thrown away. Put dish soap and water into food crusted pots and heat on the stove. Let them boil for a few minutes. Then turn off the burner and let the pot sit for a few minutes. Pour off the water and clean as usual. If it is an aluminum pan, you can use crumpled aluminum foil to scrape off the rest. I use wax paper for grating cheese and dry items. I use newspaper for peeling fruits and veggies. Many nights, we serve ourselves buffet style, and cut down on serving dishes. Last of all, cook in quantity when time will allow, cutting down on prep and clean up time.

It's just a suggestion, but if you have a cordless phone, make necessary calls when you have a one handed brainless job like cleaning out the dishwasher.

Are cell phones convenient? Maybe. I remember when I got my first answering machine. I could leave the house and not worry about missing a phone call. Now we can just take the ball and chain with us. Never mind that we have voice mail. We just have to scramble for our phone when it rings. Never mind that I might make a mistake, because I am trying to do something else that is important, something that could cost me in precious time or money. Never mind that the call may not be that important. Is it even possible that the person on the other end of the line might have solved their own problem if I wasn't available? Don't get me wrong. I love cell phones for important calls and emergencies, but will a prepaid plan suffice? We pay $10 a month. We use it on out-of-town trips or when a dependable connection is not possible. We give the number only to people who may need to get a hold of us in an emergency. Isn't it convenient not to have so many phone numbers for everyone?

Convenience is often not buying into "popular culture" but doing what is right for you.

"My Story" is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. If you have a story that could help save time or money, please send it to MyStory@Stretcher.com

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