The marketing of convenience

15 May 2013
I loved the interesting comments that came through yesterday. Parents sharing their experiences in an open way always has the potential to help some parents confirm their choices and it gives others the opportunity to read a wide variety of opinions they may not be exposed to in real life. So thank you for taking part in that important discussion about what kids eat.

It seems to me that parts of the food industry, and supermarkets in general, want to kneecap us. They aren't interested in our well being, they want our money and food is something we budget for on a daily or weekly basis. There is no way they will stop promoting the products they sell, so we all have to step up, refuse to take notice and just keep doing what we're doing.

My main gripe is that this form of selling promotes convenience over everything else such as quality, location, scarcity and the environmental cost of production, packaging and delivery. Convenience wins every time. And the consequence is that slowly, we lose our life skills. Why make bread when it's available fresh every day? Why put the time into making good soap when soap is so cheap? Many people take the convenient option every time and don't know that products made at home, including bread and soap, are far superior to what you buy at the supermarket. I know that many people don't have the time to make such things but those who do have the time and the inclination for it aren't encouraged or supported in their choices.

The saddest part of this whole thing is that it drains confidence. I get so many emails from young women telling me they want to do this and that but don't think they can, or they failed once and they don't have the confidence to try again. If you knew how many times I made bread and soap before I was satisfied with it you'd probably think I was mad for persisting so long. Good works take time. Anyone can walk along an aisle, pick up products and put them in a trolley. It takes time, skills, commitment, passion and, yes, confidence, to home-make what can easily be bought. But the pay off is that you retain those skills, you produce goods that are superior and you know what's in them.

I'm not going to explain why it's a good thing to remain skilled and to be self reliant, I'm sure you know why as surely as I do. But I will encourage you to learn as much as you can and to be confident in your values and the way you live. I hope you'll encourage others to do the same. Because if we don't acknowledge that the marketing of convenience is turning us into a bunch of sooky-lalas, then we'll all go down the drain. I want to yell that out loud for the world to hear, but I guess my blog is the closest I get to doing that.

I gleaned a lot of hope out of yesterday's comments. Seeing women rejecting the convenience of baby food in a jar made me realise there are a lot of us who have chosen to swim against the tide. I don't know about you but when I know my values are mirrored in others, when I know we're not the only ones who don't choose the easy option, it makes me want to keep going, keep enjoying, keep sharing and keep learning. Thank you for helping me feel that so strongly yesterday.


  1. I wholeheartedly agree with everything you said Rhonda. Often we feel like we are not capable of doing a particular thing ourselves. Because we get meat off the farm ( and in this case even if I had to buy the meat) I have decided to corn my own meat in a natural brine instead of getting the butcher do it when the meat is processed and I am also going to make my own sausages. All this has come about from being encouraged by you and also other resources such as River Cottage. I have also signed up to do a day course on sausage making and salting down meat to make my own bacons etc. Now I just have to get my confidence built up to try cheese making after my future SIL made me a cheese press. I could not believe how EASY the soap was to make from your recipe and it was like -- duh, why didn't I try this before and the reason---- lack of confidence. Thank you Rhonda for all you have put into the lives of us folk here.
    Karen NZ

  2. Oh Rhonda, you are (as always!) so right. The number of times I've explained to my scoffing workmates why I knit dishcloths... "All that effort" "Why don't you just buy them" "But they'll get dirty" I LOVE the thrill of cleaning my dishes and stove and benches with MY own cloths. You've inspired me in lots of ways and I'm constantly thinking about what I can make next!!


  3. Several months ago I had a young teen bagging my groceries ask me where my bread was. I told him that I bake all of our bread. He was shocked! He said he had never heard of anyone doing that and did not now that you could make bread yourself. Seems funny but at the time I just thought it was very sad.

    I did not get a chance to comment yesterday but we just held our babies on our laps at meal time and when they were ready for solid food they just started eating from our plates. We would push a bit of what they were interested in aside and cut it smaller for them and they happily ate right along with us. Our 9 month old grandson was here sitting on our daughter's lap last night and was eating 'Asian Noodle Salad' with both fists. He loved it and it is not something that most would ever think of feeding to a baby. Our children and grandchildren have never been picky eaters because they have been exposed to so many flavors early on.

