This is a good topic, many get it confused. Just because something is canned, does not mean it is “processed”. I have several examples here to describe these terms.
Processed. Think processed cheese slices, they are so processed, they cannot even be called cheese! Cheese Slices, Processed Cheese Food, things like that, it is closer to plastic than it is cheese. If the ingredients are more than 3 items (milk, rennet, salt) then you are talking about processed cheese.
Processed. Think canned condensed soups (I have another post on this site about that), The main ingredient in condensed soups is water, the label states less than 2% milk, the shortcuts I have for condensed soups, the main ingredient is evaporated milk, world of change there.
Prepared. Think canned beans. Nearly every time, this is beans, water, and salt. Think about it this way, if you take dry beans (like canneries do), and cook them in water (like canneries do), and add a pinch of salt (like you and I would do), that is a prepared beans, not processed. If you cook beans, you do the same exact thing minus the can. There is basically no differences in nutrition between canned and dry beans. Prepared would be also be canned vegetables or even frozen vegetables. You may pay a higher price due to the cutting of the vegetables and canning. I keep canned vegetables on hand for emergencies.
Prepared. Think canned tuna. I like tuna but I do buy them whole and cook myself, cheaper than canned, but it is the same, it is just cooked fish. You can make more cans of tuna from a 16-18 inch tuna for half the price. I keep canned tuna on hand for emergencies.
This seems like an odd post, but it is a valid question, “how many cups are in a regular size can of condensed soup?”
I make nearly all of the condensed soups I need from scratch, not only is it healthier, it is more economical. The shortcuts for condensed soups I have listed on this site make about the same amount as a can of condensed soup. Most of the recipes that I use condensed soup in require one or two cans, and the quantity is not important so I make a “can” of home made condensed soup and use that, if more than one can is needed, I make it in batches of one “can” at a time.
Some recipes are very detailed as to how much condensed soup to use (or gravy or broth or consomme, most of which come in similar sized cans). Gravy, broth, and consomme shortcuts are also listed on this site.
So the answer to the question, it is 1 1/4 cups = 1 regular soup can.
I have been asked this a few times, “why are some items not used in recipes that I list?” Well that is easy, 1, not everything is available where I live, and 2, processed items are kept to a minimum. I like to stick to healthy, readily available fresh ingredients than processed. Now, do I use processed, yep, I do but there is a limit. One reason is to keep food on hand for emergencies, you need to rotate that stock, so use it in a recipe.
What I do list as processed, and I have shortcuts to make these as well are, condensed soups, salad dressings, cheese, and spice mixes. The difference with what I list and the processed product is that you know what is in the final product. Salt being a major issue.
Recipes I will not add include frozen pie crusts, packaged rolls or biscuits in a tube that pop when you open, or items like canned diced tomatoes, sliced mushrooms, etc. I do in fact keep canned tomatoes on hand as well as mushrooms, but it takes me seconds to dice or slice these, to pay for sliced anything in can, you are paying too much. The more an item is handled, the higher the cost.
Cooking spray, no way do I add cooking spray to a recipe! Do some research, if you need to grease pan for baking, use some butter, healthier than the chemicals in the cooking spray.
I am a realist, I do not expect to live to 120 with my cooking, nor would I want that! Things to consider, is butter better than margarine? Yes. When baking, is lard better than butter, well that depends, neither one is more harmful than margarine or heaven forbid, palm oil. Butter and lard are both natural, takes a bit of work to get oil out of a palm fruit.
One of the benefits of this site is show uses for fresh foods, like peppers, onions (I recently seen that diced onion and diced peppers are available in the states, frozen! How lazy is that!), potatoes, carrots, beans, numerous fresh vegetables. Do I use frozen vegetables, yes, once in a while, it is not standard practice. Will I use frozen Hash Browns, no. Will I use frozen peas, carrots and corn? Yes, once in a blue moon and that is to test a recipe as written, then I will try and adjust to fresh products.
“There is more chicken recipes than beef and pork recipes” Yes, chicken is widely available, and free range, pork is as well as beef if local, but must know where it is coming from.
