Wednesday, February 01, 2006

In the Minority Once Again

Last week I read an article that stated that on any given night in the US only 32% of our population actually COOKS dinner. The majority dines on take-out food, while eating out comes in second.

When our daughter was a teen, I forced her to learn to cook. I knew then that cooking was becoming a "dying art"; a trip to the grocery store will tell you this. It was bad enough when people stopped making their own chicken noodle soup and gravy, but now I see items like frozen PB & J sandwiches, frozen mashed potatoes, dehydrated scalloped and au gratin potatoes and crock pot helper. Now it seems that people are too busy to be bothered with microwaving and rehydrating their entrees.

Pizza night, at our house, is a treat. Most of Z's friends consider pizza, frozen corn dogs, and boxed macaroni and cheese, staple foods.

How did our society lose the family dinner? The first culprit is people living too far from their workplaces. I know many families who drop their kids off at daycare at 6 a.m. in order to drive 50-100 miles to work. This also means that they don't pick their kids up from daycare until 7 or 8 p.m. This doesn't leave much time for cooking. The second culprit is the family that's overactivitied. Where is it written that children aren't happy unless they're involved in an activity every night of the week? When do these kids have time to play, do their homework, bond with their family, or eat a healthy meal?

I know this may sound anal to a lot of you, but we have a homecooked family dinner EVERY night. We go out for dinner 2-3 times a year. We eat at fast food places 5-6 times a year. On our tight budget, we can't afford to have others do our cooking for us. L and I both work full time, in addition to homeschooling our son. If we can have family dinners, anybody can.

It's actually easier than it sounds. I write up a month's worth of menus at a time. I also don't repeat the same meal twice in a month. When I make my weekly trip to the grocery store, I check my menu for the ingredients I'll need. I always make big batches of soup, hotdishes, and lasagna and freeze the leftovers. On the nights that we're too busy to cook, I grab a ready made meal out of the freezer.

During a recent family meeting, L and Z volunteered to start cooking dinner on Saturday nights. They're in charge of all the planning, cooking AND cleanup. This gives me an evening to myself. Woohoo!!


At 2/01/2006 7:51 PM, Blogger Notta Wallflower said...

That's something that H has had a hard time getting used to - me cooking. Like you, I learned early on how to menu plan and shop for at least a week at a time. People don't realize how much money this saves. Also, you can actually consume vegetables this way. How are more people not constipated beyond belief and on their way to colon cancer? I need to do more of what you do, though, and cook things ahead of time. I hate cooking during the week, but it's because I'm tired and feel a sense of entitlement to be lazy.

At 2/01/2006 8:20 PM, Blogger greatwhitebear said...

I have found that as my nest got emptier, my motivation to cook has waned greatly. I cooked most of the time when it was me and my kids. I cooked constantly when it was Christine and I and her 4 kids plus my two youngest. Now that it is just my daughter and I, I find it dificult to motivate myself to cook, even prepared dinners.

Tonight, I had great intentions to make a crustless quiche and au gratin potatoes from a box. But by the time I got home, my good intentions had waned. We ended up at our favorite fast food place, Chou Cajun (yes, a wonderful fusion of Chinese and Cajun). I had Bourbon Chicken, Cajun Roast Pork, fried rice, and a couple of egg rolls. Shelley had Orange Chicken, Sweet and Sour Chicken, with Chinese noodles. Cost: about $14. Of course, I now feel guilty. especially after reading this post!

At 2/02/2006 12:32 AM, Blogger MonicaR said...

You're good! I normally do 3 meals every day. It's easy for me to fall off the wagon and then we find ourselves ordering chinese, cheesesteaks and pizza. It is VERY expensive - too expensive.

I find that when I'm in the good habit of planning I do great. Sometimes I'm not so good at planning and that's when I find myself at 5:30 p.m. with NO PLAN! Then I'm screwed.

At 2/02/2006 9:09 AM, Blogger European said...

