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For centuries, the kitchen has been the backbone of a family’s culture. Cooking and eating together are an integral part of how a family connects. And yet, I’m often told, “It’s just quicker and easier to eat out.”
Eating out can be a fantastic experience, but when it becomes routine, there are a number of downsides. Revitalizing your kitchen will benefit your body and relationships, not to mention your pocketbook! So, let’s take a minute to break down the common myths:
It’s Quicker to Eat Out
This is almost never true. To eat out, you have to get ready, drive to the restaurant, park, wait to be seated, wait for your server, wait for your drink, wait for your food, eat, pay, and then drive home. This usually takes at least 2-3 hours. You may have saved some effort, but you certainly haven’t saved time.
I can cook you a 3-course meal in 1 hour. During that time, I have full control over the food that is being served (and as a former kitchen auditor, this definitely puts me at ease!). If conversation is what I’m looking for, I can still be talking to my family as we cook, but when we eat at home, we have other options, too. My kids can be playing together or doing homework if necessary, since they aren’t tethered to the restaurant’s table.
Well, Eating Out is so much Easier
You may be thinking, okay, it may not be quicker, but when I cook at home, I need to actually cook and clean up. That’s true. You trade the effort of getting there and waiting for the privilege of letting someone else do the heavy lifting before and after the meal. However, in eating out all the time, your kids are not learning how to cook or clean up. They are not experiencing the full joy and nourishment of food. Being actively involved in feeding the family helps children to thrive in adulthood. Things like setting the table, helping cut and stir, clearing and washing dishes, and even smelling the meal as it cooks, are important as they define their relationship with food.
For some families, eating out feels easier because everyone can order what they want. No one has to think and no one has to compromise. However, when we eat one meal as a family, we each learn to be tolerant of other people’s taste buds, to be gracious and flexible. It’s important for each person to have foods that they love, but not necessarily in every single meal. In our home, everyone in the house gets to choose a meal each week, so they know that at least once during the next seven days they’ll get what they want. As they grow up I have them help more and more with cooking their choices, and eventually they are able to prepare the whole meal for the family. My thinking is, if they chose it, they can help create it. This is not only helping them become self-sufficient, but they are learning their favorite dishes and feel the pride and ownership of the meal.
Eating Out Occasionally
Is eating out wrong or bad for you? No, it’s not—especially if it’s not every day. We eat out for a date night, a visitor, a birthday, etc. By all means, we eat out. Do I go to fast food restaurants? Do I consider that eating out? No—for me, the level of nutrients in the food is not worth the health risk. We pick places that do cook food freshly (not sure if they do? You’ll know that just by telling them you can’t have something in the food. If they’re preparing it freshly, they should be able to take it out).
I would advocate for a higher ratio of eating at home, even if you’re buying mostly pre-prepared meals as you ease back into your kitchen. You can still add in fresh options, like a great salad. This will give you the valuable benefits of sitting around a table together as a family each day. I’d love to see cooking becoming the backbone of this country again. As we grow toward that, don’t be so hard on yourself—just do what you can do.
It’s a Process, I know
For me, cooking is a joy. But I do understand that for some of you, it may not be. Stepping into eating fresh takes time, but with the right tools, it can be an absolute joy. In many ways, facilitating a shift toward cooking fresh is the purpose of this blog. I hope that through these posts, I can help reverse the kitchen disdain by offering perspective and showing you some simple recipes that will help you find that joy.
What do you really enjoy about staying home for dinner? Leave me a comment to let me know!