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Supermarket take-out: Is it for you?

It’s a growing trend and could be just right for your busy needs.
/ Source: msnbc.com

It used to be called take-out food, but today supermarkets call it Home Meal Replacement and it is a $8 billion per year business which is expected to double by 2001. As consumers are more stressed, working harder and shorter on time, convenience has become the key to meal preparation.

Take-out is the fastest growing segment of the supermarket, which crosses all generations — Xers, Boomers, and the 50-plus. Take-out food used to be a restaurant, or foodservice-based business, but supermarkets have shifted their stores quickly to take advantage of this opportunity. A recent survey from the Food Marketing Institute found that 8 out of 10 shoppers now consider preparation ease and time necessary as their top considerations in selecting their foods.

Tim Hammonds, CEO of the FMI explains that “supermarkets have always been a mirror of lifestyles in America and supermarket take-out is a perfect example of meeting consumer needs. Today’s shopper wants healthy, quick, tasty foods!”

American lifestyle today is more time-pressured, hectic and value-oriented than ever before. People just do not cook any more. It could be argued it is because of the lack of time, but cooking is also becoming for many of us nothing more than microwaving and meal assembly. In-home meal preparation time has dropped from two hours to less than 45 minutes in the average American home. Home and work pressures have changed the way America eats.

It was in the 1950’s with the baby boom, when families first started ordering foods that were already prepared and serving them at the kitchen table. It was convenient and tasty — but the choice was limited. In those days, the fare was typically fried chicken or pizza, and on occasion, Chinese food.

Today, it is a lot different. Supermarkets have sold rotisserie chickens for years and it’s this product that helped convince supermarkets that take-out is big business. The ‘deli’ department today is a lot more than just sliced turkey and cole slaw. Many supermarkets have actually hired trained executive chefs to develop and prepare these take-out foods. Taste and presentation is important, but so is cost. If you shop carefully, and choose your take out foods with an eye towards value, you can serve your family delicious meals affordably.

To get an idea of what shoppers can find, the “Today” show has selected an assortment of take-out foods from some of the leading supermarkets in the country. A&P, Byerly’s, Genuardi’s and Jewel. Here are their samplings:

BYERLY’S

Chicken Dijon/Herbed Rice

(serves 4 to 6)

$21.99

-Boneless, skinless split chicken breasts breaded with Byerly’s own exclusive combination of fresh Parmesan cheese, Dijon mustard, Japanese bread crumbs and other seasonings. Served on a bed of herbed rice.

Chicken Wellington

$6.99/lb.

A quick and easy twist on Beef Wellington, Chicken Wellington is created with puff pastry stuffed with chicken breast, wild rice,

mushrooms and cashew stuffing.

Jamaican Jerk Seasoned Pork Chop

$4.99/lb.

A one-and-a-quarter inch pork chop marinated in a blend of jalapeòo peppers, onions and spices.

Marinated Kalbi Beef Kabob

$6.99/lb.

USDA Prime (a cut above USDA Choice) sirloin beef squares marinated in Korean teriyaki sauce.

JEWEL

Roast Pork Loin

serves 3-4

$9.99 each

Rotissere product, sold hot, injected with a marinade and spices before cooking to insure flavor and tenderness.

Twice Baked Potato

$1.59 each

Microwave at home for 3-5 minutes. Bacon & Cheddar ‘twice’ baked stuffed

potato

220 calories, 13 grams of fat

Garden Vegetable Pasta Salad

$3.99 lb.

99 percent fat free, made with fat free Italian dressing. Made with Raddiatore

pasta, carrots, zucchini, red yellow and green peppers.

GENUARDI’S

BBQ Chicken Pizza

$1.95 slice/$6.99 pie

Grated Romano cheese, Monterey Jack Cheese, Cheddar Cheese, Mozzarella Cheese, Skinless Chix Breast meat, Chopped Bacon and BBQ sauce

Per slice: 506 calories,19 grams of fat

Vegetable Panini [Italian sandwich]

$3.95

Eggplant, fresh roma tomatoes, basil dressing, fresh mozzarella cheese,

spinach leaves

560 Calories, 30 grams of fat

Veggie Wrap Sandwich

$3.79

Spinach Pita Bread, lettuce, roma tomatoes, mushrooms, zucchini, red onion, yellow pepper, alfalfa sprouts & sunflower seeds

365 calories, 8.5 grams of fat

A&P/FOOD EMPORIUM

Chicken Pot Pie

$4.99

Rich creamy blend of vegetable and tender chicken topped with mashed potato on

top and baked.

Alaska Seafood International

Not all supermarkets are making these foods themselves or can go to the expense of hiring gourmet chefs. Alaska Seafood is a new company who makes freshly prepared meals from Alaska Seafood and delivers it to the supermarket with their name on it. It’s a great way to get high quality meals at an affordable price. For example here is an item which will sell for under $4:

Run for the Boarder Alaska Halibut

Filet of Alaska Halibut with seafood stuffingshrimp and crab with breadcrumbs, limejuice, and cilantro topped with Tequila lime sauce.

The most important hint in buying take-out is to think value. While all the foods might look great — keep in mind that some may be easy to prepare yourself and not worth the extra cost. You need to properly evaluate your need of convenience with value.

Here are some shopping hints to remember:

1. Ask your store clerk for a taste. You will be pleasantly surprised to find that many of these take-out foods are well prepared and might even taste better than you could make yourself.

2. Always check the package carefully for expiration date, freshness and to be sure that the package is sealed properly.

3. Shop for these foods last. Treat them as you would milk — they are highly perishable.

4. Equate the price to value. Can you make the dish yourself cheaper? How many ingredients do you have to buy? How much waste would there be if you had to make it yourself? Do you have the time? Would it taste as good?

Phil Lempert, the Supermarket Guru®, analyzes the food marketing industry to keep consumers up-to-date about cutting-edge marketing trends. He is a regular “Today” show contributor, syndicated columnist and host of Shopping Smart on the WOR Radio Network.