The Benefits of Cooking at Home
When I moved into my first apartment three years ago, I stood in front of my fridge staring at the groceries I had just bought. That is when it really hit me: I had never cooked before… ever! I grew up watching “Maman” cook great meals, but when I had to fend for myself, I was confronted with the reality that I had no clue how to cook.
I could handle breakfast pretty well with cereal and fruit, but lunch and dinner were another story. The truth is: I was petrified! I thought that I would mess up everything I tried to cook and that I would ultimately end up eating at a restaurant. So I started going out or ordering in almost every night. My credit card was not happy!
So, it finally came to a point where I had to talk myself into cooking. I did some math … and here is what I came to realize: it takes less time and is much cheaper to cook than to go out.
Here is my reasoning:
1. The time issue
I estimated that a trip to the supermarket typically takes a maximum of 30 to 40 minutes of travel time (round trip). If you live by yourself, or with one other person, let’s say you could get by going to the store once every two weeks (except for maybe some fresh fruits or vegetables). Actual shopping time might take about 45 minutes to 1 hour. So, between the supermarket trip and time putting away your groceries, buying your own food takes about 1 hour per week on average. Most meals can be prepared within 20 minutes (30 if you have a lot of cutting and peeling to do), which comes up to about 3 hours of cooking per week, if you cook every day. Assuming it takes 5-10 minutes per night to wash dishes, you can shop, cook, and clean up in less than 5 hours per week.
On the other hand, going to restaurants can actually take up more of your time. Let’s say you would normally have a 20 minute round trip walk or drive to the location. You will need a couple minutes to be seated and ask for drinks, about 10 minutes to decide on what to eat, maybe 15 minutes (on the quick side) to get your food, and about 5-10 minutes to get the check and pay. So, aside from eating, you would spend between 50 minutes to 1 hour per meal at the restaurant, which adds up to nearly 7 hours a week. Getting food delivered could save time, but the downside is that your food could arrive cold.
2. The cost issue
If you make an equal comparison the price to eat at home versus going out, you will see that dining out costs at least twice as much. At the Olive Garden, you could get “Chicken Alfredo with Fettucine” for about $13. Add taxes, tip, and a drink and you’re looking at around $20 for a pretty average pasta dinner. On the contrary, you could make it yourself in 15 minutes for $6 maximum. A salad at Sweet Green generally costs $10 and you would usually have to wait in line for at least 10 minutes to get it. You could make that same salad for $3 to $4 in 5 minutes at home. A cheeseburger from Five Guys will cost you $6.29 (without tax). You could make the same burger, but healthier (using 85% lean beef), for just $2.75. Plus, most places will overcook your burger, no matter what you ask for.
After realizing all of this, I have made a habit of cooking over eating out, no matter how exhausted I am after a long day.
Now, if you are still aren’t convinced, let’s talk about your health!
Here is what I have come to discover: you really have no idea what is in your food until you have made it from scratch! When you cook from scratch, you learn how much oil, butter, cream, sugar, or cheese goes into something to give it a certain flavor or texture. You realize how Olive Garden got that alfredo sauce so creamy. This can be a pretty big incentive to start cooking and making more informed and healthier choices.
That Five Guys cheeseburger, according to their calorie chart, adds up to 840 calories. You can make the same cheeseburger (without all that extra oil and fat) for 490 calories. The Olive Garden Chicken Alfredo counts as 1220 calories, according to their nutrition chart. Just to put this into perspective, most moderately active adults should take in 2,000 calories per day, according to most nutrition websites. So your Olive Garden dinner is more than 60% of your suggested daily intake. That doesn’t leave many calories for breakfast and lunch!
Cooking has taught me to pay attention to what I eat and that my home-cooked pasta and burgers can be just as delicious, while using less oil or butter.
Thanks to cooking, I have become more independent and I feel better about myself. I am healthier, I have more time for myself after work, and I don’t waste my money in restaurants. So, why not start by trying to cook just twice a week? It might be a struggle at first, but believe me, your wallet and your body will thank you later.
Image from http://chefmarkgarcia.com/2011/02/new-study-reveals-how-american-women-cook-eat-and-shop/