You’ve heard that making meals at home is more cost-effective than ordering take-out or going out to eat every night, but did you know that making homemade meals saves you a lot more than just money? How about a few inches off your waistline or happier children? Here are 6 reasons to start making homemade meals and easy ways to get started.
Why You Should Be Making Homemade Meals
Today the average American spends a mere 27 minutes a day on food preparation (another four minutes cleaning up); that’s less than half the time that we spent cooking and cleaning up when Julia [Child] arrived on our television screens. It’s also less than half the time it takes to watch a single episode of “Top Chef” or “Chopped” or “The Next Food Network Star.” What this suggests is that a great many Americans are spending considerably more time watching images of cooking on television than they are cooking themselves – Michael Pollan, Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch
Cooking today looks night and day different that the cooking that our grandmothers did. Frankly, today we do way less of it and allow food corporations to make our food for us. But what we save in “time,” does not come without it’s own consequences. Besides being less expensive than the alternative, research shows that when families come together for a homemade meal five or more times a week, there are several benefits including:
- a longer life
- a reduced carbon footprint
- consuming less sugar and processed foods, resulting in higher energy levels and better mental health
- a more happy, healthy and connected family
- reducing symptoms of depression due to an increased sense of belonging
- less risk of alcohol and drug use within teens
Related: 5 Healthy Benefits of Family Dinners
How To Incorporate More Homemade Meals into Your Week
With benefits like those, it’s hard to ignore the power of a home-cooked meal. But for most of us, time seems to be the problem. We get home from work and the last thing we want to do is make a meal. So how do we solve this dilemma? My number one tip can be summed up in a single word: prepare! And also I might add, try to find enjoyment in it.
Preparation is key if you want to make homemade meals part of your routine. Every Saturday morning, whenever I can, I sit down with a cup of tea, light a candle and get out my cookbooks and laptop to meal plan. This is a weekly tradition that I look forward to and enjoy, so spending an hour (sometimes more!) searching through recipes doesn’t bother me. But maybe for you, there are energetic toddlers running around the house or a full day of errands so you can only spare 15 minutes. That’s fine too! If you’re time-crunched, develop a template for your week to make things easier. Maybe every week, you want to have a taco night so decide that every Tuesday, you’ll do tacos. And maybe, every week you want to have one chicken recipe, one vegetarian recipe and one soup. Decide what nights you’ll do those and then plugging in recipes is a breeze!
Cooking in Bulk
Another thing I always do is prepare a big meal on Sunday that I can use for lunches during the upcoming week. It’s the concept of “cook once, eat all week.” And when I know I’m going to have a busy day on Wednesday and won’t be able to make something in the evening, I throw together a slow cooker recipe in the morning so I come home to a wonderfully smelling house and a healthy meal all ready to go. Making extra of a meal and freezing the leftovers also works wonderfully! It’s ALL about preparing ahead of time.
So what do you think? Can you set aside time to meal plan to reap the benefits of a home-cooked meal with your family? Who knows, it may just become your favorite new tradition.
P.S. If you’re interested in the transformation of home-cooking over the years and/or how to become a better cook, I highly recommend Michael Pollan’s book, Cooked.