When Convenience Isn’t Convenient

The past few weeks I’ve been browsing through a book called “Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House“.  It’s author, Cheryl Mendelson, set out to write a modern day handbook for homemakers covering all areas of keeping a house including making and storing food, cleaning your home, and doing laundry.  As she puts it, her book is “not a history of  housework, it’s an explanation of it.”   It’s a reference book not really intended for light reading with lots of pages that look like this:

Home Comforts book

There’s tons of great into in this book, but I found just as much enjoyment in the opening chapter titled “My Secret Life”.  She shares that in spite of going to law school and being a lawyer, it took her some time to come to grips with how much she really loved and craved all things domestic.  {as someone who works in a law office – I can relate! }  Legal cases are interesting and all that, but I get just as much enjoyment out of cooking a good meal.  Maybe more.

Ms. Mendelson’s lawyer background certainly came shining through when I got to a chapter with a sub-heading of “Spurious Convenience“.  I’m guessing there’s probably no other homemaking book in print with a chapter cautioning you to watch for spurious convenience. 🙂

And I have to admit, my inner legal geek was totally loving her use of that word and the point she was making.   You go girl!  I hate spurious convenience too – that’s why I make my own!

What Is Spurious Convenience?

So what in the heck is spurious convenience?  A quick look at Black’s Law Dictionary tells us if something is spurious, it’s not genuine – it’s a counterfeit.  It’s not the real thing.

So what then is spurious convenience?

It’s convenience that’s not truly convenient.

The warning here is to be mindful and alert that often times foods that are marketed to us as being great time savers and conveniences are just barely that.  It doesn’t take that much time or effort to make a homemade version and the final product is usually superior and less expensive. Too often we’re buying a fake version of convenience.

When convenience isn't convenient

3 Ways Convenience Isn’t Convenient

So how can you watch out for spurious convenience?  When should we ditch the boxes and mixes and just make our own?  Here are three things to keep in mind when it comes to the store bought convenience products:

1.  Does it only take a couple more ingredients to make it from scratch?

The Home Comforts book uses a great example of this with a brand of pancake mix.  Some pancake mixes you just add water, and maybe that would be truly convenient.  However there’s also a famous pancake mix where you combine the mix, milk, egg, and oil.

A homemade version would be flour, salt, baking powder, milk, egg, and oil

So the great convenience is you didn’t have to measure some salt and baking powder??

flour in mixing bowl

If a convenience mix is only saving you a few seconds of measuring a couple more ingredients, then it may be spurious.

Recipe to try:  Homemade Pancakes


2.  Do you already have all the ingredients you need?

We’re often lulled into grabbing things like envelopes of taco seasoning in the belief that it’s a convenience.  But if you already had every spice you needed in the cupboard already to mix up some taco seasoning, was it really convenience?  Probably not – it becomes just another thing to remember to dump in the grocery cart.

spice blend convenience

So often we carry home things like a cake mix, brownie mix, or a seasoning packet when it was quite likely we already had what we needed to easily make it from scratch.   If you keep a well stocked pantry at home, then many convenience mixes are going to be rather spurious for you.

Recipe to try:  Homemade Taco Seasoning


3.  Can you find a “From Scratch” recipe?

If you don’t know how to make something from scratch, then certain convenience foods and mixes are in fact, convenient.  They give you a way to quickly whip up what you otherwise didn’t know how to make.

However in this day of the Great Google search engine, I truly believe that with a few keystrokes you can find almost any recipe you’re looking for.  In fact you may discover as I often do, that you find so many recipes you have a hard time figuring out which one is the best to try!

homemade brownies

If recipes for what you want to make are plentiful, then you may want to start testing a few so you can find a favorite you can rely on.  It’s just as convenient to have a good recipe in your stash for when you need it, than to be dependent on the spurious convenience of always hoping a certain packaged mix is going to be available on the store shelf.

Recipe to try:  Homemade Brownies


These are the points that I find help me determine whether something is truly convenient or not. It’s true that sometimes there will be a learning curve as you educate yourself about how to make things from scratch instead of falling back on what you previously thought was  “convenient”.  During that learning period you may have a few doubts if you’re on the right track or not.  But if you stick with it and begin to master your homemade versions so that you can resourcefully use the items in your cupboard, you’ll discover a new kind of convenience that’s so much better than the previous fake convenience you’d been told was the real thing.

The point here is not to tell you that you should never, ever buy a convenience product. Sometimes for one reason or another, it’s going to be the choice that we feel is best for the moment.

The point is just to be aware.  To be alert.  To remember that sometimes what’s marketed to us as convenience isn’t really all that convenient.

It may just be a spurious fake impostor.


Note:  You can click on the picture below if you’d like to see more about the Home Comforts book on Amazon.



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