Food and Family

Jaime Oliver
It seems to me that the argument that many people have with themselves when they are contemplating a change boils down to time and money. Back in the "simpler times" things were far from simple, but the simple necessities were handled well and were a family effort. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the percentage of family income in the United States directed toward food has changed drastically in the last 50 years. We have gone from spending 1/3 to 1/2 of our budget on food, and eating out was a rare treat, to spending roughly 13% of our budget on food and almost 46% of that is eating out.

In the U.S. restaurants in many areas will list the calories associated with menu items. Holy cow, it is amazing that we an get the majority of our daily caloric intake from a single meal! Don't even look at how many calories your favorite coffee drink may have!

So here is where the time and money comes in. What if people began to divert more of their eat out expense to grocery items, organic/local ones even. Would they really be more out of pocket? How much time and gas does it take to drive to your restaurant of choice, to wait for a table, wait for your food? How much of this time are you spending on your PDA while sitting across from your children/spouse? In the same, or less, time you can prepare a simple, wholesome meal, the kids can set the table and you can create a new habit. And, in our home, we almost always have leftovers for lunch the next day....another meal taken care of!

I'm not saying that there isn't a place for eating out. Wouldn't a "date night" be more special if eating out was more of a treat than a typical thing?  I'm a foodie. We love to cook, create, and have a small group of friends who do the same. We will get together and cook slow food, the kids will all play (no child care expense) and we always have an amazing time. We use food that we have grown or that we can get fresh and seasonal. I'm sure I'll bring them up again in the future.

How do you see food? Is the ultimate direction of our society that food is an inconvenience that must be satisfied in the most quickly processed way? Do you see value in not only the meal preparation, but the interactions that come as a result of it (most parties we attend everyone ends up hanging out in the kitchen, have you ever noticed this?) Isn't a large chunk of a healthy food movement a matter of willingness to embrace an old idea and the commitment to trying it and making it the norm?


Lost Star said...

Great thought provoking post.

I believe that food is for many people (not myself) just something that is required and is not any fun. Personally I feel that this could not be further than the truth. I was raised around cooking and good food (after the age of 10 anyhows) and so was my partner. He loves to cook, I love to bake. We even each other out in the kitchen! Prepping is all part of the process and definitely has a value in its own right. In part it is a bonding experience of those involved, but it also sparks creativity. It is a way of providing something to those you love in a way that you decide, that comes from you. We cook most of our meals from scratch, and whilst sometimes we will cheat (tonight's burritos were from a kit for example) mostly we know how are food is made!

julochka said...

"how do you see food?" is a very interesting question. i think my mother's generation, tho' probably the last to cook for their families day in and day out, also bought the whole convenience food line that was sold to them by the big food companies - the whole margarine is magic, crisco is dandy (hmm, lots of fat-related sales going on), yay for corn sweeteners hard sell. it started with that convenience thing in the home and moved to the convenience represented by restaurants.

although i am a wholehearted subscriber to the cooking at home notion, there might be something to eating in restaurants from the standpoint of a more efficient use of food and less waste. restaurants are just better at using their ingredients than we are at home. or at least that's the theory (or perhaps the ideal).

when we originally had the idea of moving to an old farmhouse in the country, what we wanted to do was find at least one other family to share it with...on the premise each family would have their own living space, but that sharing things like a kitchen space, cooking and laundry space was a more efficient use of resources. we found out that it was very difficult to find anyone thinking this way, so we regretfully abandoned the idea. but it would make great sense from a resource standpoint and also from the standpoint of busy working families...if you only had to be the one to make dinner every other week, that would seem that much more manageable, wouldn't it?

of course, i risk sounding a bit like i'm advocating a commune or something, but i don't actually mean that...i mean a way of living that recognizes the needs of today's busy families and comes up with environmentally-friendly ways of catering to them...

but perhaps that's the subject of another post for another day.

great thought you've provoke on the subject of food and home.

Lisa at lil fish studios said...

We're one of those families that doesn't eat out. We cook every meal at home and from scratch. We have a family of 6 and live rurally so even if we were inclined to go out to eat the cost and aggravation (4 kids, 3 are 5 years and younger) prevents us from doing so.

My biggest frustration then becomes the cost of buying good food, staple food, from our stores. While the American food budget has changed percentage-wise, take a look at how the cost of foods like orange juice and fresh produce have changed since our parent's time. It would be more affordable to feed my children pre-packaged junk food instead of fresh (and I'm using that term loosely since this time of year nothing around here is fresh) produce. We live on a very tight budget and it's incredibly frustrating to spend $1.99 a pound on apples when I can get an entire "meal" from the dollar menu at the local fast food joint for the same price. We choose to buy apples but I can understand why other struggling families choose fast food.

How do we combat this? We grow our own and support those that do by visiting the farmer's market in the summer. We purchase our meat from a local organic farm. We vote with our dollar by not buying fast food but in a struggling economy how do we convince others to follow our lead?

I agree that many people see food as just something necessary and don't appreciate the act of cooking. I had an aunt who inspired me to cook when I was young and that formed my appreciation for it. I wonder what's going to happen to this next generation who is being raised on fast food and without Aunt Cathy's secret lemon chicken recipe...

Karen604 said...

I cook from scratch every day and family meals are a must. (I will miss one this week because of a meeting for something I am volunteering for and I really hate that.) I also do most of my own baking.
I think the thing that drives me most nuts besides the price of basic foods is that there is so much out there advertising if you eat me I will make you healthy, and there are few pronounceable words in the ingredient list. I understand Apple, Sugar, Flour, Milk so I don't really want your multisyllabic gobbledygook in my kitchen.
I don't need or want to eat fancy food but I do love my fancy appliances. I like having a stove that I don't have to worry about running out of fuel for, or having an ice box that requires me to take delivery of a giant chunk of ice and deal with the messy drip pan. I admit I like that I can make dough or grate cheese in my food processor and microwave water in a couple of minutes for tea. I like leaving the kitchen knowing that the dishwasher is set to go.
That type of thinking goes in the rest of my house as well. I detested my grandmothers wringer washing machine. I do love the fresh smell of clothed dried in the sun but don't want to hang things out in January at 20 degrees.
Easy has led to overload in other places. How many of us have more clothes than we ever will wear, more book to read than there are hours in the day and more improve your life projects than you will have time to do in life. That is where simple and sustainable comes into play for me.