Thanks to Applegate for sponsoring this post!
In the last few years, I’ve made a conscious decision to make more food from scratch. But I still buy packaged food (read “From-Scratch Cooking Confession: I Can’t Keep Up!“). Several readers asked me for more details on the kinds of packaged products I buy, so I wanted to share some of my favorites.
When choosing packaged foods, I always read labels, looking for a simple ingredient list and a food that’s naturally nutrient-rich (not something heavily processed that’s been pumped with vitamins and minerals). Because I have a food budget, price is also important. So while I know that the natural foods markets are teeming with terrific packaged options, everything on this list can be found at a regular grocery store or Target at a pretty reasonable price (with the exception of the “Splurge Snack”).
Peanut Butter: Smucker’s Natural
Just peanuts and salt and a thick, grainy, satisfying texture.
Breakfast Sausage: Applegate Chicken & Apple
The ingredients are chicken, dried apples, water, honey, and spices. No antibiotics. And my fourth grader can now make eggs and sausage for himself and his little brother in the morning all by himself. Hallelujah!
Frozen French Fries: Cascadian Farm Shoe String French Fries
They’ve got the look of fast food fries but are made with organic potatoes and have hardly any added sodium–so you can sprinkle on however much (or little) salt you want.
Just three ingredients—wheat, oil, and salt. I like that these crackers, unlike some others, have no added sugar. Honorable Mention: Wasa crispbreads, which are hearty and satisfying, and delicious with a smear of natural peanut butter or a slice of melted cheese.
Cereal: Barbara’s Puffins
Just 5 grams of sugar per serving (that’s a bit more than 1 teaspoon) but sweet enough to feel fun to my kids. Honorable Mentions: Read “My 5 Favorite Boxed Cereals“
Splurge Snack: Simply Balanced freeze-dried fruit (at Target)
Contains only fruit and tastes like a special treat. This is what I buy my kids at Target when I’ve been dragging them around on way too many errands.
Energy Bar: KIND bars
Short ingredient lists, and big chewy pieces of nuts, dried fruit, and seeds. Honorable Mention: Larabars, because I love the super-simple ingredient lists and (in some cases) no added sugar.
Boxed Mac-n-Cheese: Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat
Filling whole wheat pasta and no neon colors. Honorable Mention: Annie’s Organic Whole Wheat Shells & White Cheddar.
Want more ideas? Prevention Magazine recently released its “100 Cleanest Packaged Food Awards” for 2014. A few of these brands–including Smucker’s, Cascadian Farms, and Applegate–made that list too.
What are YOUR favorite packaged foods?
Disclosure: I’m happy to be working with Applegate this year as a member of their Advisory Board, because it’s a brand I buy and respect. I am compensated for my time. All opinions expressed are my own.