In today's busy world, it seems that no one has time to cook anymore. At the end of a busy workday, few people have the inclination to pour over recipe books trying to decide what to make for dinner, let alone to prepare and cook it. It's all too easy to join the growing trend of “fast-food families” who rely on the corner drive-through restaurant for their meals.
Why should you prepare home-cooked meals? For one thing, they're healthier. A steady diet of burgers, French fries, and other fast-food standbys has a high nutritional cost. Despite the best efforts of fast-food and family restaurant chains, the average takeout meal is loaded with excess fat, sodium, and calories. Enjoying the occasional Sunday breakfast or celebration dinner at a restaurant is one thing, but eating out regularly can wreak havoc with your waistline, and lead to long-term health problems.
Studies show that children of families that frequently eat fast-food dinners also tend to make poor food choices at home, favoring chips and soda over fresh fruit and vegetables. This can signal the start of a lifelong struggle with obesity and the health problems associated with being overweight.
Cooking at home saves money. True, it's easy to splurge when you're inspired to create a special meal on the spur of the moment; a trip to the farmer's market for organic vegetables, to the butcher for a special cut of meat, and finally to the supermarket for ingredients to make that special sauce all add up. But the meal's high price tag comes from making numerous one-time purchases, with no plans for using up excess ingredients or leftovers. Instead of discarding that unused half cup of canned herbed tomatoes, why not incorporate it into another meal? Planning in advance enables you to get the most for your food dollar.
Believe it or not, cooking at home saves time. Once you develop a regular routine — writing up a grocery list, taking a spare hour to do advance prep work on the weekend, and planning for leftovers — you'll find it's easy to quickly pull together a meal. From start to finish, dinner can be on the table in under 30 minutes (frequently under 20). That's less time than it takes for a pizza to arrive during the busy dinner hour.
Besides, having a plan and sticking to it — instead of struggling to throw something together — may help you to discover cooking's therapeutic side. Preparing a nutritious home-cooked meal for your family is a great way to unwind at the end of the day.
Finally, preparing home-cooked meals can help bring back family meal-time. Numerous studies demonstrate the benefits of regularly eating together, from stronger family bonds to improved socialization and communication skills for children. But we all lead such active lives that this can be hard to arrange. Some stressed-out parents see the fast-food restaurant as a convenient solution, allowing them to spend time with their children while avoiding the hassles of cooking and cleanup. Being able to whip up a meal in under thirty minutes will give back that extra time you need to sit down for a family meal before rushing off to other activities. And you'll feel better knowing that you are helping your children establish healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime.