The following is a guest post from Catherine of A Spirited Mind.
After a long day spent juggling the myriad tasks of motherhood, it’s tempting to go out to eat. But what if going out to eat isn’t the best option for your family? Whether you are on a budget, on a diet, or on a quest to slow your family down, eating at home doesn’t have to mean hunkering down to joyless, boring or time intensive meals. Here are the top benefits I’ve discovered to dining in rather than eating out:
We save money. Over time I’ve learned to approximate our favorite restaurant foods, so when I’m craving Indian food, Olive Garden breadsticks or something else, I can make it myself for a fraction of the cost. As an added bonus, I’ve found that many other cultures base their food on seasonal produce, so I’m often able to make us a great international meal for much less than an order of fast food.
We save time. It may seem counter-intuitive, but I’ve found that if I keep a few ingredients on hand I can whip up a great homemade meal in a fraction of the time it takes to load my kids into their carseats and drive somewhere. I can even make a homemade pizza faster than Papa John’s delivers. Keeping meal-sized portions of cooked and frozen meat on hand cuts down dramatically on the time I have to invest on busy nights, while still giving me flexibility to make whatever we’re craving.
I get to be creative. I’m not a great cook, but I’m not afraid to try new things. Because we’re on a budget I can’t always follow recipes (especially for ethnic foods) exactly, but over time I’ve found creative ways to substitute cheap ingredients for rare or expensive ones. Extemporaneous and flexible cooking is a great creative outlet.
I have more opportunities to teach my children. When we eat at home I can expose my children to foods beyond the chicken nuggets on the kids’ menu. While we prepare and enjoy a new type of food, we learn about how people from other cultures and parts of the world live and eat and what their lives are like. For example, we recently learned about Iran and then staged our own Persian New Year meal.
I’m a better nutritional gatekeeper. When I make a recipe, I have a much better sense of what my family is eating than I do when we eat out. At restaurants and drive-throughs, it’s hard to gauge the nutritional value of a food, or even figure out what’s in it. In my kitchen, I can make just about any meal healthier.
I get a sense of satisfaction. It’s satisfying to learn to make a fun new dish, expand my kids’ horizons, keep us healthy, and help steward our resources by blessing my family with a great dinner experience even if it’s “just” at home.
What are some of the benefits you’ve found to eating at home instead of eating out?
Catherine Gillespie lives with her husband and three small children in a little house on what used to be the prairie. She writes about good books, literature-based preschooling, extemporaneous cooking, faithful parenting and other creative pursuits at A Spirited Mind. You can also find Catherine on Twitter and Facebook.
This post is linked to Frugal Friday.