Five Reasons to Cook Dinner Tonight
By Jennifer E. Jones
I know you’re busy. The kids need to get to school, work never stops, and when was the last time you called your mother? Our schedules are packed with action item after action item. Not that I want to put one more thing on your plate, but really… what’s for dinner?
Before you tell me the name of some fast food joint or take out place that’s on your speed dial, I want to suggest something that might be radical to some: you should cook dinner tonight. And when I say “cook,” I mean take ingredients as basic as they come, put them together (possibly with heat) and make a meal.
I’m not going to bore you with statistics. Those of you who are guilty of only eating food that’s prepared by someone else know who you are. You have a mental map of every McDonalds, Wendy’s and Burger King on your commute to work. Your freezer is stacked top to bottom with frozen dinners. In the most extreme cases, you possibly use your oven for storage.
Do me a favor (and yourself, for that matter) and stop eating meals that come in a box or with a combo numeral. You should and can make dinner tonight. Here are just a few reasons why:
Cooking is Easy. You’re reading this right now, which means you’ve passed the first step of my one piece of culinary advice: if you can read, you can cook; just follow the directions. Preparing a meal from scratch needn’t be complicated or laborious. Leave that to the professional chefs at the fancy restaurants. Cooking can be simple with just a handful of ingredients and a little bit of time. Skill and talent are really unnecessary if you can read a recipe. Also, you don’t need volumes and volumes of cookbooks. You don’t even need one. The Internet is full of recipes, from the easy to the complicated. No matter the mood you’re in be it Italian, Mexican or the good ol’ American burger you can find meals and how-to guides to get that dish from your imagination to your kitchen table.
Cooking is Healthy… almost by default. Between the super-sized portions and ability to add a sugary milkshake to any meal, you are setting yourself up for nutrition failure as soon as you hit the drive-thru window. Sure, the occasional dalliance is forgivable, but if you’re a regular, you are putting your health at risk. High cholesterol, high blood sugar, not to mention what it does to your waistline... it will catch up with you. Plus, processed, preservative-heavy foods you get at the grocery store can be just as bad. Have you checked out the sodium content in some of those canned soups and frozen dinners? That’s a lot of salt you and your family are taking in, which is not good for the heart. Trade those ultra-fattening meals for a home-cooked dinner with fresh foods and here's what you have: total control. When you cook your food, you know what’s in it. You understand each ingredient in its natural state. You control how much salt you use or whether you substitute sugar for honey. You can go all organic or vegan or whatever you’d like to do. Cooking makes you the boss of what your family consumes, and you’re able to make the right choices for a healthier diet.
Cooking is Cheaper (in the long run). Six dollars here, seven dollars there everyday or even four to five times a week can add up. Let’s say you spend $50 a week on one-shot-and-it's-gone fast food meals and frozen entrees. Another person who prepares their meals at home and is reasonably consumer-savvy can get a combination of groceries for that same price, including vegetables, dairy, meat and pasta, that would feed you for weeks. Not to mention that eventually a well stocked kitchen only needs maintenance shopping, like restocking milk or eggs, causing fewer trips to the grocery store. The point is that those fast food meals are gone sometimes within minutes of purchase. You buy groceries, and they last much longer and have far more uses. More bang for your buck.
Cooking Feels Good. Much like a runner’s high, there is an elation after cooking your own food. When you take a few mushrooms, olive oil, salt, pepper and pasta and make a simple, delicious dish, you have a tremendous sense of pride and accomplishment. It can be thrilling. I love seeing my friends nod their heads and give me a thumbs up while their mouths are full of food that I just made. That moment when I finally sit down after an hour in the heat over a stove is a rush of satisfying relief. When you cook, you can go to bed knowing that you gave yourself and your family the best of ingredients and the best of your time and efforts… and that’s a good feeling.
Cooking Dinner Is Just the Beginning. Another great thing about cooking is that it is a hands-on sport. You can watch all the shows and read all the books, but you learn how to cook by cooking. Every time you step into the kitchen, whether it turns out to be a masterpiece or a disaster, you learn something. You get better every time and may discover that it's easier than you thought. Maybe you'll like it and venture out to make lunch and long, leisurely breakfasts on the weekends.
Cooking at home changes the way you eat, the way you shop, and your entire relationship with food. You start to take an active role in what you put inside your body. Before you know it, this occasional foray can heat up into a hobby. If you let it simmer long enough, it just might become a passion. And if you find yourself with new skills in the kitchen and a new love for cooking, well, that’s just gravy.
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