‘Cook’ Not Just a Four-Letter Word

Kids, like Josh, naturally love to cook.

The recession has had one benefit for Americans: We are eating at home more often. That’s a very good thing. Eating dinner together brings families closer.

The bad news is that microwave and processed food usage increased at the same time. According to The 24th Annual Report on Eating Patterns in America, 81 percent of Americans are eating dinner at home and 47 percent of consumers report eating dinner with everyone in their household every night of the week.

“Microwaving has been flat for two decades, but it increased last year as Americans found a way to eat at home and not cook,” says Harry Balzer, chief industry analyst at The NPD Group, and author of Eating Patterns in America, an annual compilation of NPD’s food and beverage market research.

“We’re using our microwaves to warm and heat more, but not prepare more dishes from scratch.”  Last year, Americans used their microwave ovens more and their stove tops less. According to Blazer, approximately 20 percent of all meals prepared in U.S. homes from 1990 to 2007 involved the use of a microwave, last year usage rose to 30 percent.

Not Home-Cooking
Less than a third of people are cooking from scratch. Even though Americans are eating at home more often, they aren’t really cooking, because they’re reheating. They’re microwaving frozen pizza or using processed boxed mixes or opening a can of soup. Sometimes fast food is purchased and then served at home.

Cooking from Scratch
A couple of generations ago, “from scratch” meant making cakes, muffins and cookies from whole-grain flour, eggs and milk, not poured from a box. Bread was kneaded, put in a warm oven to rise and then baked. Families would can all their produce. It’s not common, but some manage to still do this. Today, “from scratch” means that you are not using processed mixes for cakes and pancakes, opening a can of soup, using boxed macaroni and cheese or popping a frozen pizza in the oven.

We now have the option of using chicken stock, instead of making it yourself and still call it “from scratch.” Also most don’t grow and can their own tomatoes, so canned tomatoes in a dish will also count as “from scratch.” Even canned beans in a recipe can be viewed as “from scratch.” From scratch is cooking, as long as you are combining whole ingredients yourself, not using processed mixes or heating up processed frozen food.

Cooking with your children is a natural way to integrate multi-sensory learning. Also, teaching kids to cook, helps with the pressure to get meals on the table. It’s time spent in a shared activity and builds bonds between parents and kids. There are ways to cook and save time. Click Here for 3 Easy Meal Tips.

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