Prepared or homemade dish: which is better for the wallet?

homemade or prepared dishes for your wallet

Whole departments are dedicated to them, the advertisements tout their “authentic” taste, but the dishes prepared in the supermarket do not contain the same ingredients as those prepared at home: a lot of unwanted ingredients are part of the recipe, especially ACE.

The quantity of industrial ready meals purchased for home food, almost nonexistent in 1973, was in 2010 of the order of 50 g per person per day, reflecting the interest for households of their convenience, taking into account the requirements growing in daily life. Conversely, the time spent cooking at home has decreased since 1985, with a sharp increase in the days when households do not cook at all. Note that 75% of the time spent in the kitchen is female time. “Note the researchers behind a new INRAE ​​study published in Public Health Nutrition.

The study

Through the INCA 2 study, the researchers identified 19 prepared meals most commonly consumed by the French population (such as Lorraine quiche, tabbouleh, vegetable soup, beef bourguignon, or gratin dauphinois …).

For four servings (4p), if only the purchase price is taken into account, industrial dishes are, on average, € 0.84 more expensive than the same homemade dishes. When you include the cost of energy to cook or heat these dishes, industrial dishes are more expensive by € 0.60 / 4p. On the other hand, when the cost of preparation time (estimated at the hourly minimum wage) is considered, then the dish made at home is 5.34 € / 4p, which is more expensive on average than the industrial dish. The National Nutrition Health Program recommends “home-made”, but does not take into account the cost related to the time spent cooking Said the team in their press release.

In practice

For researchers, this study emphasizes the importance of improving the quality of industrial dishes, especially for low-income families ” whose constraints of time, resources and equipment can dissuade them from buying and preparing fresh and perishable food. Ensuring the availability of practical, affordable industrial dishes with proven nutritional quality could help promote healthy eating, while combating gender inequalities and social inequalities

To make the right choice, in the ready meals department, the composition of the product takes precedence.

However, to stay healthy, prepared meals, even improved by the industry, will always remain inferior in quality to those made at home. 80% of supermarket foods are ultra-processed foods whose consumption increases the risk of overweight, mortality, and cancer, when it exceeds 15% of food intake.

The difference in price between homemade dishes and ready meals is not so great, and especially related to the preparation time which can be reduced thanks to Meal prep / batch-cooking. This method involves taking a few hours on weekends to cook meals for the week. It requires organization and a little conservation material. Here are some tips for practicing batch-cooking:

  • Establish the weekly menu and the shopping list
  • Before you start cooking, read all the recipes in full
  • At the time of preparation, gather the similar steps of each recipe (cut the onions, steam the vegetables)

Read also: The Meal Prep, the best way to combine time and balanced meals!

Other tips to save time for meal preparation:

  • Establish the menu of the week (to save decision time)
  • When buying fruits and vegetables, take time to prepare them (wash the salad, cook the spinach, grate the carrots, etc.)
  • Make larger portions so you can eat the same meal twice


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