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Hi, I'm Pam Mehnert

As Outpost's general manager, Pam's work keeps her at the office, in meetings, or in front of her computer more than a simple 40 hours each week. However, her passion as a foodie has driven her to take on this challenge for the culinary experience of...
Pam Mehnert

Week 6 - Digging Deeper into Convenience

A Year of Inconvenience
For one year, I'm making everything from scratch and forgoing convenience foods. Join me on my journey! By Pam Mehnert on May 29, 2010
Now that I'm over the emotional stress of last week I can talk a bit more openly about everyone's interest in my new diet. "How's that new diet coming along?" one of my neighbors asked, "have you given up the fast food yet?" To be honest, I've been rather surprised how many people are rather surprised by what I'm referring to as convenience foods. So this week I'm going to clear up a few of the mysteries surrounding my "rules" and my (somewhat arbitrary) choice of what comes out of a bottle vs. what comes out of the ground. I think of this as sort of a roadmap from processed food to the unprocessed life I've currently chosen.

Consider the tomato. Why? Because I love tomatoes and so many of the foods I'm now labeling as processed, start with fresh tomatoes. I can still remember when I was about four or five years old, walking through my great grandparents farm field with my Mom. She used to carry a pocketknife and a saltshaker around with her so that when we came upon a perfectly ripe fresh tomato, we would savor a bite of its deliciousness right off the vine. Ah...the tomato memories. Anyways, considering my impulsive need to create as much of my meals from basic single ingredients for the next 45 weeks, I've been trying to overcome my limitations in mealtime variety because of the tomato. Not because of the fruit itself, but because of the processing of the fruit that is required before it becomes an ingredient I can use in a recipe. Here is the roadmap to my tomato dilemma.

Tomato Product What I'm currently doing Sometime In The Future...
Diced or Crushed Tomatoes Buying 2-4# of fresh tomatoes at a time, skinning, seeding, crushing or dicing - then freezing. I get about 16-28 oz. at a time this way. I plan to can both diced and crushed tomatoes when they come into season at the farmer's markets this summer. I purchased my first enamel canning pot at a flea market last week.
Tomato Sauce Using my crushed tomatoes I'm prepared to cook down into sauce. Haven't made time to do that just yet. I also plan to make and can lots of this during the summer.
Tomato Paste I'm using tomato paste from a tube that I had leftover since I don't usually need that much at a time. I'll learn how to make it from scratch but I understand I first need to buy a sieve?
Pizza Sauce I made one batch after crushing/processing fresh tomatoes - it's frozen now awaiting my first pizza. Continue to freeze when I have a better stock of crushed tomatoes on hand.
Pasta Sauce Wow, that requires tomato sauce, tomato paste and diced or crushed tomatoes - so I'm currently not eating any. This makes a quick meal, I know so I have to come up with a plan to make a batch or two and freeze it
Chili Besides cooking the beans from scratch, I need tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. I liked using the fire-roasted variety in a can...wonder how to do that? TGIS (thank god it's summer) but we eat a lot of homemade chili during the fall and winter. Just how much do I need to can?
Catsup I haven't needed this yet and I still have some left in the refrigerator. I have condiments on my "okay to buy from a store" list. I'd like to make it from scratch and can it? Wow, canning might be a full-time job come August.
BBQ Sauce Using up what I still have left from last summer (is BBQ sauce a condiment?) Seriously, do you now see the point of my tomato dilemma?

As week six slowly sets into the sunset of Memorial Day weekend, I think I'll go grab myself a beer and figure out what we're going make for the cookout. Did someone just ask why I'm not brewing my own beer?


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