  4. I agree Rhonda. I've been following your blog quietly for a few years now and have been implementing change in our home for at least as long. I've always been more self sufficient than not, and especially in my 20's and early 30's I found so many people who simply did not understand WHY I was trying to do so. They put it down to me being a 'hippy'. Well, that may or may not be the case, but what I AM is competent, frugal and showing my young daughters how important it is to be independent and able to fend for themselves. I find it stunning that other people my own age (30's) are not able to bake bread, cook at least some meals from scratch or do the most basic knitting or mending. I am hardly an expert (especially at the latter lol) but I TRY. And keep trying. If I can save my family money on our pretty limited income then why on earth would I hand it over to the giant corporations if I didn't need to?!
    If I'm to be honest, the only thing I find challenging about homemaking is my inability to do it all NOW. It took me a while to come to peace with the fact that it's a constant work in progress, especially when I have 2 children under 3 and another on the way lol. But I'm ok with it now....plenty of time to be able to do everything from scratch. For now, I do what I can when I can. thank you for being a constant source of inspiration for this way of life and for validating that being a home maker is a great way of life. :)


  5. That promise of convenience is alluring to the tired and stressed out mum, but whenever I am tempted, I take a step back and think "what am I paying for?"...My own carrot peeler or apple slicer? Someone to slice the mushies and package them in plastic so I can just open a packet? The environmental damage caused by the unnecessary packaging? ....Then I think really, how hard is it to peel a carrot? So much is saved by doing it myself!!!

    On a related note, I came across a story on Grist the other day that had pictures of what a week of food looked like in the US, Mexico, Mongolia and Ecuador. If you Googled "Compare a week of groceries" it should be the top link. So interesting that the US family has all packets!!

  6. I made those bickies yesterday for my dad...ok I had some too....and I am making inroads into making much more of my own.......but still fall by the beef is that when I go into the main supermarkets here, the cheese shelves are now ar least two thirds full of the supermarkets brand name cheese and the usual australian? Brands are now squashed into a very small space. It makes me so angry that this ploy will damage food producers and squeeze them into corners where they must aquiesce to these multinationals and possibly change recipes including more chemicals in our food. I think that I have seen this with milk and health food type lines also. We have the power to change this but I am so concerned that some people are mindless in their shopping and don't see what is going on

  7. The confidence thing applies to gardening, house upkeep, splitting wood, fixing a car, and so many other things that both women and men now don't know how to do. I've jumped in with both feet to learn a new skill so many times now that the confidence is there and it is amazing what you can learn just from youtube videos now on the internet. So if you are lacking confidence, bake one loaf of bread. Make one new recipe for a dinner. Learn one new skill. Doing that will give you the confidence to learn another, and another and another. It is a good thing. And take small steps, make small changes and you will look back in few years and be amazed at what you have learned to do, and what you have done. Bravo!

  8. I have been a "lurker" of yours for some time now and enjoy every minute, we share a philosophy of life (but you share more eloquently!) This post happened to coincide with a conversation my Mom and I had about my Grandmother - Grandma is 100 years old, lives alone, worked hard all her life and is just now needing help. Grandma told one of her great great grand children (when they critiqued her diet) that she had never 'not eaten' something because someone said she shouldn't. While I know genetics plays a part in how long and well you live, grandma baked her own, canned the garden, butchered the meat, brought in the eggs and made the butter, she still eats this way with some help. Sometimes we are fooled by 'average life expectancy' numbers, I do genealogy for fun and extra money and those folks who lived on the farm and grew and ate their own food lived to their 80's and 90's in a time when the rest of 'em were only making it to their 40's. Work hard, eat well, and live satisfied is how they did it, thanks to you for encouraging that spirit in others as well. Thank you!

  9. I think marketing of fear is another big weapon they use. The marketing companies will often make us fearful of germs and failed nutrition. They try to convince us that it is not safe and we will not do things properly. This also keeps a lot of people from trying and when their friends express the doubts that the marketing has been drumming into their heads, then their voices also seem to backing up this authority. We must be brave and become "can-do".

