Cooking at Home: Preparing Quick, Cheap, and Healthy Home-Cooked Meals
Whether you live alone or you’re a busy parent, finding the energy and time to prepare a home-cooked meal can seem daunting. If anything, at the end of a tiring day, ordering in or eating out seems like the fastest and easiest option. However, processed foods can take a significant toll on your mental and physical well-being. Consider the following:
- Processed foods are typically high in hormones, sugar, chemical additives, calories and unhealthy fats. These are not only bad news for your immune system, but the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition says they are a major cause of acne breakout.
- Processed foods can leave you feeling irritable, tired, bloated, and they can exacerbate symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression.
- Food processing removes some of the fiber, minerals, and vitamins present in food: And these are the very ingredient you need to boost your immune system and for a radiant, sparkling skin.
By cooking at home, you eat fresh, nutritious, and wholesome meals. You will feel and look healthier, feel more energetic, stabilize your moods, feel more alert throughout the day, and sleep well at night.
Benefits of Cooking at Home: What Studies Are Saying
Contrary to what most of us think, teenagers hold positive attitudes towards family meals. This assertion is supported by findings of a study published in the Apr 2006 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, and which examined attitudes of parents and adolescents towards home-cooked meals. The study found that both groups enjoy eating together at home.
Another study published in the May 2003 release of the Journal of Adolescent Health found that teenagers who take either dinner or breakfast with their parents are more likely to eat more vegetables and fruits. “When your kids see you eating healthier foods, especially during family meals, they are motivated to follow suit,’ the researchers added.
According to findings of a study that investigated the relationship between disordered eating and family shared meals among boys and girls, “The most effective factor against disordered eating is making family shared meals a priority.” Disordered eating was defined to include unhealthy weight control behaviors, chronic dieting, and binge eating. The study found that boys and girls least likely to embark on disordered eating reported the following:
- Frequent home cooked meals.
- A Positive environment during family meals.
- Positive attitudes towards family shared meals, despite scheduling conflicts.
The Researchers showed that individuals who cook their meals reduce their average caloric intake by about 200 calories compared to those who order in or eat out. Cooking at home is 75% cheaper than eating out and it’s healthier. Their argument is collaborated by a study done by Cornell University College of Human Psychology that states, “By cooking at home, you are 24% more likely to don on healthier foods, 35% less likely to engage in binge-eating, and 12% less likely to be overweight.”
In short, besides being cheap and healthier, a home cooked meal offers an excellent way to bring your family together and catch up with each other’s daily experiences. If you stay alone, invite a co-worker, a neighbor or a friend over and share the cooking responsibilities. For example, let your friend prepare the dessert while you prepare the entrée.
Reason Why We Don’t Cook at Home: Overcoming the Challenges
Despite the many benefits of a home cooked meal, most people still feel that cooking at home is a chore; they view preparing a meal as something best left to seasoned cooks or something they do not have time for. Others are discouraged by the fact that they once spent a whole afternoon cooking, but their families didn’t enjoy the end results. Or is it that your spouse or kids just like takeaways or ordering in?
Whatever the case, overcoming the barriers to preparing meals at home starts with changing your attitude towards the time spent in the kitchen and cooking in general. Here we will list the common barriers to cooking at home, and discuss a possible solution.
- ‘Fresh foods are expensive; fast foods are cheaper.”
On a quick look, fast foods may appear cheaper, but this is rarely the case:
- Ordering in or a takeout meal for 2, with fries and drinks, costs anywhere between $15-$20; if you have a family of 4, it’s $20-$30.
- On the contrary, preparing a yummy, healthy roasted chicken or beef stew with vegetables will cost you much less, and it may leave you with enough leftovers for lunch. Well, we will write a full article about eating healthy on the cheap, so we won’t dwell much on eating healthy on the cheap.
- “I Don’t Have Time to Cook.”
This is true. Shopping, grating ingredients, cooking, and the subsequent clean up can prove time-consuming. However, there are plenty of things you can do to speed things up:
- Buy online and have the ingredients shipped to your doorstep.
- Get your family or friends involved. Ideally, trade off clean-up and shopping duties with your spouse or neighbors.
- Instead of sitting on the couch to watch cooking shows, move your TV into the kitchen and follow the chef.
- Multitask; watch the TV or chat on your phone while you cook.
- Order pre-washed, chopped veggies and dump everything into the steamer or crock pot for a healthier, home cooked meal within no time.
- Think of cooking at home as a relaxing, pleasant experience rather than a daunting task – it will not appear nearly as time-consuming.
- “At the end of a hectic day, I am often too tired to cook.”
Preparing a healthy meal does not have to be a hefty investment of effort.
- Loading your slow cooker with vegetables and meat in the morning makes sure you will return home to steaming hot dinner, with little preparation and/or cleanup tasks.
- Over the weekend, cook foods in bulk, and freeze the leftovers in appropriate portions to don on when you do not have the energy or time to cook.
- Cook your primary protein, such as slow-cooked turkey or roast chicken, once in a week. Then, use it to prepare quick but easy meals such as burritos, pasta dishes, soup, salads, or sandwiches throughout the week.
- “I do know how to cook; I hate It.”
If you are normally intimated by the thought of cooking a meal, note that cooking isn’t a science with defined dos and don’ts. As such:
- It’s okay to substitute or skip an ingredient
- There is nothing wrong with checking online for a simple recipe or a cookbook.
- Like with anything else in life, the more time you spend in the kitchen, the better you will become. Even if you are just starting, you will soon be potting-out a vast variety of delicious, healthy meals.
- If you find spending time in the kitchen boring, why don’t you bring your fun side into the kitchen?
- Cooking at home isn’t banking; it’s a hobby! Maybe, pour yourself a glass of wine, blast your favorite tunes, and dance around as your peel and chop the ingredients.
- Listen to a good story or lose yourself in a tape or a book.
Well, that’s it in part 1 of this post. In part 2, we will discuss cooking for one, slow cooking, and more. Subscribe to our mailing list, and be among the very first to read it.