You are so dead-on with the driving too far to work thing! When I used to come home at 7pm, after a 12-hour-day, I was too hungry not to go through the drive-through on the way home, and the prospect of having to take the time to cook was unbearable (I get a wee bit dramatic when I'm hungry). I'm glad that's over.
I try to get a home-cooked meal on the table every night, but I'm still figuring out the planning of menus and cooking enough to have (substantial) leftovers.
The family dinner is something I really want for my future kids!

At 2/02/2006 11:57 AM, Blogger Laura said...

We eat out or order in a great deal in our house for several reasons... the first being that John is an extremely picky eater. There's only so many times in a week I can tolerate eating chicken breast (bone-in parts take too long to cook). Going out is the only time he can eat chicken and I can have anything else.

John also has to learn how to cook. I mean, if all the boy eats is chicken breast, how hard is that. Defrost, add spices to desired taste, throw in oven/pan.

My sanity is worth the cost of take-out sometimes.

At 2/02/2006 12:21 PM, Blogger Wandering Coyote said...

I would argue that the real culprit is priorities. A homecooked, from scratch meal does not have to be difficult or time consuming and there are plenty of cookbooks on the market to help out the busiest of parents/commuters. It just takes making a commitment - that's all.

I learned to cook at a young age. Now that I cook for a living and am single, I have a hard time with it because I often cannot be bothered. But I still eat well, I still make all my breads and soups from scratch, and I eat well.

If your kids aren't already thanking you, I'm sure they will in the future. I'm grateful to my mom, even though at the time, I was pretty unappreciative.

At 2/02/2006 12:31 PM, Blogger Miladysa said...

32% really? That is frightening!

All my older children can cook and E is already learning to by mixing etc.

One month's menus at a time? That is really industrious :)

At 2/02/2006 3:46 PM, Blogger tshsmom said...

Notta, when we first got married, L was in hog heaven. NOBODY had ever cooked for him before! Now he tends to take it for granted, not a good thing either.
If it wasn't for fresh fruits and veggies, I'd shop every 2 weeks.

A Chinese/Cajun restaurant, GWB?! Your meal sounds great, though, and for only $14!
I had a hard time adjusting the portions in my cooking when SME left home. I'm sure it will be the same when Z leaves.

Monica, that's why I had to formulate my menu system. If I don't have a menu, I find that I'm missing ingredients for meals I want to make and then we just end up thawing a pound of burger for hotdish. This gets pretty boring.

Euro, it will all come together eventually. It took me 10 years to perfect my system.

LMAO Laura! Everybody has to customize their own system, and you've got quite a challenge there!!

You're absolutely right WC! Most of the packaged foods actually take longer to prepare, than making the same meal from scratch.
The commitment part for me is taking 1/2 an hour per month to write up my menus. The rest of my system actually saves me time.
SME IS grateful for all I taught her NOW. At the time, I thought I was beating my head against a brick wall. Z, on the other hand, LOVES to cook.

I see you're in the minority with me too, Milady! It really is scary. No wonder so many children are overweight!
It really doesn't take much more time to write 4 menus, than just 1 menu. Then I'm done for the month!

At 2/02/2006 8:55 PM, Blogger Vancouver Voyeur said...

My partner does all the cooking, so we don't eat out as much as we would if I had to cook each meal. I hate to cook, obviously. I have standard dishes the kids love, like baked in the oven mac & cheese. One time, a few years back, my son invited his friend Alec for dinner and Alec invited my son for dinner. So they both checked to see what they were having. My son was all excited that we were having mac & cheese. He said, "my mom makes the best mac & cheese." It just so happened that Alec's mom was also making mac & cheese. Alec said, "my mom's mac & cheese in the best." So they decided they would eat some at both houses to find out who's mother made the best mac & cheese. My son came home later that night, hysterical. He said, "Alec's mom's mac & cheese is Kraft mac & cheese!" Apparently, Alec had never had homemade mac & cheese from the oven. :-)

At 2/03/2006 10:48 AM, Blogger Sadie Lou said...

