Thursday, September 11, 2008

Frozen Oatmeal

This is a blog about service, and I thought I’d spend a few minutes exploring the service that the food industry offers to our busy nation and all the working moms out there. No one appreciates the shortcuts more than I: the hot, already-cooked chickens, the salad mixes, the frozen desserts. I remember the hours and hours I spent as a stay-at-home mom, trying to compensate for being a single salary household by making everything from scratch. Since we had a cow and grew our own chickens, pork and beef, scratch took a looooong time. I remember, too, one of the most beautiful things about going back to work after seventeen years was buying frozen pizza for dinner. (I would add that scratch included making my own mozzarella cheese, but that’s another story.)

So, the other day, I was grazing through Costco, sampling the chips and peach salsa, the mini cream puffs, the gazillion-grain bread, when I came upon a sample that stopped me in my tracks: oatmeal. The little old lady (she was about my age) who was offering these particular samples was striving gamely to make this sound like a giant leap forward in food convenience, but…oatmeal?

“Straight from the freezer to the table,” she said. “And, it’s in its own bowl!”

I looked at the bowl she held up. It was a paper bowl, and it looked like it held a cup or a cup and a half of—I still couldn’t believe it—oatmeal.

“How much is it?” I asked.

She explained that they came four to a package and the price worked out to $1.47 a bowl.

Stunned, I pushed my cart down to the cereal aisle where I turned the large box of Quaker’s Oats over and read the quantities. Say that paper bowl did hold a cup and a half, if you made up an equivalent amount of these regular oats—boiled the water, put in the oats, stirred for a while, turned off the fire and let it sit for a few minutes—you could save about $1.25 a serving. I mean, is there anything easier to fix than oatmeal? If you used quick oats and did it in the microwave, you’d still be saving about $1.20 a serving.

Now, I love oatmeal. I really do. Sometimes when my husband works late and eats on the way home, I’ll fix a bowl of oatmeal for my supper. But I don’t plan on adding any of those “convenient” little packages to my freezer any time soon. It just doesn’t rank up there with frozen pizza.

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