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Jul 15, 2013 08:03 AM

Old School Brands Survive in the Foodie Age

A telling quote..."While sales have suffered of late, the brand boasts that on any given weeknight, more than 1 million households are serving Hamburger Helper for dinner."

Whether this is a result of economics or time constraints, I sometimes wonder if people realize that it doesn't take that much more culinary skill to prepare "real" food.

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  1. Rice a Roni

    Kraft Mac n Cheese

    Spaghetti Os

    Fish sticks

    Frozen French fries and tater tots

    Pop Tarts

    Very few have the time or funds to make these from scratch. Let alone the skill or tradition.

    8 Replies

      I think I can make a decent fry... but Ore Ida Tater Tots.. I don't think I can top those.

      1. re: Firegoat

        Tater tots are at the bottom of my food pyramid.

        1. re: C. Hamster

          I so agree! I can't stand all the hipster chefs making "gourmet" tater tots and acting like their menu is now complete. I guess as long as their patrons keeping gobbling them up, more power to them, but I just don't get it.

      2. re: INDIANRIVERFL

        I disagree. Most of the things you listed are easy and cheap to prepare. Rice, mac n' cheese, spaghetti, and baked "fries" are very easy, more healthful, and inexpensive when homemade. As far as time, none of them take that much longer to prepare. Fish strips coated in bread crumbs and baked are also easy, but a bit more expensive. Pop tarts and tater tots have me stumped, though.

        1. re: BostonLover

          For homemade pop tarts, using all-butter puff pastry and good quality jam as a filling with a drizzle of confectioners' sugar icing makes a pretty damn easy and delicious snack.

          1. re: BostonLover

            I had a recipe for homemade tater tots and made them a few years ago. I'm not a huge tot fan, so the effort certainly was not worth it. As I recall, I took al dente boiled potatoes, put them in a food processor for a brief whirl and then added canola oil, chilled the mixture then formed the tots and a little flour dusting and then fried them up.

            An easier faxsimile would be to boil or steam some small new potatoes then smash them and fry them.

            1. re: John E.

              They did Tater Tots on Cook's Country a while ago. See Personaly, I couldn't be bothered and prefer FF's.

              1. re: TomDel

                I looked at that recipe and it does not seem to be the one that we used. I don't have plans at another attempt. We don't even make fries at home too often.

        2. Didn't read the whole list, but since I usually don't have time to make pickles, I think Vlasic dills are pretty damn good.

          1 Reply
          1. re: pinehurst

            Not bad but not as good as Claussen Garlic Dills.

          2. why would you want to make Spaghetti Os or fish sticks????????

            1. How is Hamburger Helper not "real" food?

              1. The reality is we are a very small niche. As you said yourself most people do not have the time or money to make things from scratch. I would also say there is a huge lack of cooking skill which seems to be dieing more and more every generation.

                5 Replies
                1. re: NekoNekoFancyPants

                  Unfortunatly to a very large part of Americans, HH and the other things where you add you're own meat is real cooking to them. I must admit I do HH Cheeseburger Mac a couple of times during the winter. It's OK, cheap.

                  1. re: mrbigshotno.1

                    For me, store bought curry paste makes sense.
                    Rather than buy 15 ingredients from the spice aisle, mix them with precision and grind them down, I buy a tub of Mae Ploy for a third of the price, all the work done and know from experience that many fine kitchens indeed use this product too.
                    So I guess my question is about mainly condiments. Do you think it's cheaper/easier/tastier to buy mustard, ketchup, shrimp paste, potato crisps etc?
                    There are some things that are time consuming and costly that picking up in the supermarket is equally ok for.

                    1. re: mrbigshotno.1

                      Hamburger Helper was a good "gateway" food for cooking in college. Along with most of my roommates in undergrad our parents did most of the cooking. HH was easy to prepare, cheaper than take out, and gave us leftovers. We eventually moved on to other types of cooking, but it did save us from ordering pizza yet again.

                      1. re: Firegoat

                        I lived for a while with a guy who really liked Hamburger Helper and I got heartily sick of it as a result. I don't know that it's all that bad as these things go - since I never want to eat it again I don't really remember what's in it. I can say about it on a more positive note that it's way better than Tofu Helper, which one of my old roommates used to live on. That really was bad, and not because of the presence or absence of meat, but because of the helper . Yuck.

                        1. re: ratgirlagogo

                          The only one we ate was Lasagna Hamburger Helper. I often ate it with added ketchup. I've gone on to make regular lasagna and now lasagna with home-made noodles and no tomato sauce at all. But the HH lasagna certainly fit a purpose at the time so I can't diss it. Now tofu helper..... I'm frightened.