EDUC6103: The Cost of Convenience-Deep Learning Food Challenge

EDUC6103: The Cost of Convenience-Deep Learning Food Challenge

Introduction:

Over the years I have felt both upset and guilty from the conveniences we have grown to expect as we shop for groceries and consume snacks and meals in and outside of our homes. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the “cost of convenience” and have used this Deep Learning Food Challenge as a way to question my own consumption habits and invite others in my life to do the same. Taking the time to really look at our choices, consider alternatives and choose ways to make changes in our own lives is a great way to make positive impacts in our world. We don’t need to do everything perfectly when it comes to clean eating or waste free living, but even if we each focused on one small goal we’d be making a positive impact. One goal practiced enough times becomes a habit and once something has become a habit we can choose a new goal and continue with this pattern. It makes “big ideas” such as waste reduction easier to manage and to stick to.

Don’t worry about being perfect…just find a place to start!

Why is convenience so important to us?

In my opinion, one of the most important reasons is: Time!

We are in a hurry a lot of the time and when we can eliminate or ‘shave off’ time in someway, it is very appealing to us. Some ways we use to help save time include: getting groceries delivered or using a grocery pick up service, using a meal subscription service, eating out, etc. These ideas save time with: thinking of meal ideas, purchasing or preparing food and even clean up. Time not spent doing the above tasks allows for more time to get where we need to be, balance a home/school/work lifestyle, spend the time in other ways (such as with our families and friends), etc.

However…

Let’s consider what the convenience might be costing us

Questions to consider:

Have you ever…

-grabbed a coffee on a whim and used a disposable cup?

-bought fruit or vegetables that were pre-cut/washed and packaged instead of buying your own and preparing them at home?

-ate breakfast, lunch or dinner that you picked up “on the go” for no reason other than you wanted to?

-thrown away leftovers after days of keeping them in your fridge, instead of actually eating them?

-brought home leftovers from a restaurant even though you doubted you’d eat them?

-bought healthy foods that you knew you should eat but let them spoil?

-thrown expired food out in the container instead of reusing or recycling the container because it was easier to toss the whole thing?

-bought food because it was a good deal knowing that it would likely expire before you ate it?

-purchased a larger container/package of food because it cost less money, even though you knew you wouldn’t use it?

-have you used a food subscription service for its convenience?

-thrown food away and not think about what happens to it or worry about being able to get more food at your earliest convenience?

I personally can answer yes to many of the questions above. I am not proud of this by any means and am actually very embarrassed to admit that I am guilty of these actions, but this also is what has inspired me to delve deeper into this topic and make the decision to reduce making choices based on convenience. I know I am not alone in this and have decided to attempt to get others to question their choices too!

This is often what we see while at the grocery store. The temptation of shopping for convenience is all around us.

Ready for more questions?!…

-Have you ever bought a coffee in a single use cup, felt guilty about it and planned to use a reusable cup next time?

-Have you ever bought food that is already prepared for you and thought about what the store/restaurant does with the scraps and leftover food? (Do they compost? Is any food donated to those in need? What ingredients get repurposed for other food items?, etc.)

-Have you ever bought food “on the go” but then thought about how you could be more prepared and next time bring something from home?

-Have you ever brought leftovers home and made sure you ate them?

-Have you ever reused containers that food was purchased in? (example: yogurt containers, to go containers, etc.)

-Have you ever felt guilty about some of your purchasing choices and made changes the next time?

-Have you ever considered the idea of what convenience costs us?

If you have answered yes to these questions then you might be ready to make some changes with your purchases and understand that our desire to have things so convenient has a major impact on our planet.

What choice will you make?

How true is this statement?

Digging a Little Deeper:Even if we feel like we do a pretty good job about being careful what we purchase as far as food goes, we need to consider the conveniences we have at home that help us to:

-heat our food

-keep it cool and fresh

-clean our dishes, etc.

We rely on the conveniences of stoves, microwaves, fridges, freezers, dishwashers and other appliances to cook, store and clean our food and food ‘products’. When is the last time we’ve thought about those as a convenience?

Check out this video from Inside Energy to give yourself a little something to think about as you dig deeper into the idea of the cost of convenience!

Conversations About Convenience with Kids!

Recently I decided to take some time during our health lessons in my grade 3/4 class to talk to my students about the idea of convenience and what that might mean to 8, 9 and 10 year olds.

Question: What does convenience mean?

Answers (paraphrased and from class discussions):

-convenience means that things are fast and easy

-we get things right away

-we don’t have to wait long to get something

-we can get what we need/want and move on

-we can do more than one thing at once

-it helps when we are busy

Question: When do you notice convenience when it comes to the food we eat?

Answers (paraphrased and from class discussions):

-when we eat at a restaurant instead of eating at home

-when we eat on the way to a sports practice/after school activity

-when we go on trips and can’t make our own food

-when we use plastic bags for food instead of a reusable container

Question: What types of foods do we eat because they are convenient and what could we do instead?

Answers (paraphrased and from class discussions):

-cheese strings instead of cutting cheese

-yogurt tubes instead of putting yogurt in our own containers

-water bottles instead of filling our own

-buying fruit and veggies trays instead of cutting up fruit an veggies

-when we have snacks after school (sometimes we eat snacks that come in a package instead of cutting fruit or veggies up)

-buying bags of popcorn instead of popping our own

Question: How else is convenience connected to what/how we eat?

