Can we just talk about how many parents are fine with not teaching their kids how to cook?
I grew up in a Vietnamese household where my immigrant mother would work a 10-hour day and also come back home with a freshly made meal EVERY NIGHT. So I grew up loving home-cooked food, and learning how to cook her recipes.
That’s why I was surprised when so many of my friends grew up with parents who constantly chose to dine out/order in for dinner.
Our confidence with cooking starts at a young age, and if we’re not told it’s possible, then we grow up thinking it’s hard, it’s complicated, and it’s not worth it.
If you’re in that boat, I want to personally tell you right now that you’re probably overcomplicating it.
Here is what I know is true from my experience helping friends and clients learn to cook.
- Easier than you think.
- Cheaper than eating out.
- Healthier than eating out.
That’s why when it comes to coaching nutrition, I always guide my clients to grow their cooking skills. The returns it has on people’s health and happiness is so immense that I can’t imagine any good long-term nutrition program without it.
And before anyone claims “BUT EVAN, YOU CAN EAT PERFECT MEALS WITH A MEAL-PREP SUBSCRIPTION” — meal-prep subscriptions like Blue Apron or HelloFresh to me are short-term solutions. And unless you feel like overpaying for food for the rest of your life, you’re better off learning how to shop and cook a few basic dishes.
How much you save when you cook/prep instead of eating out.
It’s hard to explain in text how much you can save. These are also immediate numbers only, so I don’t include 1) how much healthier eating at home is compared to eating out, 2) how that impacts your happiness and health costs, and 3) the ways you can minimize your cooking time.
Here is a very simplistic chart I made to visualize how cooking affects you.
I made a couple of assumptions:
- Los Angeles grocery prices of $60/week for one person if mainly meal-prep, and $50/week for someone who eats out mainly. Generally I spend my money on 90% main meal foods and 10% snack-like foods (the occasional pack of Oreos when the deals are good).
- Average meal out costing $12.50 (including tax/delivery/tip) which is a pretty controlled price, as I know some people can spend upwards of $20 when all is said and done because of Postmates or Doordash fees. Also, we assume the “health level” of these foods is generally slightly worse than meal-prep.
If you have two people:
- Meal-Prep Kenny, who cooks the majority of the time and eats out only 1x a week to one of his favorite spots.
- Lunch-Out Alice, who is constantly eating out for lunch and maybe even dinner but at a minimum 5x/week.
Meal-Prep Kenny clearly saves at least $40/week, is more confident with food, feels healthier, and is maintaining his weight.
Lunch-Out Alice loses $40/week, continues avoiding a comfortable relationship with food and is slightly gaining weight.
Over time, the results compound: Kenny keeps saving money and experimenting with food, while Alice has to continually focus on earning and dealing with health problems because of her reluctance to work on her cooking skills.
Think about it like this: would you rather make your own 3 eggs for $0.50 in 5 minutes, or pay $5.00 for 3 eggs at a restaurant you have to drive to and wait for 15 for?
This is certainly an oversimplification of how cooking saves you money.
But it’s been a real game-changer in my life and of all the people I’ve helped.
Meal prep doesn’t have to mean eating the same meal 6x/week. It doesn’t have to mean eating plain chicken breast, broccoli, and rice. Not everyone’s a professional body-builder, so we should not be striving to eat like them.
Honestly, take it from someone who’s eating like that for months in my 20s: it’s a miserable experience! Get the Big Wins right, so that you can eat how you want to.
Spend a bit more time on the kitchen.
Make the basics.
Got any nutrition questions? Let me know in the comments below and we can discuss! My Twitter is @theEvanLe.