Do you love food but lack the inspiration to cook on a regular basis?
Are you looking to ditch the ready meals and begin putting freshly prepared meals on the table each evening? This month we’re running a series called Cooking From Scratch for Beginners. Our goal is to answer all your questions and to make it a whole lot easier to cook from scratch.
This list of 25 benefits of cooking from scratch should provide you with the motivation to kick-start your culinary adventure.
You're probably wondering:
Is cooking from scratch more healthy?
The simple answer is yes, as by cooking for yourself rather than buying ready meals or eating out all the time, you’re able to control exactly what goes into each meal that you eat.
As a result, you’ll feel more energetic and happy in yourself.
Home cooked dinners are full of naturally-occurring vitamins and minerals and use ingredients that have not been processed in large food factories.
Some ready meals, for example, have up to 60-70 different ingredients packed in them and many of those ingredients you probably can’t even pronounce. It’s safe to say that you will not encounter this issue when you start cooking for yourself and others.
Home cooking also means that you’ll be enjoying food with a more moderate sugar, salt and fat content.
As a result, home cooked food can provide you with a sustainable source of energy during the course of the day. This means that you’ll be less lethargic and full of life which will help you to take on life’s challenges.
In fact, research has found that people who cook their meals fresh on a regular basis tend to be happier and healthier and eat less sugar and processed foods, which can result in increased levels of energy and improved mental health.
When you spend a mere 30 minutes in the kitchen each evening to prepare a fresh dinner for your loved ones or even yourself, you’ll really begin to appreciate that time and it becomes much more meaningful.
The thought and love that goes into the preparation of food is something that (if you are cooking for others) the people around you will genuinely appreciate and is a good reason as to why you should cook from scratch more often.
In a similar way, you’ll also begin to cherish those moments when you’re sat around a dinner table engaging with your loved ones after a long day out of the house. This is type of bonding is far more fulfilling than sitting in front of the television watching a box set.
Another advantage of cooking from scratch is getting to control what goes into each meal that you cook is underrated by many people.
With the amount of rubbish that is added to the meals we buy when we’re out of the house, it’s useful to know what you are actually putting into your body.
I always put it this way to people: if someone bought you an alcoholic drink while you’re at a bar or a restaurant, you’d surely want to know what you’re about to be drinking.
It’s the same thing with food, you need to know what you’re eating before you consume it.
I know many ready meals and processed foods appear fine to the naked eye but a closer inspection of their packaging reveals a totally different story.
Even worse, is that food labels that claim to be ‘low fat’ and ‘high fibre’ doesn’t necessarily mean what you’re eating is healthy!
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with indulging in your favourite unhealthy foods. We all take pleasure in that.
However, we Brits consume over half of Europe’s ready meals, so my aim for this series is to encourage you to simply eat out less and cook more.
When we cook at home, we are in control. McDonald’s fries have 19 ingredients. We can make them at home with far less — and they will taste just as good.
Says Ben Atkinson, who manages Harborview Medical Center’s outpatient nutrition, informatics, and wellness programs.
Since I’ve reduced the amount that I eat out and I’ve begun to cook for myself more over the last few years, dining out at restaurants has become an arousing experience.
As a Londoner, with a vibrant and world-class food scene just a train ride away, picking a restaurant to go to or finding a new hot spot to dine at fills me with a lot of satisfaction.
When I’m out, I feel more grateful for the meal then I did before and savour every moment.
A big advantage of cooking from scratch is that it makes the times when you eat out much more enjoyable in the sense that it feels like a special occasion rather than the norm.
You could say that cooking more helps you to build your capacity for gratitude, especially for the small things in life. This, of course, can only be a massive benefit!
A question that I get asked a lot is:
Is it cheaper to cook from scratch?
My answer is always “yes.” This is because by streamlining your weekly grocery shop into a budget each week, you’ll begin to realise that you were spending much more than you realised on food.
According to the Office for National Statistics, food spend is the third largest component of the average household expenditure. This means that if you can learn how to shop for groceries more effectively and cook more you’ll be able to make a significant cost saving.
In fact, a key benefit of cooking from scratch is that you could save yourself £288,000 during the course of your lifetime.
That’s correct, Brits will folk out around a quarter of million pounds on restaurant food during the course of their lives.
By not going to the supermarket several times during the week, you’ll end up less tempted to pick up unnecessary items that you may have otherwise bought.
The act of cooking for yourself and nourishing your body is undoubtedly significant.
There’s a self-care element in cooking.
Says Nedra Shield from the Northampton Center for Couples Therapy.
