Nearly a third of Americans can’t cook, and less than 60 percent of dinners are cooked at home. Meals at home are less common as more people head out for dinner. One of the biggest reasons used to explain this trend is a lack of time.
Learning to cook can enrich your life in more than a few ways, though. You may want to start making time!
Keep Yourself, and Your Family, Healthy
If you’re trying to lose weight, or just get healthier, learn to cook. Getting dinner at a restaurant is a great treat, but it’s linked with a higher BMI and less healthy diet. The opposite has also been shown to be true. Cooking at home leads to a better diet and weight loss.
Why might this be? When you’re cooking your own food, you know what exactly is going into your dinner. That means you know how much butter, sugar, salt, etc., you’re consuming. Restaurants and prepared dinners tend to be packed with fat, salt, and sugar. This isn’t the case if you’re making the meal yourself.
Cooking at home gives you that much more control over your diet, often resulting in a healthier diet.
In fact, cooking at home gives you that much more control over your diet. You’re the one making the meal, so you can change up the recipe as you see fit. Want to lose extra pounds? There are healthy hacks that you can make to any dinner, from comfort food to superfoods!
Another aspect of control that cooking for yourself gives you is portion. Portion size has exploded in America over the last 40 years, growing 20 to 25 percent. Those 500 additional calories each day have directly contributed to the obesity epidemic facing this country.
When we go out to eat, we surrender our control over portion size. The fact is portion sizes at restaurants tend to be two-to-three times larger than the recommended serving size. That’s a lot of extra calories you don’t need.
Cooking at home also guarantees you’re getting the high-quality ingredients you’d expect. Restaurants cutting corners to save money has led to horror stories about everything from lies about the food you’re ordering to genuine food health concerns.
Save Money for the Same Food
Learning how to cook is also a great way to save money. The average restaurant markup is 300 percent of the ingredient cost, which is the most expensive price of all the ingredients for the dish.
The average restaurant markup is 300 percent of the ingredient cost!
Essentially, you’re paying for someone to do the work for you, which is understandable if cooking isn’t in your skillset. But, you can save a good bit of money by cooking at home. This is especially true for what’s often considered “fancy food.” For example, one local restaurant offers a 6-ounce filet mignon with your choice of two sides for $31. For this example, we’ll choose two popular options for steak, mashed potatoes, and roasted asparagus.
So, if we were to make this meal for two at home, we would need:
Homemade Filet Mignon Dinner Recipe
For the Steak
- 2 6-oz filet mignon $16
- 4 tsp of onion power $6.29
- 4 tsp of salt $.99
- 4 tsp of pepper $2.99
- 3-4 drops of Worcestershire sauce per side $1.79
- 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil $6.99
For the Mashed Potatoes
(Original version posted in Getting Creative with Comfort Food: Healthy Meatloaf and Mashed Potatoes)
- 2 large Russet potatoes $3.49
- 2 tbsp of skim milk $1.29
- 2 tbsp of margarine $1.69
- 1 tbsp of sour cream $1.19
- Salt and pepper to taste (from above)
For the Asparagus
- 4 oz of Asparagus $3.99
- 2 tbsp of olive oil (from above)
- 2 tsp of salt (from above)
- 1 tsp of pepper (from above)
- 1 tsp of garlic powder $3.99
Total shopping bill – $50.69
- Preheat the oven to 350°
- On a sheet of aluminum foil, cover the asparagus with olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic power. Wrap the bundle tightly.
- Peel the potatoes and place them into 4 cups of salted boiling water. Bring the water to a simmer on low heat and cook the potatoes until soft. This should take 15-20 minutes
- When the oven is up to temperature, place the asparagus bundle in the oven for 15 minutes.
- Pat the filet dry with a paper towel
- Season both sides of the steak with salt, pepper, onion powder, and Worcestershire sauce. Rub the seasoning firmly into the steak.
- Coat an oven-friendly pan in olive oil and heat to medium-high
- Sear both sides of the steak for 1-2 minutes per side. Both sides should have developed a darkened crust.
- Place the steak in the oven for 5 minutes, or until cooked to your desire.
- Set the steak aside to rest.
- When the potatoes are soft, place in a large bowl. Mash the potatoes and mix in the remaining ingredients. You can add additional milk, margarine, or sour cream to reach your desired texture.
- Remove the asparagus from the oven.
That’s a $10 savings (not including the tip!) if you need to buy everything new. This will also leave you with plenty of leftover ingredients. Most people will have olive oil, the seasonings, margarine or butter, or milk. If you do, expect to pay even less!
Let’s Cook Together!
Studies show that families that cook together are closer.
As if being healthier and saving money wasn’t enough reason to cook, it’s also a lot of fun. This is magnified when done with your loved ones. Studies show that families that cook together are closer and there are many benefits, especially for kids. Even if you’re cooking on your own, there are many emotional and psychological benefits of cooking. Cooking and baking can do everything from relaxing to improving overall life satisfaction!
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If you’ve never cooked before, there are so many ways to get started. You can check out Medicareful Living’s Diet section to learn more recipes or read Top 5 Healthy YouTube Cooking Channels for a crash course. Ultimately, there’s no substitute for experience. So, get in that kitchen, get messy, and get cooking!
Boston Globe — Michael Pollan on the benefits of home cooking
Medicareful Living — Diet
Medicareful Living — Planning Ahead: Great For Your Diet and Wallet
My Fitness Pal Blog — 3 Reasons Why You Should Cook All Your Meals