  10. Another fab post Rhonda and so true. I think part of the problem with all this convenience is that we hand over our power to decide - what goes into our food, onto our plates, etc. And looking at what happened in Bangladesh recently, people forget that the choices they make have far reaching consequences. Kirsten x

  11. Yes we vote when we shop. I have loved watching my husband learn to have a go as we've slowly renovated our house. He is from a family of 'payers' (they pay the plumber, builder, electrician, car mechanic etc without trying to fix things themselves) and he was so shocked when he saw my Dad just get in there and have a crack before handing over hard earned cash to someone else. I know he takes so much pride and enjoyment looking around our home at all the things he's been able to fix or create himself, he never thought he could do so much. The past couple of nights I've made flatbread. It's so easy- flour, salt, water, and oil- but he is still amazed :) Homemade just tastes so much nicer too!

  12. I made a deal with myself to make as much as possible for myself when Jarvis was born. Yes I used pre-made baby food when we travel, but every other meal had been made in my kitchen, and often from ingredients in my garden. Did I know how to make a lot of these things before? No way, but I am slowly teaching myself. Interestingly enough because I am allergic to garlic I have never been able to use al lot of pre-made options, such as sauces and such, so it was very easy to continue my making of meals from scratch.
    Soap I am yet to tackle

  13. Allergies make commercial food a deadly choice. I have learned to enjoy the process of collecting things and making to meet our needs. There are times when commercial stuff pops into the picture but hopefully far less than average. There is satisfaction in producing to meet your own needs and I need to learn more.

  14. I would have loved to be one of those mothers who gave the kids the same meal that the parents ate....I was not. It was a matter of feeding them and making sure they ate. I did not like it but it was what it was. A tired mother with a very stressful marriage I could not tackle one more thing. I would not waiver on their sleep and worked really hard to ensure they had their routine and when my son was two and we moved house he came out of his room downstairs that many times than I care to remember. I persisted over about 3 nights where I stood outside his room and put him back in his bed time and time again and after 3 nights it was done. The food was another kids don't get cordial and still don't unless they go to a party, they eat fruit but the meals were not what I had envisaged for them. Not bad but not what I had wanted. When my son was 8 I had enough strength (divorce, moved house and got myself through day by day) I had had enough of the same comments at dinner time....I lost it one night and I said to him "I spent a lot of time making a lovely healthy dinner and if you don't like it you can keep those thoughts to yourself as I don't want to hear about it". Also if you don't eat this meal there is nothing else available including dessert which was yoghurt or peaches. I stayed firm and hard and just thought enough is enough. He has made leaps and bounds and eats anything I put in front of him. We still struggle with veggies and salad apart from lettuce but I made minestrone soup and he loved it with all those veggies. Sometimes you do what you can with what is going on in your life and other times you have the strength to put in to change the situation. Also I love showing my kids how to make things from scratch and they are learning every day. They love the homemade better and it's healthier and they know it too. Sometimes tired exhausted mothers do their best at the time and sometimes we are in a position to make it a lot better.

  15. I LOVE the word sooky-lala...we use that a lot in our house when my daughters are cranky:) I definitely think homemade products are generally superior to what you can get at the store...homemade stock is the one that sticks out in my mind. My first attempt at soap didn't work out and I did lose my confidence but i'll try again.
    There was one time though that convenience won out. When we brought my little girl home from hospital (she was premmie), one of my girlfriends dropped in with some home cooked meals for us. In the bag also was a massive pile of paper plates, paper coffee cups and plastic cutlery. In the middle of what was a very stressful time for us as a family, not having the additional task of washing up was nice and i spent that time snuggled with my eldest daughter who was very teary and emotional at the time. In that sense i think convenience products have their place, but i prefer to DIY :)

    1. Dear Rhonda,
      Can I say I love you're blog! Ido as much as I can on all fronts.
      We live on 3 1/2 acres, a bit neglected as of late, as we moved
      a house from Cooparoo to our 17 acres in the Secnic Rim. We are
      good at being frugal, we don't make excuses as too why we can't
      do things, we just get in and do it. I'm lucky to be able to
      manage my time,I only shop once every 6 weeks or so at Aldi and
      Woolies for ingredients to make things from scratch, as they are a 45min
      drive away - and I think what I could achive in that travel time.
      Yes I do work oustide the home 2 days a week, we work for ourselves
      a rural mail run and love our life. My 2yo son knows milk comes
      from cows and his mummy can make cheese,custard, yoghurt from scratch,
      bread. We are on a journey to be self reliant, and informed.
      Cheers Kerry

    2. Hi Kerry, thank you. I love the Scenic Rim. Shane and Sarndra used to live out there before Alex was born. It sounds like you're living a great life out there. All the best.