“Is pork unhealthy considering the fat compared to chicken?” Well, look at most chicken and you should trim the fat. But at the same time, you can get a nice pork loin for a roast that has little fat. Cannot make a good stock with out fat as well. Again, I am not looking to extend my age by the way I eat but I can cut some of the extra items out.
This is my standard list of the most common things I buy and don’t buy. Common items, such as eggs and milk are not listed.
Products I Buy
Dry beans – I can make refried beans, chili beans, baked beans (pork and beans), and various soups and chilies. It does take time to cook and prepare these, ingredients list on a bag of dry beans is just beans. I keep a stock of Red Kidney beans, Pinto beans, Black beans, and Great Northern beans.
Potatoes – I can make hash browns, mashed potatoes, potato salad, use in soups and stews, french fries, fried potatoes, etc. Healthy, it is a potato, nothing more. I also leave skins on except for my potato salad which is just personal preference.
Evaporated Milk – I use this for making condensed cream of whatever soups for use in various recipes. Takes about 5 minutes to make cream of mushroom (plus you can decide on types of mushrooms and amount used), cream of celery soup or cream of chicken soup. (Condensed milk is normally sweetened so I avoid that unless a recipe calls for it.)
Real Cheese – I buy this in blocks, Cheddar, Swiss, and Edam, these come from New Zealand, and the ingredients are milk and rennet, nothing more. Can be sliced or shredded, and real cheese will melt much much better than packaged shredded cheese. Cheeses are used in many of my recipes listed on this site. The Thai produced cheese I use is Cream Cheese, Mozzarella, and Parmesan, all good quality at half the price of imported. For Cottage cheese, I make that myself from whole milk and some vinegar, easy.
Dry Pasta – Just the pasta, not the prepackaged meals. Pasta is cheap, stores well and for a long time, useful in many recipes on this site as well as for side dishes. I keep a good stock of pasta on hand.
Fresh Fruits and Vegetables – You know exactly what you are getting, fresh. If making a stew, nothing is better than fresh potatoes, carrots, celery, etc.
Tomato Paste – I normally have about 20 cans on hand, used to make tomato sauce for pizzas, for pasta, soup, ketchup, and even juice to just drink and enjoy or for making a good hearty chili. Very versatile.
Spices – Most of these I buy in the small bottles but for regularly used items, I buy in large bags, not only does it cut down the price, there is less packaging. There is many spice mixes you can make if you have a large variety of spices available.
Pre-made Spice Packets – I do buy the Thai made, particularly Lobo brand spice packets for things such as chicken and rice, northern Thai sausages, Chinese five spice, and even gravy mixes.
Canned Whole Tomatoes – Used in a variety of dishes from Chili to some skillet dishes, and even as a base for salsa, which is excellent. I keep these stocked as they are almost as versatile as tomato paste. Reason for the canned is during the rainy season we cannot get to the market for fresh tomatoes.Canned tomatoes are excellent for tenderizing beef as well.
Tuna – I like canned tuna and I keep that stocked at the house for emergency use. Fresh tuna, now we are talking! Want a great tuna salad sandwich, use fresh tuna, making a tuna and noodle casserole, use fresh tuna. One can of tuna, which the ingredients are normally tuna and water (or tuna and oil) is about 30 to 45 Baht a can, a fresh whole tuna is about 40-60 Baht each. One fresh tuna will make about 2-3 cans of canned tuna, without the can or waste. One can of tuna, on average, is 1/2 cup of tuna.
Frozen or Canned Vegetables – Used in many recipes. For canned veggies, I do stock some items for emergency use but mainly buy when I need a particular item. Canned or frozen vegetables are basically prepared items, not processed.
Canned beans – Although convenient, canned beans for the most part are just beans, water, and some salt, we do keep canned pork and beans for emergency use.
Products I Don’t Buy
Frozen Hash Browns, Tater Tots, and Fries – All very convenient, all very processed. Tater Tots are hash browns with natural flavoring added. Adding natural flavoring to a product that is supposed to be potatoes just does not seem right. I have been known to use frozen fries once in a while but that is rare. Hash browns, dead easy to make.
