I’m somewhat obsessive about feeding my family homemade food. Like, I make it from scratch, from raw and fresh ingredients as much as I can. Bread, cakes, cookies, brownies – no boxed mixes have been used in my house for years. I culture our yogurt. I roast our granola. Part of this is simply because it’s something I like to do. It’s a creative act for me, something that focuses and rejuvenates me (as long as I’m not hounded by my kids the whole time I’m in the kitchen).
Making food rather than buying it, however, does take extra time. Or at least extra planning. If we want toast for breakfast tomorrow, I need to make the bread tonight. While it takes just a few minutes to assemble the ingredients and mix them together, it takes a couple of hours to rise before it’s ready to bake. And although it does take some time, I maintain that home cooking is less about having time and more about forethought and planning.
So, when I saw the headline on The Atlantic website last month: Serving Convenience Foods for Dinner Doesn’t Save Time, I felt vindicated. According to a study done by UCLA researchers, convenience foods saves about 10-12 minutes a night. To me, those 10 minutes are well worth the effort to have food that I prepared and am intimately acquainted with on the table.
But I didn’t even consider that, because I make a salad or a pot of pasta that feeds everyone, we all sit down and eat together. I almost never fix something for the kids and something else for my husband and I. I’m not able to pull the tv dinners out of the freezer and hand them to people as they are hungry. When dinner is ready, it’s ready and we all sit down to eat.
The UCLA study showed that the more families rely on convenience foods, the less likely they are to sit down and eat together. “In 68 percent of the weekday dinners that were eaten at different times or in different rooms, family members ate meals made entirely or mostly of convenience foods or dishes brought home from a restaurant or take-out. In contrast, in 76 percent of weekday dinners eaten all together, family members ate meals prepared mainly with fresh ingredients,” the authors of the study found.
Convenience foods, in theory, seem to be an awesome way to save time and feed the family quickly. But in practice, do they also prevent families from sitting down together for a meal? And if so, is the time saved in minutes worth the cost to our family relationships?