A Recessionary Silver Lining: 5 Great Reasons to Cook Your Own Food and Eat at Home

Dining out less often these days? You’re hardly alone. As the economy continues to put the squeeze on consumer spending, more people are forced to fend for themselves in the kitchen.

It’s definitely frustrating to know that you can’t visit your favorite restaurant whenever you want at a time when so many are struggling. And yes, sometimes you have to cook when you least feel like it. But there are distinct advantages to preparing meals from scratch at home:

  1. It’s better for your health. This is nothing against restaurants, of course, but it’s tough to know what’s actually in the food your server brings to the table. Restaurant food is often packed with things like butter, salt, saturated or trans fats, MSG, sugar, etc., and restaurants portions can be supersized. When you prepare your own meals, you’re less likely to add ingredients you can’t pronounce or wouldn’t want to gorge on. It’s also easier to serve portion sizes that satisfy with being gluttonous.
  2. Leftovers! This has become a bad word for many, but you can get a lot of mileage out of making soups, casseroles, stews or other multiple-portion dishes. It’s a great way to plan ahead and make tasty lunches to eat at work throughout the week, and it likely gives your kids a healthier option than school lunches. It also guarantees that you have something to eat when you open the fridge on a Saturday afternoon.
  3. It’s easier to eat your colors. If you’re going to eat at home, you have to shop, and if you truly enjoy food, it’s tough to enter the produce section of any good grocery market worth its salt and not leave with a rainbow of fruit flavors in your shopping cart. And when you get home, you’ll find fun new ways to mix and match those colors for maximum flavor and nutrition, like adding grilled eggplant or sliced fennel to a sandwich or fresh blueberries to a salad.
  4. It’s fun to cook. To me, there are few things more pleasurable than cooking. You get to work with your hands and then watch as chemistry melds individual ingredients together into something greater than the sum of its parts. It’s primal, it’s creative, you get to play with knives and fire, your significant other will totally dig you, and the proof is literally in the pudding.
  5. And lastly but hardly least, it’s the best way to revamp our sorry, priorities-backward food system. To me, one of the most interesting comments that came out of this event with food writers Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser was what Pollan said about cooking (these are shorthand notes, not a direct quote):

“(The) Food movement is only going to get so far unless people cook. Cooking is the solution to the problem of how do you eat well if u don’t have a lot of money. We have a filet culture. If we only have 20 minutes, we throw a filet on the grill. But that’s rich people cooking. There is a peasant tradition of unique cuts of meat, technique to make up for it. People say they don’t have time and panic around the idea of time. This bears scrutiny. Somehow we’ve found two hours in the day to be online. We’ve decided that being online is important, but cooking isn’t important. Need to start cooking for our health, our families’ health, and to build a new renaissance in local food.”

By cooking at home you’re that much more likely to eat well. By shopping for your food, you’re more vested in what you eat, where it comes from and how it’s grown. You’re more likely to enjoy the social acts of cooking, eating and experimenting with new recipes. And you think more about portion sizes and not letting food go to waste, a growing problem in this country.

Are you cooking at home more often? What do you think? Did I miss anything?

Photo by AMagill.

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