On occasion, dining out is a real treat. You get to spend time with friends and family and explore new places. A waiter offers you a host of delicious food and drink options, and at the end of the night, someone else gets paid to do the dishes.
Unfortunately, in our busy lives dining out can go from a rare treat to an expensive habit. Instead of enjoying a new hangout, we sometimes rely on restaurants and fast food options for their speed and convenience.
A habit of eating out too often can have surprisingly negative consequences for your health, budget, and family relationships. Here are four compelling reasons to limit eating habits to mostly home cooking with occasional fun on-the-town dining splurges:
1. Groceries Are Still Cheaper
Many people make the argument that these days, groceries are so expensive that dining out is about the same cost. Though it’s true that you can drop a hefty chunk of change on a grocery bill, smart shoppers know how to find grocery deals to keep food spending in check. Look for grocery store chains that offer bulk options and discount prices on store brand products. Also remember to use leftovers and be creative about cupboard ingredients, so that you have to shop for new supplies less often. You’ll soon find creative recipes that cost only two or three dollars per person, rather than a full ten dollar restaurant burger plus the tip.
2. You Know What You’re Eating
In most cases, you don’t get to watch your food being made at a restaurant. Though restaurants have to pass vigorous health and safety inspections, you personally might find some ingredients or cooking practices a little unsettling were you to venture into the kitchen. Since one in six Americans gets sick from consuming contaminated foods or beverages every year, intimate knowledge of what you put into your body is a good way to keep food poisoning at bay. Cooking at home is also important for protecting the health of your kids — 5.3% of children aged 12 to 17 years had food allergies in 2016. Even if you ask for no strawberries, accidents can happen. Cooking at home often can significantly reduce the chances of a dangerous allergic reaction.
3. It’s Better for the Environment
Eating take out is especially harmful to the environment. Think of all the single-use plastic containers, boxes, and Styrofoam cups that end up in the trash only minutes after being filled with food. By cooking at home, you can help prevent the buildup of plastic waste in oceans and landfills. You’ll also be able to cook the correct amount for you and your family, reducing leftovers and ultimately, food waste.
4. Cooking Can Become Family Time
While dining out on occasion can be a great way to spend quality time with loved ones, eating out too frequently can make it much less special. Cooking, on the other hand, offers a unique chance for family creativity. Mix up meals to keep kitchen time exciting– try new cuisines, slow-cooker meals, and cooking outdoors for variety. Cooking also fosters teamwork–while one or two people tackle chopping veggies, another family member can start cooking the meat on the grill. In fact, an estimated 23% of consumers feel that the grilling area is a place to relax, proving that cooking is an enjoyable pastime for many.
As of 2018, there were about 660,755 restaurants in the United States. While dining out at these establishments can be a fun way to explore, eating out too often has some unfortunate consequences. Don’t fall in the trap of eating out five times a week, and instead set limits to how often you splurge. Though grocery shopping and cooking might feel like a chore at first, you’ll be surprised how quickly you come to enjoy the money you save and the fun you have in your own kitchen.