Since 1965 folks in the United States have spent less and less time cooking at home (1). With the proliferation of fast food joints, diversity of restaurants and the increased availability of processed, pre-made meals at the grocery store it’s no surprise few meals are made in our own kitchens. The most common reason I hear is “I’m too busy to cook”.
Indeed, many of us feel the pressure of the go-go faster world. We seek short cuts to aid us in feeding ourselves and our family. But is this the healthiest choice?
Without going into a full on preachy-rant about why home cooked meals are better (you already know they are), here’s a few reasons my family chooses to put in a little extra effort to ensure most of our meals are made at home:
- Healthier – More control over ingredients and quantity of salt, fat, sugar, etc.
- Cheaper – A gourmet breakfast at my favorite organic restaurant? About $40 for two. At home? Less than $10 (cheaper if we forgo the organic bacon) and made with our freshly-laid chicken eggs too.
- Quality – Again, more control over ingredients means you can ensure only the freshest, quality ingredients are used.
- Satisfying – With each meal there’s a certain sense of accomplishment.
- Time Saving – We often find that if you consider the time it takes to drive, order and eat your food at a restaurant vs. the time it takes to prepare, eat and cleanup your kitchen its usually comparable and in fact, often time saving.
One way to make it simpler to prepare meals at home is to keep certain staples on hand. For us, this means a variety of veggies are always on hand, a couple of core sauces (such as home made veganaise), a large variety of vinegar and spices and one of our favorites; fermented and pickled foods. This way a sandwich for lunch or a smoothie for a to-go breakfast on the way to work is never more than a few minutes of prep work.
One of the easiest to make staples we keep available in our fridge is quick, pickled red onions. It couldn’t be simpler to make. Thinly chop rounds of onions. Place them in a jar and pour enough apple cider vinegar (preferable live vinegar, such as bragg’s) to cover the onions completely. Let sit a half hour. Refrigerate. Done.
We use the pickled onions on sandwiches, burgers, salads – everything! The bright fuchsia-colored onions add beautiful color, not to mention great tangy flavor to whatever you add it to. Keeping home cooked meals simple and interesting is one way to ensure more meals are prepared at home.
1. L. Smith, et al. Trends in US home food preparation and consumption: analysis of national nutritional surveys and time use studies from 1965-1966 to 2007-2008. Nutritional Journal. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3639863/