I plan my grocery trip to reflect what I'm going to be making for dinner during the week. That's right! I spend like 120-180 dollars once a week so that I can have enough food for homemade dinners every night. I do a lot of crock pot dinners and we love homemade pizza. We also have a salad every night, much to the dismay of my son.
Even the baby eats when we all sit down. A family that eats dinner together--stays together!
Great post. I did one about the family table, too. Awhile back.

At 2/03/2006 2:09 PM, Blogger Faltenin said...

Scary stats, there. The family that eats together, stays together?

I love cooking, too. I'd like more time, simply to turn basic ingredients into miniature works of art. Name another art form that pleases all five senses?

At 2/03/2006 2:18 PM, Blogger tshsmom said...

VV, at our house, pizza is a treat. Z always wants pizza for dinner when he has a friend spend the night. We have since found out that his friends would rather have our regular dinners. They love spaghetti(they didn't know that spaghetti doesn't always come out of a can), fried chicken, and hot dog hotdish, which is my Dad's special recipe.
I LOVE homemade mac and cheese, but my kids prefer the box stuff. Weirdos! :(

Sadie, your post was the first thing I thought of when I read the "32% article".

At 2/03/2006 3:04 PM, Blogger Laura said...

"they didn't know that spaghetti doesn't always come out of a can"

ACK! That's one thing I'm very picky about, I eat Spaghetti O's sometimes when I feel like crap - a throwback to my childhood maybe(?), but I'd never call it "pasta". My mom makes her own tomato sauce (from my dad's Genoan grandmother's recipe) and she (my mom) doesn't even eat the stuff. It took the longest time before I could use any pre-made sauce. Classico isn't bad, but it's not mom's!

At 2/03/2006 3:23 PM, Blogger greatwhitebear said...

Thats so funny, because MY KIDS and step kids all prefer Kraft mac and cheese to the real thing to. but then again, they hate spam, so what do they know!

At 2/03/2006 3:34 PM, Blogger tshsmom said...

That's funny, Laura. I only eat spaghettios when I'm sick too.
I always have stuff like spaghettios, box mac and cheese, ramen noodles, and fish sticks on hand for Z's lunches, but NEVER for dinner!
For one of SME's slumber parties, I let the girls make homemade pizza. They were amazed that pizza didn't have to come out of a box.

At 2/03/2006 4:56 PM, Blogger Sadie Lou said...

tshsmom--here's a fun thing to do: It's called personal pizzas and it's great for sleepovers.
you take english muffins or french rolls and split them into halves. Then you have the kids "decorate" their pizza with whatever toppings you have on hand. They spoon on their own sauce and do their own cheese, then I have pepperoni, olives, diced mushrooms, salami, canadian bacon (they have the fun size ones especially for pizzas now in the lunch meat section) and some veggies like bell peppers.
Then you cook them at 400 for about 8 minutes. Everyone gets their own pizza!

At 2/03/2006 6:31 PM, Blogger SME said...

Doug and Aaron love homemade meals; Demi is the holdout. She wouldn't eat our spaghetti until the one time I used sauce from a jar. She didn't know what turkey stuffing was.

At 2/03/2006 7:18 PM, Blogger tshsmom said...

Thanks Sadie; that's a great idea! I have most of that stuff on hand all the time, so it would also make a great snack or lunch idea.

Dems still doesn't know what stuffing is, because she wouldn't eat it. Grandma doesn't have to worry about feeding her. I just have plenty of mac and cheese, ramen noodles, muffins, and Little Debbies around for her. You guys can worry about the "balanced" meals.
They both eat that GROSS Chinese Hotdish!
Aaron's a garbage can. Just have LOTS of food, as long as it isn't hot dogs. We also need to avoid gassy foods with that boy. Especially when we're all sleeping in the same camper! ;)

At 2/03/2006 7:19 PM, Blogger Bridget Jones said...

Tshsmom, totally agree with you on family dinners. I learned to cook from scratch too (cake mixes were a no-no!) but since it's me and the Most Spoiled Cat In The Universe, and I usually get home at 8, I can't be bothered. Have had pizza for the last 3 days and frankly adore it. Could have continuously and not suffer.

