When I have a little spare time, I like to trawl the shelves of supermarkets, to see what's new. Sometimes I find interesting, useful products, but recently, I've seen a few things that really make me wonder about people's sanity.

One product, labelled "preparado de tortilla de patatas", contained potato cooked with sunflower oil, olive oil and salt, and was to be used for the Spanish dish of potato tortilla.

As with many packaged foods, you're paying for convenience: the raw products probably cost no more than HK$10, but this jar costs HK$49. The thing is, you're not saving that much time. You still have to add three eggs and cook all the ingredients before they become a tortilla.

If you're going to do that, you may as well spend an extra 10 minutes cooking the potatoes from scratch.






At least that product was fairly inexpensive. Another that caught my eye was a mix for financiers (the cake, not the banker). Financiers are extremely easy to make: you mix ground nuts with sugar and flour, then add egg whites and melted butter (preferably beurre noisette - butter that's been cooked until the milk solids turn brown, which makes it more flavourful) and bake the batter in rectangular moulds. This package contained nuts, sugar and flour; you still have to add the butter and egg whites before baking the mix. The cost of saving five minutes? HK$107. The label said the ingredients were organic, but so what? Total food costs using organic ingredients would probably be no more than HK$20.

By far the most outrageous convenience product I've seen (so far) is acqua di sale - salt water - in a plastic spritzer bottle, priced at HK$149.90 for 100ml. Ingredients: water, 10 per cent sodium chloride and 5 per cent potassium chloride. Total cost - even if you were to buy a spritzer bottle - would be about HK$15. Time spent making it? About 30 seconds.

My friends and I joke about what ridiculous product we'll see next. Bottled air? That's already been done: "100 per cent pure Rocky Mountain air" is the first item an internet search brings up, but there are many others.

I have a get-rich-quick plan for "instant water": it would involve an empty bottle, with instructions to "fill to the brim with water, put the cap on, then shake for 10 seconds!" (It can't be too easy or people won't think they're getting their money's worth). I'm still trying to figure out how much to sell it for: too cheap and people won't think it's worth buying.

My sales pitch? It's gluten-free, fat-free, cruelty-free, zero calories and it comes in a recyclable bottle.