  16. I'm starting to resent having to go into shops - I try to shop as much as I can at Aldi for the things I need but will be starting the vegie garden this winter (when the ground is softer) and will be doing a short lesson at our community neighbourhood centre about how to make my own soap (this is one thing I need to learn by watching and doing rather than from a set of instructions - I can't wait and it gives back to our community centre as well). We have our own chooks which is handy considering the amount of eggs we eat and it doesn't leave all of the marketing open to interpretation as to whether it is organic, free range, bairn laid etc - I know where it comes from - We really do need to be more consious of how much the marketing companies are 'tricking' us into believing what is true - try margarine is better for us than butter.
    I make my own lemon cordial as a summer treat (from our two lemon trees). I have to admit I have tried numerous times to make my own bread but it comes out yeasty and very dense - I figure its a case of trial and error - with some tweaking I'm sure it will work out the right way one day !!! in the mean time we eat some whilst its hot and the chooks enjoy a good feed.

  17. Why are we so concerned about trying new things? Or not getting it right first time? We are so hard on ourselves, and quite possibly others, if we do something and it isn't perfect.

    What happened to good enough? Good enough to eat? Good enough to wear? and if not those, then good enough to learn from? Who are we trying to impress?

    Let's just give it a go. Learn new skills (that will take time, of course). Be kind to ourselves, in both our expectations, and the things we make, eat, clean with etc, etc, and to the world.

  18. I was out all yesterday, but I wish I had seen that post when my eldest was small! I did the bottled foods thing from 6-12 months, and ended up with a fussy eater that at nearly 7 is finally willing to try new things. Our second bub HATED baby food and refused to be spoonfed, so she had small bits of what we were having. She's still a little picky, but she is willing to eat pretty much anything. This time around, we'll be doing the same as we did with the second, because it seems to work the best and it is so much easier! Less time spent shopping, no checking the ingredients list for colours/preservatives, no separately prepared meals, etc.

  19. Your posts reaffirm to me that these life skills are indeed so important even when convenience is so close. For me the knowledge that I'm giving our children an insight into these forgotten skills is satisfaction enough to keep up the effort. Thanks for your posts Rhonda x Nicole.

  20. Standing up and cheering for you Rhonda. You are spot on with this post.

    I did the shopping yesterday and it finally hit me how much I resent spending our hard earned dollars on supermarket food. I especially loathe how high priced, over packaged and chemical laden foods are the ones that are pushed on consumers who seem to not care and just believe the hype that comes with them. I have been watching what I spent my grocery money on and have always made as much food from scratch as I can but I still have to buy some products and it's those that really get me. Yes the veg garden is growing but we are a long way from self sufficiency there. Hopefully in a few years that will have changed. Today DD2 and I made up marinades from scratch for the chicken wings I had bought and a loaf of raisin bread is about to go into the oven. Thankfully she is one child who is embracing the "make it yourself and make do" revolution.

    As for the not giving up and keep on trying. I have been gently pushing that message with my youngest son of late. He lacks the confidence (mainly he tells me cause Dad is so good at making things) to try things for himself. I get the "but I'm useless" comment lots. Not so!! My son is a chip of the old block so to speak and incredibly creative and handy for a 13 year old. I keep telling him it's just practice and if you stuff it up then try again. He has been helping me lots in the garden and has designed the best watering system made out of what he could find. Slowly but surely his confidence is growing and he is getting really interested in Permaculture and we are designing our food forests and choosing which fruit trees to plant together. We have also had lots of talks about how the computer only uses a bit of your brain, but practical skills use lots and that those are the skills that will make him a self sufficient and highly regarded young man. Slowly but surely the message is getting though.

