According to a recent Harris Poll of more than 2,200 U.S. adults, 78 percent of respondents believe having dinner at home involves cooking from scratch. I agree wholeheartedly. But some of the other findings have me scratching my head.
When asked what it means to have dinner at home, 45 percent said it could mean heating up something from the fridge or freezer. I can almost buy that if it means heating up leftovers that were made from scratch, using fresh ingredients. But I know that’s not the case.
37 percent said having dinner from home could mean using shortcuts such as precut veggies or pre-marinated chicken breasts for cooking. Pay extra for the convenience of precut veggies? Okay, if you must. Pre-marinated chicken breasts? Now you’re crossing the line into processed food.
Other options that fall under the umbrella of having dinner at home, according to the survey, include takeout (23 percent), purchasing pre-prepared meals (22 percent), food delivery (15 percent), and meal or ingredient delivery services such as Blue Apron (7 percent).
Obviously, this particular survey didn’t make a distinction between cooking dinner at home and having dinner at home.
We all know that cooking at home is healthier than eating out or ordering out. This was confirmed in research from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, which found that people who cooked dinner at home at least six nights a week consumed fewer calories and less sugar and fat. When you eat out, you let someone else control what goes into your body.
We also know that cooking at home is less expensive and less wasteful than eating out or ordering out. In fact, Nation’s Restaurant News recently reported that the cost of groceries actually fell 0.5 percent since last year, while restaurant prices rose 2.7 percent.
But all of these studies neglect the most important part of cooking and eating dinner at home – the family.
Every member of the family can be involved in choosing and planning meals, shopping for ingredients, and the actual cooking. This is a great way to teach kids about nutrition and the value, financial and otherwise, of a home-cooked meal.
Cooking at home also allows you to bring back an incredibly important but overlooked tradition – the family dinner.
This is when you find out what your kids learned at school and what they talked about with friends. This is when you and your spouse tell each other about your day. This is when you share funny stories and discuss what’s going on in the world. This is when you learn about and solve problems.
In other words, home-cooked family dinners bring families closer. You can’t get that from a take-out menu, a fast food drive-thru, the frozen food section of the grocery store, or even a nice restaurant. It only happens at the dinner table.
Remember, eating dinner at home isn’t just a healthy decision, and it’s not just a smart financial decision.
Eating dinner at home is the best family decision. Isn’t that what it’s really all about?