February 19, 2019

Save time getting the groceries, save time preparing the food, save time cleaning up. Everything we can possibly do to save time, it seems, we will do. It bears us SPENDING a few minutes however, to consider: what are we saving that time for?

Consider dinner. We tend to shame busy parents by making Mom feel that if she doesn't cook from scratch she doesn't love her children as much as she should. But that meal that you hope nobody noticed you were eating–bologna and popcorn with carrot sticks (at least there was a vegetable!)–made it possible for Mom to celebrate the winning goal with her daughter while Dad just made it to orchestra rehearsal with their son.

Everything is a tradeoff. Finding time to be there for our kids can mean less time to be like Ward and June Cleaver. We try to plug the gaps with convenience meal solutions: the quick-service restaurant, the drive-through, and of course, the prepared foods department at our supermarket.

What do we trade? What do we get in exchange? Is it a good trade?

In prepared foods, as our recent studies show 1,2,3,4, we trade time for a meal that is all too often poor quality. It doesn't even feel like a meal–it just feels like food thrown together. It sure doesn't feel like a good trade.

But as our families in the Tyson Prepared Foods Challenge 4 are finding out, there is a way to capture the time savings of prepared foods without sacrificing quality, freshness, and wholesomeness. And the trade turns out to be better than we imagined. Participants say they were "proud," "happy," and felt "like a winner." They saved time and felt THAT good about it.

But the best part about it all is just a little deeper. Our work in the All About Dinner 2 study showed that adolescents crave time with their parents over dinner to a far greater degree than their parents do with them! And study after study shows that kids who eat dinner with their parents regularly grow up healthier and more successful.

Prepared foods saves time, and it can save time without anything like the quality compromises that are so frequent today. But for what?

When we deliver to our shoppers the kinds of experiences of which we are capable, we don't just save them time or money: we help them to connect. We help them to be there for their family–cheering them on, or picking them up, or dusting them off. That's where we come in. It's what we do.

It's worth taking a little time to think about.