I don’t like to eat out very much. While sometimes it can be a fun treat, there’s a certain comfort I find in making my own meals and cooking for others. Aside from personal enjoyment, there are also a variety of other benefits to eating meals at home.
Perhaps some of the most obvious advantages to eating at home are knowing exactly what is in your meal (including ingredients as well as nutrition) and saving money. Restaurant expenses can add up quickly, even if you are only buying from the dollar menu at your favorite fast food place. While it may seem like a bargain to buy a hamburger or a side of fries for only $1, think about how many servings you are actually getting from that purchase. While you may consider, say, a side of fries for this cost a good deal, consider the price of a bag of potatoes, by comparison, which usually ranges somewhere from $1.50 to $3. Of course, depending on the type of potato it may be a little more, just as the size of the potatoes in the bag will vary (again, depending on the type anywhere from perhaps 8 to 20). Even if there are only 8 potatoes in a bag costing $3, that works out to about $0.38 per serving, as opposed to the $1 serving from the fast food restaurant. Still seem like a bargain?
By cooking and eating at home, you also know how fresh the foods you’re eating are as well as what goes into your family dishes. Restaurant meals often include an exorbitant amount of salt or fat that is unnecessary, and some research has addressed that eating out can increase one’s daily caloric intake, especially calories from fat and added sugar. While you can special order something to a degree, there are often hidden culprits that you are simply unaware of. For example, who thinks to hold the butter on their burger bun? Portion control is also easier when prepping meals at home; you don’t have to remember to box up half your meal, ask for a to-go container, or resist the allure of an all-you-can eat buffet or the dessert menu if you’re already feeling stuffed.
People may argue that you can spend quality time together as a family when eating out, but there’s no denying that preparing your meals at home can additionally help bring everyone together in order to help prepare the meal. Children generally love to help out in any way they can, whether that means pouring ingredients into a mixing bowl, stirring something, or even just setting the table. I remember that, as a child, my parents assigned each of my siblings and I some sort of task to complete before dinnertime. Someone would take and fulfill drink orders, someone would set out the plates and bowls, another the silverware, and someone the napkins. Of course, someone would also say a blessing, and then we would all sing “The Lord is Good to Me.” Working together in the kitchen can be a great way to teach kids important lessons about healthy eating, and also to let them express their creativity. It’s amazing what a confidence boost or feeling of accomplishment someone can receive from saying “I helped make that.” Then, eating dinner as a family allows children to model the choices you make in nutritious eating. Kids tend to mimic the attitudes their parents hold toward food, so if they see you are excited about healthy eating they are more likely to perceive it as something important. In addition, I would add that eating at home allows you to create and share cultural traditions, such as the family dinner song that mine still sings to this day.
You may not believe it, but cooking meals at home can also be a time-saver. I’m not saying that taking an hour or two out of every day during the week is the answer, but have you considered preparing a week’s worth of meals perhaps one day out of the week? One pot meals or even crock pot recipes have become increasingly popular over the years. If you don’t have a slow cooker, you can simply double one of your favorite recipes (soups or casseroles are often great for this), enjoy part of the meal one day, and freeze the rest for a time when you’re too tired to cook. Cooking and dining at home can certainly be a rewarding experience in more ways than one.