I hear it all the time. “I hate to cook.” “I can’t cook.” “Really it’s cheaper for me to eat out.” Yada yada yada. I’m not buying any of it. We live in a society that’s increasingly dependent on others to feed us, from the basics (like the fact that most of us don’t have backyard gardens any more, and yours truly is guilty of that as well, at least until I get my raised garden beds planted this weekend-yippee!) to the not-so-basic (when was the last time you went to a birthday party where the cake and ice cream were made from scratch?). There are lots of good reasons to good for yourself. Here are some of my favorites.
1. To save money
Let’s start with the obvious. You can argue with me all day long that if you are single or married/attached but don’t have children, you can really get by for less by eating out than you can buying groceries and cooking for one or two. You know what? It’s just not true. I know this because I’ve been cooking for two for the last twelve years. We can’t eat at a fast food restaurant for less than we can make a great meal at home that usually produces enough leftovers for one meal and sometimes more. Period. Unless you are dining on beef tenderloin, truffles (the fungus kind), and out-of-season artichokes at every meal, this argument is not going to fly with me. Except that you could most certainly cook those foods at home for a whole lot cheaper than you could order them in a restaurant, so there. My favorite exercise when I get stressed out about how much I spend on groceries is to calculate the cost-per-serving of specific meals and compare that cost to a comparable restaurant meal. Never. Even. Comes close.
2. You know what you’re eating
While the practical cook in me knows that cost is the original and most obvious reason that we take most of our meals at home, as I get older the ingredients really become the primary factor drawing me to my own kitchen rather than to restaurants night after night. When I was younger I didn’t think too much about the ingredients in my food and wasn’t too turned off by processed foods with lots of ingredients. When I became a label-reader, I discovered that even the most seemingly benign-even wholesome-foods (think bakery bread) were pretty heavily-laden with not-so-wholesome ingredients. This led me on a quest to figure out how to make pretty much every thing I could from scratch. You may not be quite as on the made-from-scratch bandwagon as I am, but the bottom line is this: if you cook it at home, you can know the ingredients. 100%. If you eat it in a restaurant, this is nearly impossible.
3. You can have whatever you like.
What are you craving? Well cook it! You can make whatever you want if you cook for yourself. If you go to a restaurant, you’re at the mercy of the menu.
4. If you do it enough, chances are that the food you make will start to taste better to you than restaurant food does.
Philip and I talk about this all the time. Obviously, trained chefs in restaurants know more about cooking than me….but since I don’t really have the money to be going to restaurants with trained chefs all the time, I prefer the food I cook at home to what is offered in many of the restaurants that I can afford to frequent. Really, restaurant food is often disappointing these days. I’m definitely not stuck up about my cooking, but these days we have a lot of “we could have made this better at home” moments.
No, I don’t want to cook every night. For that reason, I usually make meals that serve four. Then we eat them twice. Or I take the leftovers in my lunch, since packing a lunch is the bain of my existence.
6. When you cook for yourself, you’ll eventually learn how to scrape together a pretty decent meal seemingly from thin air.
Saturday we had no plan for lunch. We could have gone out to eat, but instead I made grilled cheese sandwiches with pesto, prosciutto, and provolone. We ate them with cauliflower soup that I had frozen. If we didn’t cook for ourselves, we might have ended up with a frozen pizza. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
7. You get to spend more time at home
As I get older my hermit nature really becomes more and more prevalent. By the time I get off from work, work out, make the commute home (not necessarily in that order), and kick off my shoes, the thought of leaving the house again generally makes me throw up in my mouth a little. So cooking at home means that I don’t have to leave the house.
8. …..which means you can have dinner in your pajamas
Or your grubby running clothes, which is generally what I’m wearing when I eat dinner. In fact, despite everything I said in #7 about not wanting to leave the house, there are many nights when the only thing that keeps me from getting Domino’s carry-out is the fact that I don’t want to get out of the car in my tank top and sports bra. Well, that and #4.
9. And you can watch the news while you eat dinner.
Dirty confession time. Full disclosure. Chattavore eats dinner in front of the television. TV trays and all. Brian Williams tells us all about the news while we stuff our faces. I know all the stuff about not eating in front of the TV. Blah blah blah. But I don’t have kids and when I do I’m sure we’ll eat at the table…but I like hanging out on the couch while I have my dinner. So there.
10. Family bonding time!
Cooking is one of Philip’s and my favorite things to do together. He doesn’t fancy himself much of a cook but he sure can stir. If you have kids, I’m sure you know how valuable cooking with them can be in terms of bonding time and teaching them good eating habits. Many of my favorite memories of my grandparents are food-related in some way. Food is an amazing bonding tool!
What are your favorite reasons to cook for yourself?