I heard on the radio the other day that the U. S. has accomplished a new milestone. We have now caught up with England. Americans spend more money eating out than they do on groceries. I guess that is a milestone. I am not sure what it says about us, but maybe we are more affluent? Not as many people cook? Too many bad cooks? More people work full time so they have an excuse not to cook? More offerings out there that tempt us away from our own meal preparation.
I know families that haven’t eaten together in years. I was surprised to find that a neighborhood family hadn’t sat down to a meal as a family in over eight years. Kids off to soccer, dates, studies, etc. Mom down at Zumba and dad getting home late from work. Often times none of them eat the same meal.
Now there is so much fast food that meal preparation is considered a bother. Then there’s cleaning up as well. Most folks have a dishwasher so that isn’t as bad as it use to be. I still don’t own a dishwasher, but my husband and I pitch in together to get the clean up licked lickity-split.
Grocery stores now have full service food isles that have complete meal selections heated and ready to serve. They also have ones that you can heat. Restaurants now have take away meals (usually at the same price or higher) for eating at home or office. So many things are offered at a quality that far exceeds the capabilities of the normal home cook. Throw out the containers when done and all you have expended is money. No wonder our dining out costs exceed our grocery bill.
For all my life I have avoided fast food. I have also avoided prepared foods at the grocery. My shopping trip at the grocery involves going around the outside isles of the store, fruits, vegetables, dairy, meats, and cash register. I have shop at grocery wholesalers. I still (2017) purchase a month’s groceries for about $120 for two people. These are staples like cheese, meat, seafood, dairy, fruits and vegetables we don’t grow ourselves, flour, sugar, salt, spices, etc. This month about the only prepared item I bought was granola. We cook from scratch.
I am an excellent cook and former restaurant chef. This makes it difficult for us to eat out and enjoy excellent food. Few restaurants can provide us with a meal that surpasses what I prepare at home. Even still we manage to spend more on eating out than we spend on groceries. This has been the case for most of my adult life, but it is easy to spend more than $120 at restaurants. We spend that much on one dinner in a truly excellent establishment.
When I was growing up we were all in the kitchen from a very young age, helping in some way to prepare the meal, even if it was just setting the table. I started cooking full meals when I was six years old. It was a tough chore for someone who couldn’t even reach the counter. I had to stand on a chair to do most of the prep and cooking, but it was a joy for us all to be together for the celebration of those meals.
I am not saying that it is right or wrong to spend more on outside dining than on what we prepare ourselves. I am bemoaning the fact that we do not spend time, with our family, preparing and eating a meal that gives us time to commune with one another. We do not have the bonding that preparing and eating a meal together gives. Many of those meals prepared by family were truly memorable even years later.