If you commit to only one healthy living habit this week, let it be home cooking. In this post, we chat about why it’s essential for your body, your wallet, and the environment.
I am so very grateful to my mum for teaching me how easy and enjoyable it is to put food on the table. I’m also grateful to my Nan, who taught us that we should never serve more than we can eat, and to always reuse your leftovers and wash your ziplock bags!
In fact, most of my favorite childhood memories are linked to the family kitchen. Dad’s famous spaghetti bolognese, Nan’s boiled potatoes with dollops of butter, Mum’s spinach and ricotta stuffed pastry, Mandy’s pavlova, Chella’s gratin…So many happy moments have been shared digging into a home cooked meal with people I love.
If it wasn’t for my upbringing I would probably find this whole healthy eating thing to be quite challenging; from an outsiders perspective, it can seem rather daunting to know what to eat and how to prepare it.
There has never been an easier time to find recipes, watch cooking shows, or learn how to prepare ingredients on YouTube, yet we’re living in an age where people are cooking less than ever before. Part of this may be due to time (we’ll get to that) or not knowing how to cook (we’ll get to that too). However, I also think we hit a snag when simple home cooking was elevated to something gourmet, putting pressure on busy women to not only get food on the table but to make it look like a Martha Stewart centerpiece.
Home cooking shouldn’t be elitist, expensive or complicated; it should be simple, enjoyable and affordable.
Healthy home cooking also doesn’t mean eating an undressed salad, or a meager piece of fish with steamed asparagus. Making food from scratch puts you in control of the quality and quantity of ingredients that you’re using, which means you can make your favorite comfort-food recipes with a healthy twist.
A 2015 study from Johns Hopkins University found that people who cook at home — without consciously trying to eat healthier or choose low-calorie foods — eat at least 140 fewer calories per day. While that may seem unimpressive at first glance, by week’s end it saves 980 calories, in one month it shaves off 3920 calories, and at the end of the year you’d be eating over 47,000 fewer calories — all without ever looking at a calorie-counting app.
(And yes, I did have to use my calculator during the writing of that paragraph. If we want to talk about other traditional habits that are going down the gurgler, my math would be one of them.)
Apart from your waistline, home cooking also saves time, money and food waste. This last point is absolutely huge! Did you know that the biggest source of CO2 emissions on the planet is food waste? And that’s not by the big industry players, but by the everyday person throwing away groceries that they don’t use, or leftover food that they don’t eat. This is really troubling and should make us all feel more responsible for how we treat our environment.
So let’s talk about why you’re not cooking more often at home, and I challenge you to give it a go every day for this week.
“Why I Don’t Cook”
Myth #1: I Don’t Have Time
I don’t know about that. While I don’t have a scientific study to link to, I know how long it takes Nate and me to order food versus cooking a meal at home. The latter wins for speed, hands down.
Going through the rigmarole of deciding where to go and what to eat, then ordering, picking it up or waiting for a delivery, unpacking things at home (discarding the packaged waste), reheating if needed…it’s a long process only to realize that it wasn’t even what we felt like.
On the other hand, the following meal takes about 15 minutes and will leave leftovers for lunch if I cook double:
Fill a big saucepan with cold water and some scrubbed, chopped potatoes. Boil the spuds until they’re soft enough to stick a knife into. Just before they finish cooking throw in a good handful of chopped broccoli and cook for 1-2 minutes. Drain the lot, put it back in the saucepan (no heat) and add a good bit of butter, salt, and pepper. Meanwhile, grill a piece of salmon or some lamb chops under the broiler, for 8 minutes or until done to your liking. Pop it all on a plate and enjoy.
Myth # 2: It’s Too Expensive
This is one I hear all the time, but it’s just not true. Yes, making those ridiculous smoothie bowls that you see on Instagram is expensive, but you don’t have to make them. It costs Nate and me about $20 to cook a big chicken curry with rice and greens, and plenty of yummy leftovers, but when we get Indian takeout we never walk away with change from a $50 note.
This is true even on the low end of the scale. To feed a family of four at McDonald’s (burgers, nuggets, fries, and drinks) would cost you almost $28. For that same amount, you could serve a whole roasted chicken, sweet potatoes, and green vegetables. You’d probably have leftover chicken for lunch sandwiches, and you can even use the carcass to make homemade soup.
Plus there’s the very valid argument of investing in your health. So while these sweet potato brownies may cost more than opening a box from the supermarket, in the long run eating home cooked meals will save you a fortune in medical costs.
Myth 3: I Don’t Know How To Cook
That’s ok, it can feel overwhelming to learn new habits. However, cooking can be very simple and enjoyable. Start where you are, keep it simple, and don’t try to be a gourmet chef. Buy a basic cookbook and learn one new dish each week; before long you’ll feel really comfortable in the kitchen. Challenge yourself to stick to recipes that use 6 ingredients or less and you’ll be golden. Here’s how I do it.
Are You Game?
Are you willing to cook at least one meal at home each day this week? I’ve thrown the gauntlet and would love to hear that you’ve picked it up, so please do leave a comment below.
Remember: healthy living is simple, eating well is not restrictive, and YOU CAN choose to create a body and a life that you love.