Going out to eat is one of America’s favorite pastimes in the 21st century. Many mouths water at big, juicy burgers, fried shrimp or thick-cut fries. Nearly 34 percent of Americans visit causal dining restaurants once a week, which reached about $659 billion in food and drink sales in 2013, according to a recent study. While dining out is an experience and certainly a great way to catch up with friends, it can burn a whole in our pockets and expand our waistline to the point of no return.
So how many times a week do we stay in and cook in the comfort of our own homes? I’m guilty of going out too many times during the week rather than cooking my own meals. But as I’ve started living on my own, I cook more and I’m reaping the benefits. I’m healthier and happier.
-Save some pennies.
This is a no-brainer. Most people want to save some extra cash for that next vacation or paying the dreadful monthly car note. Believe me, you WILL save money when you cook at home. When you go out to eat, think of how much it usually costs per person. And then you throw in an appetizer, a few drinks and possibly a dessert. One bill for two or three people could total to $75-100, especially if each person has one or two glasses of wine.
And good wine is expensive no matter what in a restaurant. You can buy one bottle of decent wine at the store for the price of one glass of wine while dining out. I know, it’s hard to stomach. That could be a week’s worth of groceries! So next time your spouse or kids want to haul in the car to Chili’s, suggest cooking a simple, yummy dinner.
-Know what’s in your food.
Some entrees at American chain restaurants can be anywhere from 1,500-2,000 calories. That’s insane! Now a lot of restaurants are now required to show how many calories are in each dish, but sometimes, that’s still not enough to know what ingredients are going into your mouth. Cooking at home is a great way to see what you are actually consuming. Watch as those vegetables sauté with a little olive oil and garlic…ahhh perfect and balanced.
-Fresher ingredients, healthier choices.
Some restaurants are taking the farm-to-table approach, which is a great way to attract customers who are looking for healthier options. However, refer to the first tip: it’s going to cost more because of the fresh ingredients coming straight from the farm or a farmer’s market. Processed food is cheaper, just like in a grocery store. Cooking your own meals a few times a week can benefit you by using natural fruits and vegetables and leaner meats. With natural, healthy ingredients, the recipe options are endless. And your health will thank you in the long run.
-Portion control in the kitchen.
In the Deep South, we are all about excess. You can go to almost any chain restaurant and order an entree that might contain two or three servings! If you cook at home, you can keep your portion sizes in check and know you aren’t overeating. Your skinny jeans will thank me later.
Remember not to deprive yourself! Cooking can be simple and easy (you will see here!) but sometimes dining out is all about the experience. So go out! Good food and good friends equals great memories. But remember, inviting friends and family over for dinner can be just as a memorable experience.