BUT if I had a family there is no way I'd do that (she says naievely)! You know those spaghetti sauce commercials where they say 'bring something nice to the table tonight--your family' that actually gets me teary-eyed (sometimes)?

Family dinners were very much the rule when I was (allegedly) growing up. Kind of miss them....You are great to stick to it.

Even now, do cook and freeze a lot. Just happen to love pizza.....Bridg

At 2/03/2006 7:24 PM, Blogger tshsmom said...

Bridg, the kids and I LOVE pizza, but L isn't real fond of it, so we don't have it very often.
Who says we (allegedly) have to grow up?!

At 2/03/2006 8:11 PM, Blogger tshsmom said...

GWB, we both know that only heathens hate Spam!!
My kids wouldn't even let me add extra cheese to the box stuff. Personally I think it tastes like the box!

Faltenin, I have a chef friend that insists that "presentation is everything". My family just cares that it tastes good. :(

At 2/03/2006 9:13 PM, Blogger SME said...

Oh sure, junk food for the grandkids! I can be the bad guy with my vegetables and tofu. :P

At 2/04/2006 7:12 AM, Blogger tshsmom said...

It's what parents live for! ;)
Dad and Z won't eat tofu either. I was surprised that they liked your eggplant parmesan! Dad also likes YOUR chili more than MINE.

At 2/04/2006 10:15 PM, Blogger greatwhitebear said...

veggies and tofu.... Good God woman, you tryin to turn those kids into "gasp" .... CALUIFORNIAMS?

At 2/04/2006 10:17 PM, Blogger greatwhitebear said...


note to tshs - "no, I don't have my reading glasses on.... and I am not getting bifocals!"

At 2/04/2006 11:20 PM, Blogger SME said...

Men are so stubborn about bifocals! :)
The kids are safe from me so far - they're tried and true carnivores. And the key to my chili, ironically, is lots of veggies. Heehee.

At 2/05/2006 6:40 AM, Blogger tshsmom said...

LMAO, GWB!! You found our skeleton in the closet. SME has ALWAYS been a borderline vegetarian, although she does love fish and seafood. From the time she was 3, her favorite food was salad. She does love Spam, so she does have some redeeming qualities. ;) My guys won't touch Spam; heathens!
Z's our carnivore and eats very few fruits and veggies.

SME lives with a "bifocals holdout" too. Doug spends his time wandering around looking for his reading glasses. I've always said that you two would get along well. In the meantime, I'll just keep nagging BOTH of you! hehe

SME, I'm NOT putting carrots in MY chili! hmph

At 2/05/2006 12:50 PM, Blogger Antagonist said...


At 2/05/2006 6:11 PM, Blogger SME said...

Chili Nazi. What's wrong with carrots?

At 2/07/2006 10:28 PM, Blogger The Zombieslayer said...

The majority dines on take-out food, while eating out comes in second.

No wonder this country is obese.

I could whip up a complete meal in fifteen minutes that is quite good. There's no excuse for this. Example:
Salmon fillets marinated with lemon juice, soy sauce, pepper, and just a touch of garlic powder. Grilled each side for around 4 1/2 minutes depending on the thickness of the salmon. Cook up some rice (this will take 15 minutes, so do this first) and slice up some Fuji apples.

Slice up some pepper jack cheese on a separate plate where anyone could help themselves to cheese slices.

Make a nice fruity cocktail and there ya go, a complete dinner in 15 minutes.

It's laziness. Busy is no excuse. I used to work 55-60 hours a week (no exaggeration), played sports, partied hard with Mrs. Z (her buddy and we would trade babysitting duties) and friends, and still made time to cook for Mrs. Z and Junior.

At 2/08/2006 6:38 PM, Blogger tshsmom said...

ZS, I think it's a combination of laziness and ignorance!
BTW, grilled salmon is one of my family's favorite dinners! I like serving it with a wild/white rice mixture that I add a can of cream of celery soup to.


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