She goes on to say how cooking for yourself can feel much better about yourself and we can think of cooking as a means of a person nourishing themselves, in an almost spiritual way.
Think about this way:
Cooking not only encourages you to make more healthy choices but it also reminds you that you’re important and that it’s necessary for you to make time for yourself.
I know what you’re thinking:
How can cooking from scratch help me to save time?
It’s a great question. Choosing where to eat, what to have and going and picking it up can add up to hours each week. Not to mention the stress of choosing what you’re going to eat on a daily basis.
By doing a single grocery shop once or twice per week, you can save time by not having to pick up food in the spur of the moment or dither about what’s for dinner on any given night.
A small amount of meal planning can help you to save time on a weekly basis that can be better spent cooking, spending valuable time with your family or perhaps doing an activity that you didn’t previously have time for (especially with your new found energy).
I’m not suggesting spending any more time than a mere 20-30 minutes preparing a meal.
If you’re a serious cook than by all means, go for it.
But, for people that are new to cooking from scratch, there’s no need to jump straight into the deep end.
You can cook a sublime dinner in 20-30 minutes with a few basic ingredients.
We help hundreds of people nationwide to do this on a weekly basis through our food boxes, so you can take my word for this.
Later in this series, we’ll be sharing our top tips on how to reduce the time you spend in the kitchen as well as our favourite recipes that you’ll be able to cook in a jiffy.
Cooking and then eating as a family is a beautiful and simple way to get everyone together in one place.
Creating a habit around eating together can help foster closer family bonds and teach your children the importance of food and spending time as a family.
In the fast-paced world that we now live in, it can be easy to let go of traditions such as eating together as a family.
However, eating together is something that I now treasure and will not take for granted again.
Here are some added benefits of cooking and eating with your family:
Studies show that when we eat together, our kids and family are much healthier. Eating together is linked to less obesity, kids doing better in school, and less substance abuse within the family.
Says dietitian Ben Atkinson, who manages Harborview Medical Center’s outpatient nutrition, informatics, and wellness programs.
If you’re cooking for someone else, even if they’re not at home while you are preparing their meal, it can enhance your intimacy with them.
Cooking from scratch for someone else demonstrates your affection for them and that you value their company and time.
It’s a small gesture but one that can go a long way in a relationship no matter how long you’ve been with that person for.
It’s a very intimate activity. And providing them with something that they potentially need, you’re really showing them that they have your support, your love, your backing, and that’s the kind of thing that really, really promotes well being, positive growth and closeness within relationships.
Says Matthew Riccio from National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow
And creating relationships and sustaining them is a fundamental part of what it means to be a human and lead a life of fulfilment.
In the same way, humans have an inherent need for food and water Matthew Lieberman, a distinguished social psychologist, suggests that we have a basic desire to be in a loving relationship.
Cooking in a way can fulfil this basic human need.
Not to mention that cooking requires you to build the vital skills of compromise and cooperation as you both need to agree on what you’re going to eat on any given day. This further helps you to build a strong foundation for the basis of your relationship.
Cooking is an indispensable life skill as it helps you to develop much self-reliance.
It’s not easy, particularly at the beginning, to cook for yourself consistently as with any new habit, but over time it becomes easier.
If you know how to cook you won’t need to depend on someone else to cook for you and you can become self-sufficient.
Self sufficient people have the ability – and the desire - to determine their own course, to make their own decisions, rather than having their life choices made my others.
Says Steve Taylor Ph.D.
The freedom to to cook what you want and when you want is something that will serve you for the rest of your life.
A study in Health Psychology found that participants who prepared food for themselves even if the recipe was the same as the ready-made version were more likely to enjoy their own more.
In part, the improved taste or enjoyment of food that you’ve made yourself likely stems from the sense of accomplishment that you experience after you’ve cooked a meal.
On the other hand, when you cook something yourself you can achieve your desired taste. Needs more heat? Chop up a few green chillies and chuck them in.
Whichever of the two factors above that hold the most explanatory power for you, the science nevertheless proves that food made by yourself does actually taste better!
If you’ve been keeping yourself up to date with the latest trends in health and wellbeing then you’ll be fully aware of the various benefits of incorporating mindfulness into your life.
The benefits range from the reduction of stress and anxiety to an increased capacity to concentrate and associated with a more healthy lifestyle.
If you’re cooking mindfully, it can be extremely therapeutic. And cooking is one of those tasks where it can encourage you to really focus.
Says Nedra Shield from the Northampton Center for Couples Therapy.
Cooking can help you practice mindfulness because it requires you to maintain total focus for a good 20 to 30 minutes.
If you are not concentrating then you could quite easily overcook your sweet potatoes or forget to baste your steak.
