The Ick Factor: Balancing Cost with Time and Effort in Your Kitchen and Home

What tasks do you refuse to do in your kitchen--regardless of the costs savings?

I had a reader once tell me that raw chicken meat grosses her out so much that she gladly pays extra money for pre-wrapped chicken breasts.

Sure, she could de-bone her own chicken breasts at home. It's not that hard to do, and it's meaningfully cheaper. The problem was it crossed too far into "ick" territory for her. And despite the fact that she's on a tight budget, this particular job grosses her out enough that she's happy to pay extra to avoid it.

In truth, we all have our own Ick Factors. We all have some gross or highly undesirable task in our kitchen or home that we will happily pay to avoid.

What's yours? Some people draw the line at making certain foods at home. The idea of making homemade hummus (and dealing with the cleanup afterwards) could be a preposterous "ick" exercise for some--especially when it's so easy to pick up a tub of decent hummus in your local grocery store. (On the other hand, if making homemade hummus is definitely your kind of thing, be sure to visit Casual Kitchen's huge blogroll of hummus recipes.)

Perhaps you'd rather pay extra for store-made hamburger patties because it skeeves you to handle raw ground beef. Maybe you're happy to pay extra for store-baked cookies, muffins or cupcakes because you can't bear to spend the extra time and mess of making them by hand at home.

Heck, I've got a great homemade tortilla chips recipe here at Casual Kitchen, but sometimes, when I think about the effort it will take to deal with the hot oil and the greasy cleanup (and when I compare it to the incredible convenience a $3.99 bag of Doritos), my Ick Factor alarm goes off too.

Where do you draw the line? And is it always a cost-based decision? Or are certain tasks so undesirable to you that you completely ignore the cost?

The thing is, in the world of frugal cooking, there's a mentality--a home-cooking samurai code, if you will--that we should always do everything at home. After all, most foods made at home are cheaper, healthier and of better quality (once we get good at making them, that is).

But is this true in all cases? I don't know for sure, but I don't think so. Heck, here's an obvious example: Homemade ice cream. For me, the idea of grappling with eggs, cream and an ice cream maker will never match up to the ease of buying Ben & Jerry's. And this will remain true for me no matter how much a pint of Cherry Garcia costs.

The Ick Factor question shows up outside of the kitchen too. One of the most popular posts in Trent Hamm's The Simple Dollar is his "recipe" for homemade laundry detergent. I absolutely love reading Trent, but for me, this particular post had Ick Factor written all over it.

Sure, many people gladly pay extra to have their cars washed, their toilets cleaned, their shirts ironed, their driveways shoveled, their burgers pre-made or their chicken breasts deboned. If there's a gross or irritating task that you are dying to avoid, it very well might be worth it--in terms of time, money and happiness--to pay extra to have someone else to make it or do it. You can then apply your time and effort towards accomplishing things that are more important to you.

Readers! What jobs or tasks set off your Ick Factor? What are the tasks in your home or kitchen that you just flat-out refuse to do yourself?

Related Posts:
Applying the 80/20 Rule to Diet, Food and Cooking
Speed-Weaning: How to End Your Caffeine Addiction in Just Three Days
Why Spices Are a Complete Rip-Off and What You Can Do About It
Stacked Costs and Second-Order Foods: A New Way to Think About Rising Food Costs
Malcolm Gladwell Was Completely Wrong About Cooking

Casual Kitchen would like to thank the Kitties x 3 blog for the spurring the ideas behind this post.

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Jennifer said...

My ick factor is cleaning a chicken also. My mother would buy a whole chicken, cut it up, and get the gross stuff cleaned off. When I got married, I thought I had to do the same thing. Because I was pregnant (read-on the edge of vomiting), my first attempt at cleaning the chicken was a disaster. Twenty-five years later I pay more for the chicken breast skinned and deboned rather than repeat that sickening chore.

Kira said...

Deep cleaning the house. It isn't so much an ick factor as that it is really low down on the pole of things I want to spend my time doing. After causing the umpteenth fight between my husband and I, we decided to hire a cleaning person once a month. It is THE BEST $85 a month that I spend. There is no better feeling than coming home to a spotless house.

chacha1 said...

There's lots of things I don't do in the kitchen, but mostly it's simply because of time. That is, my disinclination to spend my priceless time laboring to produce something that I can get pre-made for a few dollars.

Task avoidance precipitated by a combination if "ick" and insufficient skill: boning meat. Almost all meat that I buy is off the bone. If it's on the bone, I'm stewing it.

The rare exception: a porterhouse. DH gets the strip and I take the filet. :-)

I am happy to admit that I never have, and hope I never will, clean a whole chicken. Bleargh.

Daniel said...

So there seems to be a quorum on chicken. I'll keep that in mind next time I think about running a series of posts on raising chickens at home. :)

Interesting point about cleaning the house, Kira. Sure, it might be contrary to the standard frugality mindset, but if it meets your needs as well as you say, then it can be an exceptional investment in your long-term happiness and sanity.


Cynthia said...

Skinning and cleaning any kind of fish, fowl or meat. I'll deal with it after it's be cleaned, bled and scaled/defeather/skinned.
I can do it, I just hate doing it.
The only other ick I have is bugs. Killing and removing those falls to my bemused and loving husband.

Kristen said...

I like to make as much as I can from scratch, but still my most frequent short-cuts (mostly due to laziness rather than lack of time) have to be canned coconut milk and frozen puff pastry. That said, I avoid foods that would nauseate me at any point in their preparation. So if I can't bear to do it myself -- like butcher meat -- then I just don't eat it!

edj3 said...

Ha! My first call out on your blog! And I was getting all ready to post my icks :-)

I won't devein shrimp. Fortunately my husband will so we don't have to pay for that convenience. HE won't deal with chicken bones. I would but right now he's the one out of work and I really truly don't have time. So we buy boneless skinless thighs at Costco -- still costs 99 cents a pound but that's better than normal grocery store prices.

chacha1 said...

Hey Daniel, I'd LOVE to see a series on raising chickens! If we ever get a property where it's allowed, I fully intend to get some for fresh eggs.

But I doubt I'll be killing the bird after they're done laying, so maybe you could address how to dispose of hens that die of old age??

Unknown said...

I told the guys that I would cook anything as long as it was cleaned first. I still ended up in the garage washing down deer and moose carcasses, and learning to cut the meat properly.I still won't dispatch chickens, pluck or gut them, nor will I pick eggs. I will willingly clean and fillet fish, and I will cook anything else they bring home - one of my brothers won't even eat venison chops unless I'm the cook. My ick factor extends to birds only, and then only until they're plucked and eviscerated.

Charity said...

My kitchen ick is using my oven for ANYTHING in the summer. If I want a pizza or a cookie, I'm ordering in or buying them already made.

Otherwise, my biggest ick is mowing my lawn. When the season began this year, and my depression and dread grew at the very thought of getting up early every Saturday morning to spend 2-1/2 sweat-drenched hours in the miserable heat, I decided my time was worth more than the $25 to pay someone else to do it.

I hate summer. :-) (except for the fresh produce, of course).

Diane said...

I'm a luddite who does so much myself because I like to. On the kitchen side there's little I won't do. Just about the only thing I really, really hate and have an "ick" factor for is gutting/cleaning fish. I like cleaning squid. I'll happily deal with picking around fish eyeballs when making a fish head curry. But gut a fish? I get the fishmonger to do that. I can, and have, done it. I just don't like to do it.