Cream of Anything Soups – Convenient but highly processed, and are mainly made of water flavored to taste like the soup. There is lass than 2% cream in these soups, then if you just wanted to make a pot of soup with these, you have to add a can of water as well, so you are watering down a water based product. Doesn’t make sense.
Processed Cheese – Probably the most hideous product ever created, it is basically a soft plastic and most of it cannot even be called cheese, has to be called Singles, Slices, etc. I have not bought processed cheese in over 10 years.
Prepackaged Pasta Meals – Think Kraft Mac and Cheese, Cheddar cheese is not supposed to be glow in the dark orange! And most packages like this use powdered cheese, that just does not even sound good!
Tomato Sauce / Spaghetti Sauce / Pizza Sauce – These are easily made from paste, you control the spices, salt and sugar. No need to stock these, I just stock tomato paste.
Pre-made Spice Packets – Think imported Taco Seasoning or Cajun Seasoning or even Stew Seasoning to name a few. Not only are these are heavily processed items, they are also expensive as well compared to what you can make from a shortcut on this site. Spice packets are well know to be heavy on the salt as well. This is the ingredients for a common taco seasoning packet, the 3rd ingredient is Maltodextrin, right after, you guessed it, salt. I have no imported prepackaged spice packets in the house.
Cottage Cheese – For starters, this is not available where I live unless I go up to the city (50 km away) and it is also very expensive. Three liters of whole milk, some vinegar, and a bit of time and you can make 3 cups of Cottage cheese, dead easy and foolproof.
Sour Cream – Think strained yogurt and you have sour cream, it is that easy. A little yogurt size cup is about 150 Baht, yogurt is much much less for 4 yogurt cups, makes a lot of our cream.
Salsa – I make mine from scratch using canned whole tomatoes as the base, half the cost of jarred salsa.
Tartar Sauce – I make mine from a shortcut on this site, well less than half the cost of prepared tartar sauce, and you know what goes in it.
Pickles – I make refrigerator pickles, very simple recipe listed on this site, foolproof. Reuse jars with lids you already have instead of paying a much higher cost for a jar of pickles, since you are paying for packaging.
For fans of mushrooms, Thailand is a great place!!! We stock canned button mushrooms for emergencies, but our go to mushrooms are a variety pack from Tesco! Normally 3-4 kinds of mushrooms in the pack, costs about 20-30 Baht for what would be a good handful chopped, so we normally use 2 packs per dish I make. If I make a homemade tomato based spaghetti sauce or a cream/cheese sauce, mushrooms are in there for sure.
Some mushrooms fare better than others and all have different textures. Here is some commercial cultivated Japanese edible mushroom species grown here in Thailand. Here is some examples. These are what I like, the oyster, ear, and wood mushrooms I am not a fan of.
Clockwise from the left in the picture above, Enoki, in the US these may be called Golden Mushroom. Don’t let the thin size tell you they turn to mush in a soup, they mushrooms make a great mushroom soup and retain a lot of crunchiness to them, they are very good.
Buna-shimeji, (brown type) the Thai name I do not know, we use these in a lot of pasta sauces simply chopped up and added to the sauce. We use these with the next one. My mushroom of choice when making Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup.
Bunapi-shimeji, (white type) another one I do not know the Thai name of, Tesco usually lists the Japanese, really. Great chopped up in a pasta sauce, either tomato based or cream/cheese based, excellent addition.
King oyster mushroom (Eryngii) is a favorite for omelets. Consistency is like a button mushroom, but much much larger as you can tell. Dice up 1-2 for a 3 egg omelet and you have a good breakfast right there.These are also excellent fried as they do not shrink or wilt up like other mushrooms. These can be displayed with either the English or Japanese name.
Shiitake is the Japanese standard for soups, even used on burgers if you can find large ones.
Straw Mushrooms are my favorite for soups or large pieces of mushrooms. These are delicious and and retain their size during cooking. These are sliced just in half lengthwise or even quartered lengthwise, slicing the other way would end up with chopped mushrooms. Any good Thai soups will have these in that.
Button Mushrooms, to tell you the truth, I have only seen fresh in Makro, canned is stocked in Tescos, never fresh, but we do keep canned in stock as well for emergencies. If you want a good mushroom for a pizza, you cannot beat a button mushroom.