One of the things the pandemic forced many people to do was cook and eat at home. With many restaurants back open, we’re now seeing diners rushing out to eat. This results in record crowds and long wait times. While it’s nice to be able to dine out again, cooking at home can still be important. That’s why it’s this month’s resolution topic.
Each month this year, we’ve presented Positive Resolutions for the New Year. In lieu of making a long list of “wishful” resolutions last January, we’ve suggested making small changes each month. At the beginning of each new month, set a measurable goal for yourself on the new topic while continuing the previous months’ activities too. Reevaluate how you’re doing each month. At the end of the year, you’ll have twelve new habits and a more healthful lifestyle.
Are you slipping back into your old habits of dining out or grabbing fast food on the way home? Perhaps you’ve gotten really comfortable with food delivery. Last year it was a necessity. This month, reconsider cooking at home by choice.
If the past year hasn’t converted you to cooking at home more, there really are some financial, health, and time benefits to consider:
- It's cheaper to eat at home. The United State Department of Agriculture reports that the average cost for feeding a family of four at home (moderate plan) is approximately $1000 a month. Note: this calculation is assuming the family is eating all meals and snacks at home and these meals follow the US Dietary Guidelines. Consider the cost if you were eating these foods in restaurants -- add in the price of gas, tips, and service fees.
- It's more healthful to eat at home. When you cook at home you have more control over what goes into your foods. You can watch the type and amount of fats and limit the added sugars and salts in foods you cook yourself. While doggy bags are always an option, you may be less tempted to overeat when you have plans for those leftovers (a friend of mine always calls them "planned overs").
- You can save time. You’re not driving to restaurants and standing in line or waiting for delivery. Not to mention the waiting time for the food to be cooked, delivered, and then paying the bill. It does take some organization in the beginning, but planned meals at home can be quick and easy in the end.
- Maybe cooking still isn’t your thing. There are a plethora of television shows and videos as well as on-line classes that might help make you more excited about the idea of cooking. Now that things are more back to normal, make it a goal to view a few classes on basic cooking and meal planning.
- Worried about all the shopping and planning time? Perhaps try one of those complete food kit delivery services. They do the planning and shopping for you and you do the cooking. It may not save you money, but can expand your tastes and skills and you’re at home cooking.
During the pandemic we started sharing meals with neighbors we considered “in our pod." They cooked one night a week and we cooked another. We weren’t doing fancy “guest meals,” just regular home cooking. We looked forward to those get-togethers. It was fun to see what others considered regular, everyday meals. We’ve decided to continue this new tradition -- they have expanded our food horizons and it’s nice to be guests one night a week. If you didn’t start this before… why not try it now?
If you enjoy cooking, seek out new recipes. Now that we’re more comfortable in stores and gatherings, take time at the grocery store or farmer’s market to explore a new food you’d like to try.
There’s another bonus when you cook and eat at home: family time. While you can eat together as a family in a restaurant, the car, or at a baseball game, cooking and eating at home can help to strengthen families in a quiet, non-distracting location. There has been lots of research into family meals and all indicate that there are benefits to families eating together. These include more healthful diets, decreasing risky behaviors in teens, improved literacy and school outcomes for children, and overall better family relationships. Another plus: allowing children to help with meal prep teaches them lifelong skills.
As we get back to schools and work and a “different normal” this month, take time to consider cooking at home. Evaluate what you’re doing now. Think about what goals you can make for yourself this month to include cooking at home as a positive priority.
By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS, Professor Emeritus at The Ohio State University
PS: Here are links to all the other positive resolutions so far...
Stephanie Ronco has been editing for Food and Health Communications since 2011. She graduated from Colorado College magna cum laude with distinction in Comparative Literature. She was elected a member of Phi Beta Kappa in 2008.