Answers (paraphrased and from class discussions):

-using a straw that comes with the drinks we order (at fast food restaurants)

-getting a whole bunch of napkins in the “to go” bag even if we don’t ask for them

-using the forks and spoons that you throw away after

-getting lots of ketchup packages (more than you need and there is only a little then you throw it out)

-so many plastic bags being used 

-can’t recycle ‘paper’ drink cups or coffee cups because of the wax on the inside

Question: What are some changes we could make in our lives that could make a positive impact?

Answers (paraphrased and from class discussions):

-buy whole fruits and vegetables and cut them up instead of buying them pre-cut

-have a piece of fruit after school as a snack instead of having a granola bar in a package

-bring reusable forks, spoons and straws with you instead of using single use/disposable ones

-tell your parents to bring their own coffee cups instead of using a disposable cup

-before stopping for food/drinks ask yourself if you need it or just want it

-talk to your family about some of the choices you make and see if you can make better choices

Question: How can you talk to your family about convenience?

Answers (paraphrased and from class discussions):

-tell them that you are worried about the environment

-tell them you are learning about things we sometimes choose to do because it’s easier and how these choices aren’t always the best ones for our planet

-ask them if we can talk about some ideas we have

-don’t be mean about it and blame parents for making certain decisions

-know that we can’t change everything at once

-share that one change can still make a difference

-offer to help with things like packing lunches and not asking for fast food

Question: What are some of the “costs of convenience”?

Answers (paraphrased and from class discussions):

-there is more waste

-can be unhealthy sometimes (food choices)

-just because it’s easy doesn’t make it the best choice

-just because I think I want something doesn’t mean I need it

-we are always rushing but doing things together like making supper or baking can be really fun

-just because something takes longer to make or get ready, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do it. For example: When we put yogurt into a reusable container, pack a spoon from home, eat it at school and have to wash the container it takes more work than just eating a yogurt tube and throwing it away. One is more convenient, but not the best choice when you think about a healthy planet

-something that is already made for you can cost more money than if you made it yourself

-sometimes we can’t help it but can think about the best choice in that situation

My grade 3/4 students have been very insightful as always! They understood what I was asking and also understand some of the ways that convenience “costs” us and ways we can make changes where our choices aren’t always the most convenient for us. Teaching these big ideas now and having these important conversations early is very effective. These students will go home and share what we’ve been talking about and many of their parents will listen to them and start making changes where they are able to. I always say that kids who care turn into adults who care. And we definitely need more people who care in this world!

Looking ahead:

Consider the following questions:

  • What role does convenience factor into your purchase and lifestyle choices?
  • Can you think of one thing you could change in your lifestyle that would have a positive impact on the environment.
  • Am I willing to make a change even though it might be less convenient for me and my family?
  • Why is convenience important to us?
  • What comes to mind when I use the words “Cost of Convenience?”

What Could I Do?

  • Spend more time preparing meals and snacks
  • Commit to reducing (and one day eliminating) single use plastics (cutlery, straws, cups, etc.)
  • Try starting a compost
  • Shop at bulk stores where you can use your own containers
  • Eat what you have before buying more food
  • Reduce eating out when possible. When you do eat out do things like ask for only the amount of supplies that you need (napkins, ketchup, etc.)
  • Consider your actions before acting upon them!

If you think about it…there is convenience in these waste reduction suggestions!

Have you ever thought about bringing your own container for takeout and leftovers? What’s stopping you? Is the notion that “this is weird” a barrier? If so, what can we do to change that?

We need more of this!

An example of the environmental cost of convenience

Concluding Thoughts:

Convenience is something that we as humans seem to be seeking as well as live with without even realizing it. I understand why convenience is important to us, especially when it comes to food. We have a limited amount of time in a day and what can seem like an endless list of “to dos”, so finding ways to spare some extra time makes sense. However, I think it is very important to think beyond ourselves when it comes to the choices we make and begin to consider what convenience is actually costing us.

Social Media Posts to Get Us Thinking:

Here are some Instagram posts I have connected to as I think about society’s infatuation with convenience, how convenience is linked to what and how we eat as well as some ideas to make positive changes…

This is a really important reminder…

Ask yourself… How can we change our relationship with food in a way that has a positive impact? How do these suggestions connect to convenience when it comes to the decisions we often make with food?

Truth.

What can we do to make this statement true?

Let’s find out!

Changing our mindset is a great place to start making a change

Why do we buy so much?

Kindly refuse!!

Change has to start with each and every one of us!

Do. What. You. Can.

Words to live by!

FYI!

This project has provided me the opportunity to do some deep thinking about a variety of ideas as well as include my students in the process. It has been my goal to deepen my own thoughts,  initiate a conversation with my students that they could then take home and continue at home, share some resources with others and to bring awareness to and encourage you to think about the idea of what convenience is costing us.

Interesting Articles:

https://www.foodincanada.com/features/the-cost-of-convenience/

https://www.howtosavemoney.ca/price-of-convenience-food-box

https://www.becomingminimalist.com/the-cost-of-convenience/

https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2018/07/24/what-drives-consumers-purchase-convenience-foods

Thank You Kindly…

-A special thanks goes out to my grade 3/4 students at Montrose School for their participation in our discussions and for their great ideas!

-Instagram photos that have been used from the following accounts:

@theplasticpoachers

@beebuzzywraps

@mssocialego

@imperfectfoods

@drmarkhyman

@zerowastenerd

@least.waste

@gthtohne

@lowwastejoyy

-Click on the links to the articles and video for more information

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