Plus, the time that you spend in the kitchen can be considered as a period of self-reflection during which your entire focus is tied to your cooking experience.
When you’re in a kitchen and your cooking something, it can bring up the memory of a dish you used to eat with your grandparents. People are easily drawn back to those memories as they cook, and there are a lot of those memories. That’s why cooking can be especially therapeutic.
Says Julie Ohana, a licensed masters clinical social worker and culinary art therapist.
Mindfulness and stress relieving are similar but not necessarily the same.
Mindfulness is proactive, whereas the act of alleviating your stress is reactive. Yet, I would argue both are positive and serve their own purposes.
Whether you’ve had a long day such as dealing with an issue for an angry customer or perhaps you’ve felt like you didn’t accomplish much during the course of the day, there are many psychological benefits of cooking that can help you to set aside any distractions and unwind.
When you’re cooking, you need to get stuck right in and it has a physical element to it, which can help to disrupt any negative thought patterns.
This is indeed an activity that will require your whole attention. When you weigh the butter or sugar, or when you whisk the eggs, you get calmer. I would even say cooking can have that meditative or soothing quality because you get to slow down and focus.
Quote from Like To Cook .Com
To professional chefs, who have dedicated their lives to mastery, cooking is considered an art.
Like a creative canvas that has no bounds.
Now we don’t have to be chefs to express ourselves through our cooking.
We all have our culinary influences that shape the food that we enjoy and cook.
Whether it's our parents, grandparents or even a place we may have visited during an earlier period in our lives.
This stimulates a creative spirit in each of us.
I love the challenge of picking up a selection of random ingredients and making something delicious with them.
A part of us gets devolved into the food we make- our personality, interests and joys.
Let me ask you this:
What’s shaped the way you cook in your life?
Resourcefulness is key part of cooking.
If anyway has recently watched Masterchef they would have noticed that one of the contestants first challenges was to go into a pantry and pick out their favourite ingredients and within an hour cook a dish that would blow the judges away.
In the same way, rustling up a fresh dinner with items that you already have in your fridge and pantry cupboard can encourage you to become more resourceful and less wasteful.
When you start cooking from scratch, you’ll likely notice that fresh produce has a much shorter shelf life than ready meals because they’ve not been preserved by the use of artificial chemicals.
This means you’ll constantly have to cook the food you buy as opposed to letting it sit in your fridge for weeks on leaving it to sit at bottom of your freezer for an indefinite amount of time.
Without question, it takes less energy and resources to cook at home.
Says David Pimentel, Professor Emeritus at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University.
The professor explains that it takes almost double the amount of energy to process food than it does to grow and eat it.
In terms of what’s better for the environment, home cooking is a clear winner.
That calculation doesn’t even take into account the fact that many pre-prepared meals are frozen (more energy) and cooked again in the oven (more energy).
By cooking for yourself, you’ll have a positive impact on the environment.
Recent studies have found that 10% and 25% of food served in restaurants, schools, cafeterias and other institutions are wasted.
By cooking as opposed to eating out, you’ll be part of the solution and not the problem.
The average UK household wastes on average £470 worth of food waste each year.
If you can acquire a few basic culinary skills then you’ll not only be helping to support a more sustainable food system but also save a few pounds in your pocket.
There are lots of reasons to avoid ready meals.
The UK spends £3bn a year on ready meals, which is a figure that exceeds every other European country.
Here are a few reasons why you should seriously consider reducing the amount of ready meals you eat and start cooking from scratch:
The appearance of this cheap meat is improved by the use of meat glue.
The transglutaminase (meat glue) is an animal blood clotting agent that helps to bind small cuts of meat together into a uniform joint.
This gives the appearance of a high-quality cut of meat, when in fact it’s not.
Ready meals can also be bulked up with collagen, which a protein that is extracted from the carcass of dead animals.
After it has been mixed with water it can appear just like meat.
To make matters worse, a ready meal can contain a small amount of meat and may even be less when you consider the fact that the product may also have a high water content.
Similarly, to the use of meat glue, meat is pumped with water to give it the appearance of a larger and higher-quality piece of meat.
As such, food manufacturers will replace lost nutritional content by adding synthetic vitamins and minerals to the food.
However, these are less well digested by the body and do not boast the same benefits of naturally-occurring vitamins that can be found in fresh food.
Many of you will remember the notorious “Horsegate Scandal” that happened in 2013 when it was revealed that the supermarkets supplemented their beef products with horse meat- a substantially cheaper option.
It [was] clear...rising beef prices and the relative cheapness of horsemeat led some people to see the potential for making big profits through fraud.
