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We don't cook and eat at home as much as we used to.
Cooking was once a part of daily life for most Americans, just a typical activity you'd fit into your day along with showering and sleeping. These days, thanks to the availability of restaurants and processed food, cooking has become more of a leisure activity for many. The average American dines out 185 times per year. And that doesn't even include take-out, delivery, or other prepared/pre-packaged foods.
Especially for those under 40, cooking has become a luxury. 24% of Millennials only cook and eat at home 2 days per week or fewer. And this is an issue. Food experts like Michael Pollan have noted that the best predictor of a healthy diet, more so than calorie counts or even the nutrients in the food, was whether the food was cooked by a human being, and not a corporation.
Fast food and prepared foods tend to be filled with more salt, fat, and sugar than what you'd tend to make at home, even if you like to fry up potatoes and bake cookies occasionally. Companies that cook your food for you are naturally focused on making you crave more, not on making you healthy.
It's easy to make excuses, to others and to yourself, for not cooking more often. The most common ones are "I'm too busy", "It's too expensive", or "I don't know how". But once you start cooking for yourself, you'll find that none of these end up being true.
Not knowing how to cook is an easily solvable problem; the fact that you're reading this already proves that you're capable of learning new information via the Internet. Plenty of simple and delicious recipes abound online.
The start-up costs of cooking your first meal may be slightly higher than eating out if you have to buy a pot, a pan, a good knife, and a cutting board. But once you have basic kitchen tools, future home-cooked meals are likely to cost under $5, while a meal out will likely cost twice or thrice that. Over the course of a year, you can save thousands of dollars by cooking.
As for being too busy to cook, how much time does it take to go to a restaurant, wait for a table, wait to order, wait for your food, and wait for the bill? If you make food at home, you can actually save time by taking a half-hour to cook something -- especially if you cook enough for multiple meals.
Here are some tips to motivate yourself:
- Plan your meal ahead of time and buy the ingredients for it. Cooking often seems daunting because you're looking at random foods in your house and don't know what to do with them.
- Consult the experts. Having a big cookbook in your kitchen like The New Basics or How To Cook Everything will provide both general cooking knowledge and a wealth of meal ideas and recipe options. If you have Internet access in the kitchen, websites like The Food Lab likewise offer cooking technique advice alongside well-tested recipes.
- Start slow by cooking once a week on a day off. Going from 0 to daily cooking is a big shift, so work your way up.
- Don't just cook for one. You'll be more excited to cook a big, tasty meal if you can share it with friends. And make enough to save yourself leftovers for the next day -- that will save you money and time!
Till next week!