I was having a conversation with a friend the other day who doesn’t understand why anyone would take what’s left of their precious little free time to cook their own food when you can get any type of cuisine delivered right to your door or desk in under 40 minutes with no clean-up after. For the person who views cooking as a chore to be avoided at all costs and who has a lot of discretionary income, there is probably no counter-argument that will sway such a person. For a person with less of an aversion to the kitchen, I offer four points to consider when weighing the value of cooking your own food against ordering take-out:
1. Ingredients – you control them. Sugar, fat, unrecognizable mystery sauce – you can control or eliminate all that.
2. Quality – because you control the amount and quality of the ingredients, you control the quality of the finished product.
3. Portions – you control whether you eat a pound of pasta or a normal serving size. I know that, theoretically, you always have the ability to control your portion size by simply putting the fork down, but that takes a lot of self-control. We’ve all done it – eaten 3/4 of a plate of food that was already 2x more food than we really needed, but we kept going past the point of comfort for the simple reason that the food was there. Check out Brian Wansink‘s book, “Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think” for some fascinating and funny insight on that point. I personally find it a lot easier to control how much I eat before I put it on the plate, than after it’s on the plate. Take-out portions are always too big and too hard to walk away from.
4. Costs – on a cost per serving basis, the monetary costs of cooking for yourself will often be equal to or less than the costs of ordering the same food in for delivery.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not arguing against take-out in all cases, but against take-out as the default method of eating. Take-out definitely has its benefits – cuisines that might be beyond your cooking skills to duplicate (that’s Indian food for me) and it eliminates the time costs of your own labor. The last benefit is pretty powerful, and if you’re using that free time to do things that make you happy and enhance your life, then by all means order in every day. However, if you’re just freeing up more TV time, why not spend some of that time cooking for yourself? If your apartment is as small as mine, you can cook for yourself and watch TV so it’s a win-win.