8 reasons to cook at home in 2014

Cooking at home makes it easier to eat healthier and more sustainably, save money, help your kids with kitchen literacy, and promote change in the food system.
Photo: LABabble via Flickr, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

Despite the proliferation of online recipe sites and our fascination with TV shows like Top Chef, Chopped and Cake Boss, many of us are spending less time than ever in the kitchen. Whether it’s because we lack time, confidence or culinary skills, we wind up relying on convenience foods and restaurants instead of planning, preparing and cooking meals at home.

It’s a real loss. Cooking for ourselves not only allows us to eat healthier and save money, it gives us an opportunity to eat more sustainably, choosing foods that are local, seasonal, organic and fairly traded.

In fact, brushing up your cooking skills and preparing more meals from scratch could be the most important changes you make in 2014. Here are some of the benefits.

  1. Save money. Compare the cost of a takeout lunch with packing your own (60% of Canadians eat lunch out at least once a week). Figure out what you’d pay for a restaurant dinner versus   home-cooking a batch of chili or roasting a chicken that would give you several meals. Home cooking wins hands down. What’s more, planning meals each week makes it easier to stay on budget because you’ll be more likely to buy only what you’ll need to make them.
  2. Control what you eat. Whether you’re heating a frozen pizza or dining at the newest bistro, you’re consuming food that’s been defined by someone else. When you cook for yourself, you pick the recipe, ingredients and cooking method according to your taste preferences, health needs and food values.
  3. Eat healthier. Cooking at home allows you to select the cooking method that best preserves the health value of the food.  For example, roasted vegetables retain more of nutrients than boiled, while grilling chicken is a lower-fat technique than frying. In addition, by cooking with fresh, whole foods you avoid the salt, sugar and fat levels of industrial food as well as the pesticides and other chemicals used in producing them. Finally, you control portion size, which helps with weight management and reduces food waste.
  4. Throw away less food. No more supersize takeout fare: cook only what you know you’ll eat. And, equipped with some basic cooking skills, you’ll be motivated to cook with leftovers instead of tossing them out.  About  $27 billion worth of food is wasted every year in Canada, more than half of it in our homes.
  5. Reduce meat consumption. Industrial meat production consumes a disproportionate amount of natural resources and contaminates soil, air and water. If you want to eat less meat for environmental, health or other reasons, it’s easier if you cook for yourself. Restaurant, fast-food and ready-to-eat meals tend to centre on meat and poultry.
  6. Give the gift of food literacy to future generations. Find ways to let your kids participate in cooking. Even something as simple as washing vegetables or making cookies will build their sense of competence in the kitchen. Just as important, take them to a farmers’ market or a local farm so they can connect food with the people and natural resources that produce it rather than with supermarkets and burger chains.
  7. Discover a rewarding way to spend time. Providing nourishment is an essential survival skill and a meaningful activity that’s embedded in human culture. It becomes even more meaningful when you share the food you’ve cooked with loved ones, writes Mark Bittman in How to Cook Everything The Basics.  After a hectic day, cooking can be relaxing and comforting, helping to bring families together around the dinner table. It also stimulates creativity: improvise on a favourite recipe, invent a new dish, or even discover a new approach you can apply in another area of your life.
  8. Vote for change in the food system.  Whether you’re concerned about health and nutrition, environmental stewardship, food security or humane treatment of animals, cooking good, clean food for yourself and your loved ones is a powerful way to promote the changes you value. It’s been said that eating is a political act: vote with your plate.

Do you cook for yourself? How has it helped you?




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