    If a 13 year old can try new things then surely as adults we have the courage to do the same?

    1. Bravo! It's wonderful that you are encouraging your kids to be practical and self-sufficient. My 23 year old daughter is always amazed at how many of her peers are unable to cook from scratch or make things for themselves. (not in an arrogant way, just genuine surprise) What better legacy could you hand down to the next generation than this? Fab! :)

  21. This is so true Rhonda. I am learning to knit - and it is frustrating. A simple handknit for myself. Thus far I have found an errata in the pattern - admittedly listed on the ravelry page, but I didn't notice it until I was casting off the sleeves and realised there were not enough stitches. Had a cheap needle from Spotlight break and lose a chunk of knitting. Then I dropped a stitch and the only way I could remedy it was to unpick, then drop more stitches in so doing! Now I have knit on but find I have a small hole. My husband said, 'maybe you just have to realise this is your first effort and it is not going to be perfect". Too true. Practice makes perfect.

    That said, it does make me realise how 'cheap' store boughts are. I don't think they reflect the labour that goes into them at all.

  22. Great post yet again Rhonda. All that commercialism and advertising, remember folks, it's not your health or anything else they're interested in, they're just out to get your money, full stop.

  23. I loved this post Rhonda, and like you, I gleaned a lot from yesterday's comments too. Thank you for always reminding me about what matters. I feel as if I have been a bit lazy lately with regards to homemade cleaning products, and other things I used to do. I bought into convenience when I was ill with a virus and have gotten out of the habit of things a bit. Today I have renewed enthusiasm and will be taking a long, hard look at how I've been doing things around here. I can't wait to get back into the swing of things again. I'm so glad your blog is here as an inspiration and resource for us all. Big hugs to you Rhonda! :) xxx

  24. A topic near and dear to my heart Rhonda. I can't cast stones, as a young woman with small children I did as I was expected and bought into the convenience food-in-a-box mindset. When my children were teenagers I began making my own food to the greatest degree possible. Now that my children are grown I make our soap, yogurt, spice mixes, dinner, desserts, etc. from scratch. I have a pumpkin granola recipe that I now use to shun boxed cereals - and it's absolutely delicious. Maybe each family has needs at different times, I'm just glad I finally reached this place in my life and wish I had gotten here sooner!

    ~Taylor-Made Ranch~
    Wolfe City, Texas

  25. I agree...especially in the food industry. Over the years, I have watched the frozen food section change from vegetables, juices and ice cream to convenience dinners of every variety. I wish I had taken photos of the before and after freezer cases since they began changing.

    But, I believe the change has come about because most adults these days work such long hours and have little time for meal preparation. With children that do sports, then need help with homework, getting home at 6:00 PM tired and hungry, doesn't leave anyone time to prepare a proper dinner. I am not advocating this lifestyle. I just believe it is the norm for so many parents and single adults in our world today.

    Your advice is an oasis in a hurry up world.

  26. I've been following your blog for quite a while now and I find comfort and hope from reading both your comments and those of your readers. We each have to make the decision for ourselves to do the things we can for our families.

    My husband is disabled, so my dreams of staying home and taking care of our family have been put aside so that I can be the breadwinner. Certainly not what I had planned, but that's what has to be done. I work long, hard hours. And I have bowed to convenience once in a while; however, some things I do take the time to do. I quilt & embroider. I make my own soap and laundry detergent. I grow a small vegetable garden - my children are grown and gone now, so our needs are less. The things I can't grow I pick at a pick-your-own farm. I can some vegetables, tomato sauce and all my jams & jellies. And I have paid down a significant portion of our mortgage. When I retire in 3,237 days (not that I'm counting!) we will be debt free and able to have the freedom to make the choices we want for our 'golden years'.

    I applaud your efforts to bring homemaking skills to all. So many of the things I learned from my mother & grandmother are skills that many have forgotten. But I have been taught my children and am teaching my grandchildren the value of a dollar and hard work. I feel there is hope for future generations.