Says Peter Hardwick, Head of Trade Development at Eblex, the English beef and sheep industry body.
The versatility of cooking makes it enjoyable and personal to each of us.
Whether it’s playing your favourite slow jam while indulging in your favourite glass of red wine or experimenting with a new dish or even getting messy baking with the little ones, the opportunities to have fun and let loose are endless.
A study reported that in 1965 between 88% and 95% of meals were cooked at home, whereas in the after 2000 between 65% and 72% were.
That is a staggering fall.
Clearly, fewer people are cooking from scratch than before as supermarkets have grown exponentially and convenience has become the name of the game for the food industry.
While technology has helped advance human interests at an unprecedented pace, it has also bred laziness.
It is not out of the ordinary to find people, particularly millennials, who are unsure how to cook.
However, cooking from scratch revives this key skill and all the added benefits that come along with it as discussed so far in this blog.
Cooking food has been an essential part of human evolution and civilisation with the first signs of cooking dating back to China around 20,000 years ago where there is evidence of the first ever pots.
There’s something inherently social to cooking that builds a bond between people and cooking can continue to bring people closer together despite the most recent downward trend.
Cooking from scratch is being used by clinicians to help treat mental health issues.
To experience the emotional benefits of cooking, participants can enrol in a cooking lesson during which people prepare healthy recipes created by a professionally-trained chef.
In a recent article, the Wall Street Journal reported that an occupational therapist opened a cafe in America, which gave local people that were suffering from mental health problems the opportunity to cook fresh meals for their local community.
One of the goals of the project is to increase the social interaction that these people get on a regular basis.
Although there aren’t tonnes of research to back up this unconventional treatment method, there is, however, growing anecdotal evidence to suggest that this could be a practical way of helping people with mental disorders.
1 in 4 people will experience some kind of mental health problem each year, so if cooking could help in any way to address this issue then it is an avenue that is worth exploring.
Have you ever been to a buffet and tried to get your money’s worth?
If you’re like me, then it’s likely you stacked your plate high and took multiple trips to the buffet to serve yourself.
Unlike eating at a buffet, cooking from scratch allows you to control the size of the portions you serve yourself.
Without knowing it, it’s quite easy to pack away the calories when you’re out or eating a ready meal.
In fact, food is actually getting bigger.
According to research, bagels were 195% larger than the standard set by the government's food agency.
Here are my top tips to portion control and serving yourself in a balanced way:
It’s the simplest of all the benefits of cooking from scratch and one at makes cooking such good hobby.
By cooking with fresh ingredients on a regular basis you’ll learn how to balance spices and ingredients, understand how to season to perfection, roast, chop, etc.
When you begin to cook, it challenges you to step out your comfort zone and experiment with recipes beyond your repertoire like this Authentic Nasi Goreng Recipe.
Embrace your culinary adventure and give it the time it deserves.
It won’t be long before you’ll be cooking just like Jamie Oliver!
Cooking may be considered as a form of nurturing and there are a number of benefits of cooking for others.
This is because by feeding others you are helping them to fulfil one of the most basic needs of survival and so our feeling of gratification comes from not only the act of helping others but also in the sense that we’ve helped them in a primitive way.
You’re providing instrumental social support by providing them with food, with sustenance, with something they need to survive.
Says Matthew Riccio, National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow.
Cooking for other helps to build deeper relationships with the ones we care about most and fellow humans in general.
The sense of being close to others can have remarkable psychological benefits including improving longevity and increased happiness.
Recipe blogs have exploded since the internet boomed at the beginning of the 21st century. It’s been particularly driven by the growth of social media platforms too.
We’re lucky that in the UK, we have an amazing online food community and you can easily find some of the best recipe blogs by checking out the Foodies 100 for some food inspiration.
If you feel like you’d like to share the food you create with others than all you need is a camera and access to the internet.
This guide should help you to get started.
If you’ve made it down here then I hope I’ve convinced you that benefits of cooking from scratch are endless.
The main goal of this blog is to show that once you begin cooking homemade there are real and practical benefits that will make a positive difference to your life.
What’s the best thing about cooking for you?
What’s the most surprising benefit you found from reading this blog?
In the rest of the series, we’ll show you how to get started in the kitchen and we’ve created 10 delicious and simple recipes that you’ll be able to cook in no more than 30 minutes.
Hundreds of recipes to choose from
Created by our Chef Chris and each week we have a new menu you can select from
Award-winning British produce
Sourced from Suffolk to Cornwall, straight to your door
Quick and easy
You can cook a delicious dinner in 20-30 minutes using our easy-to-follow recipe cards and pre-measured ingredients