So many other writers have covered the “why” of making dinner at home. Your reasons might be totally different from mine. My family eats homemade dinner at home because it’s cheaper, it’s easier than taking the kids out, it’s healthier, it’s often actually quicker than eating at a restaurant, and we get to eat the exact foods we want to eat.
My husband and I both love good food. We like to try new restaurants and we gravitate towards independently-owned restaurants with carefully prepared food. It’s not cheap. We’ll find ourselves spending $75 for dinner for four at a restaurant that isn’t very fancy. Neither of us really cares for typical fast food. Dunkin’ Donuts is the exception, because we live in New England and we would get kicked out if we thought differently. But if we’re talking quick chain options for carryout, Panera is pretty much the only thing we are comfortable with. And that stuff’s expensive! I’m not saying the cost isn’t worth it, but we have a hard time getting out of there for under $40. It’s not much cheaper to get meals prepared in-house at one of the grocery stores close to our house. Instead, if we get our ingredients at the grocery store and cook at home, we can get a week’s worth of food for under $140. I’m sure we could push that even lower if necessary.
We have two boys, ages four and two. Sometimes they just want to drum their silverware on the table to Queen playing “We Will Rock You” in their heads and eat soup with their hands. This is something that goes over better in the privacy of our homes instead of at a restaurant where people might care more deeply at fork dents in the table and soup sieved onto the floor. We’re trying to teach them manners. They’re learning. It could go more quickly.
It could also be going more slowly. Cue eye roll.
Cooking at home also means I’m eating more healthily. I don’t count calories but since I know all the ingredients that went in to my dinner and the effort behind it, it’s easy for me to be aware of what I should eat more or less. I don’t deep-fry anything – it’s too much effort – and while I use butter, cream, and whole milk, I balance it out with vegetables that taste so awesome that they actually get eaten. My taste buds aren’t accustomed to an abundance of salt and fat, as often happens in restaurants. I know that I’m getting a good intake of fiber, complex carbohydrates, and a mix of vitamins. I am positive that I’m eating a variety of foods. Let’s talk about variety. If you’re eating at restaurants all day, you might get a bagel with cream cheese for breakfast, pizza for dinner, and pasta alfredo for dinner and feel like you are eating several different foods. But in actuality, you ate bread and cheese for each meal, with a few minor tweaks. If I cook at home, I’ll have something like soft-boiled eggs on buttered toast with a banana for breakfast, an apple for snack, leftover pork and cabbage stir fry with brown rice for lunch, cheese and crackers for another snack, and roast chicken with potatoes and steamed broccoli for dinner. I have days that are more varied or less, and of course there are people that would line up to tell me how my food choices are *wrong* but these are the choices that are serving me well, that I’m comfortable with, that help me feel good, fight off illnesses, ace my annual checkups, keep my pants fitting the same way, and allow me to work hard every day. Those are my benchmarks for a healthy diet.
If I’m going to keep that up, if I’m trying to be balanced with my choices every day, eating a variety of foods prepared to my liking, and save time and effort while not driving myself absolutely insane by creating the wheel every day… I need to plan ahead and execute that meal plan. It was a hard habit to get into and there are days that I struggle, but overall, I see no other viable option for my family.