    1. I agree, life is ever-changing and often we find ourselves in a situation we'd rather not be in, but have to work with nevertheless. It seems to me you're doing that extremely well, doing what you can do and just getting on with it. I hope those 3,237 days fly by, Katie. :- )

  27. Dear Rhonda,
    Please reconsider writing about why it's a good thing to remain skilled and be self-reliant. Your writing is inspirational and encouraging, beautifully and sincerely expressed, and I think having a post --both practical and philosophical-- explaining the need, benefit, etc. of skills and self-reliance would be a wonderful and much-needed post, one that we could all refer to when we need someone there cheering us on and helping to restore confidence and resolve.
    As always, many thanks for sharing your wisdom and experience.
    Helen in the US

  28. Realistically Supermarkets are here to stay because we will all need to buy produce from them. Now how much we let them influence us is totally up to us. There will not be a knock at the door from the 'food police' to chastise or admonish you if you buy something extra at the supermarket one week. There will not be a knock at the door from the 'food police' wondering why you have not spent 'X' amount of dollars this week either. You are you and I am me and we do NOT need big business like big business needs us because without us eventually the companies could cease to exist. We have all been witness to so many companies which have 'gone into receivership' so never underestimate the power of the people.
    Do NOT let big businesses rule the way you want to do things. Never forget without us little people there would not be any big businesses.

  29. Oh, awesome post...I've had so many of these thoughts! It seems there is a real tendency to favor convenience at all costs. I used to buy into it, but have never been happier and more fulfilled as when I gain the skill and confidence to do it myself!

  30. I love this post! I go to knitting and crochet classes each week for a paltry sum of only $5 per class from my local wool shop. I had to smile when I read a comment above about dropping stitches and having to undo. I've been there many time too. I'm now at a point where I can knit quite well now. I intend on knitting all my husband's and my clothes. I figure I will have a nice basic little wardrobe for us both the year after next. I'm happy to take the time to do these labours of love. I have begun to look in shops at the (lack of) quality of the knitting and wool used - yet we pay top dollar for these clothes!
    Along with knitting and crochet I have a goal to spin my own wool and use natural dyes in the future as well. I
    My journey began years ago now when I started a raised garden bed. I then had to learn to preserve my precious haul. That started me on the path of preserving and jam and sauce making. I tried knitting at that stage but didn't have the patience for it. Now I do have the patience and I did persevere. Now I love knitting our clothes and crocheting!
    I also agree that the big supermarkets use fear to turn people off making their our stuff! We are so paranoid of germs and cleanliness! Convenience does win out most of the time, unfortunately. How many times I have the comment of "why make when you can buy so cheap". But a lot of what you buy is cheap and nasty anyhow. The clothes I knit I know will last the test of time - and they will be what we want in the colours we want.
    We don't own our own home - and may never have the means for that, but we are allowed to have a raised garden bed here and we use it! We grow whatever we can with the room we have. I do deals with the local fruit shops too.
    The one thing I do find interesting and at times difficult, is the amount of skill it takes to be self sufficient! The internet is such a good source of knowledge! I have learned heaps from YouTube! There are times when I need something and find myself asking if I can make it myself. My skills have grown over the years and so has my confidence!
    I love this blog and log on regularly! It's wonderful to have the support of others when you decide on a lifestyle that is different to most of those around you! It's also nice to have the admiration of others when you produce something amazing!
    My husband and I live on the disability pension and living more simply helps us to be frugal.

  31. Wow Rhonda! You are so good with words! You have expressed so well the way the marketing companies prey on our weaknesses. I will be reading this to Belle (10 years old) because we went to a shopping centre recently and were astounded at the obvious marketing ploys we saw *everywhere*! This post clearly expresses some of the things we discussed on that shopping trip. Thank you.

  32. AMEN.

    (I assume sooky-lala is some kind of bad name for a sissy....?)

  33. Well, I do go for the convenience occasionally... sometimes out of laziness, sometimes because it's good convenience.
    I tend to make my own breadbuns when at school, but when at home, there's no need to, because our local corner-of-the-street shop carries bread from the local bakery and that's sourdough. And sourdough bread, local bakeries and corner-of-the-street shops are three things that I really want in my life.

  34. yes, yes, yes. As always, it is so encouraging to visit your blog. And I love seeing pictures of your reminds me of my grandmother who is 1000+ miles from me.




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