One of my little goals this year is to take packaged, processed products that everyone tends to use and offer alternatives. For the most part, there are no packaged or  processed foods that actually save time or money.

Take pre-packaged fruits and vegetables, for instance. I went to buy a butternut squash a few weeks ago and noticed that there was a package of already pealed and cut up squash all ready to go. When I compared the price and weight between the prepared package and a nice size whole squash I was getting 1/4 of the amount for the same price. In other words, I was paying 4 times as much for the convenience of opening a package that I then had to throw away. I bought the whole squash, took it home and timed how long it took me to clean and cut it. Five minutes! I did the same for mushrooms. The thing about packaged, cut mushrooms is that the amount doesn’t always match what I need. Often I need less than half of what is on offer. Not only does the packaged stuff cost more money, if doesn’t allow you to purchase the amount you actually need. Two minutes to cut the mushrooms, by the way.

Bread crumbs and croutons are another packaged favorite. I admit that we often buy these two products but whenever possible we try to make them ourselves. With our grilled vegetable salad the other night we had these homemade croutons and they were so much more interesting than something out of a bag.


  • 2 Cups Stale Bread, torn into bite sized pieces
  • 2-3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, minced
  • 1 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper (optional)
  • Salt and Pepper


  • Saute Pan
  • Chef’s Knife
  1. Briefly saute the garlic in olive oil.
  2. Add the oregano, cayenne pepper and bread. I don’t bother cutting the crust off, but go ahead if you prefer the traditional crouton.
  3. Sprinkle a little more olive oil over if the bread is not fairly well coated.
  4. Salt and Pepper and toss until slightly toasty.
You can also do this in the oven on a cookie sheet. I prefer the moist, flavorful pieces achieved on the stovetop. The baked ones tend to be dry, more like the ones you buy and therefore depend on soaking up the dressing of your salad.

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