Quick! Think of the last home cooked meal you made for your family. If the first thing that came to mind was the 6-month old defrosted meatballs you dug out of the bottom of the freezer, then it’s time for a kitch-intervention. I feel your pain. My to-do list as a mom with two kids is longer than ever, and most days it seems impossible to imagine squeezing anything else in before collapsing on the couch to binge watch my favorite show. Cooking a meal for your family at the end of a busy day can feel like you are living an episode of Chopped. Reality: It’s 6 o’clock, your kids are whining and you’re staring down a delicata squash you randomly threw in your shopping cart. Moments later you find yourself pouring a glass of pinot while dialing for take out. Sound like you?
You are not alone. In my small town of 4,000 people, there are three pizzerias, three Chinese restaurants and four gourmet markets selling prepared food…all within a block or two of each other. If those businesses are thriving, what’s happening in all of those beautifully renovated chef’s kitchens with barely used top of the line appliances??
Grabbing take out may seem like the easiest way to feed your family and maintain your sanity, but there are some big time benefits to making use of your oven at least once a week. Below are 5 reasons you should sharpen your knives and get cookin’:
1) It saves money.
I don’t care how big your bank account is, nobody feels good about wasting money or food. A little advance planning on Sunday night can lower your grocery bills and slash your take-out spending. Plan to cook a simple meal like Roasted Chicken, something that can easily be transformed into tomorrow’s Pulled Chicken Tacos. Be a nerd and write your grocery list in the order that you shop the store. This isn’t supermarket sweep. Running through the aisles like a lunatic might burn more calories, but it’s also a surefire way to make impulse buys that you won’t wind up eating. Remember that unused veggies still hanging around in your fridge can be used to fire up a quick Frittata or a big salad.
2) It boosts your confidence.
Let’s face it: as tired moms we could really use a win every once in awhile. We do so much for everyone else, and not all of it is met with wild enthusiasm from our kids. When I make a dish that gets a thumbs up from my tiny critics, their compliments make me want to tell the whole world that I’m Rachael Freaking Ray. In fact, a quick scan through all the food pics posted on Instagram proves that we’re all proud of our home cooked creations. We should be. Getting a compliment on something we worked hard on feels good! Word to the wise: start simple and small. Take the time to hone an accessible but stellar dish and bask in your newfound kitchen confidence. And who knows? That feeling might bleed into other parts of your life. You just may find yourself trying all sorts of new dishes you never imagined yourself creating!
3) It’s an invaluable learning experience for your kids.
Kids learn good habits from watching their parents. Involving your child in the cooking process introduces them to a skill they will have for life. As parents, we spend significant time and money making sure our kids learn lifelong skills they can use well into adulthood, like tennis or swimming. But exposing kids to cooking is just as useful, if not more. Kids will grow up to face many more opportunities that require them to saute a pan of vegetables with flavor than slam a backhand with topspin. I’d argue that kids learn just as much in the kitchen as they do in the classroom. Following a recipe increases proficiency in everything from science to reading to math. And for all you moms with picky eaters, let’s not forget that kids who cook, become kids who taste and then (finally!) kids who eat.
4) Memories are made in the kitchen.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t have very many sentimental memories of moments shared over a pint of Black Bean and Corn Quinoa salad from the overpriced gourmet market. It’s cooking that brings people together. I love the conversations that evolve in the kitchen while stirring the pot or mincing the garlic. When we invite friends over for dinner, our guests inevitably park themselves on a stool at the kitchen counter watching, learning, laughing and, often times, sharing their own cooking war stories. Even bad meals evoke a good memory, and reminiscing about it brings us closer. Not a year goes by that someone doesn’t affectionately bring up the turkey breast I burnt to a crisp after drinking one too many glasses of wine. My sister and I still laugh about a weekly dinner staple in our house that our mom appropriately called “Bologna Boobs” for the way the round pieces of deli meat puffed up in the pan. That’s the magic of food, it helps ingrain a sensory memory directly into our brains – the aroma of herb-roasted chicken permeating the kitchen…the sound of bacon sizzling in a pan…the taste of your grandmother’s garlicky mashed potatoes.
5) Cooking is sexy as hell!
My husband cooked for me on our third date. He made coq au vin when most guys would’ve just made dinner reservations. Standing in the kitchen together, we were a team. He chopped vegetables and I set the table…both of us drinking, talking, laughing and tasting. In our busy lives today, it can be hard to find a moment like that one. The reality is that most dinners nowadays are significantly less romantic, unless you call sending emails and checking scores in between bites a recipe for seduction. Not every night can be a scene out of 9 ½ weeks after 2 kids and 10 years of marriage! But once in a while you gotta remember to turn up the music, pop open a bottle of Bordeaux, get something bubbling on the stove and re-connect. You can thank me later.