How Often Should You Cook at Home on Weeknights?

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I subscribe to a NY Times e-mail newsletter called Five Weeknight Dishes, which sends – you guessed it – five weekly “fresh dinner ideas for busy people who want something great to eat”. However, one of the recent newsletters was titled How Often Should You Cook? and you might be surprised at the answer:

One question I’ve gotten a lot since I started writing this newsletter is how many nights I cook dinner during the workweek. The answer is not five.

I typically cook a meal from scratch on two weeknights, maybe three. You don’t need to do more than that! Pick at least one recipe that makes good leftovers, doubling or stretching them with eggs, vegetables, toast or grains if necessary. Or supplement with something else in the fridge or cabinet. Dinner can be a fun, crazy mishmash; photographers will not be showing up to document the meal.

As for the other nights: My partner cooks, or occasionally we order chicken parm or go out (luxuries of urban and suburban life), or eat our preferred brand of freezer pizza with a nice big salad.

There is no single “right” answer to this question, but I still found it reassuring. I used to try to cook close to 4-5 nights per week, but now it is also closer to 2-3 nights per week. Sometimes it feels good to eat something green (or otherwise colorful), fresh, and healthy. It always feels good to share a meal with family and friends. I get the same good, wholesome feeling when I eat something where I know exactly what went into my food. It feels like hitting the reset button, and I always find that it helps keep my weight down. Saving money is secondary, but still a welcome result.

Food delivery apps are making things so convenient now, but it’s usually not very good for my bank account nor my health.

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  1. Thanks for the tip to Five, I signed up. Now why don’t grocery store apps (like Kroger and Publix) just have this built in??

  2. Tammi Marie says

    We eat home cooked meals 7 nights a week for most of the time. I’d say we eat out or get pizza for a total of 3x a month.

  3. Food delivery apps are a blog post unto themselves. I just did a grad school paper analyzing Uber Eats. It’s scary how much it resembles the Groupon business model, which was hot while it was new but once the adoption of Groupon hit critical mass, the benefit to businesses became murkier – many were forced to discount goods and services to the point where long-term profit was very questionable. In essence, some restaurants are designed well for food delivery apps and can leverage the apps for additional profit, but for many it’s not a profitable long-term venture. You may be slowly killing off your favorite restaurant by using Uber Eats and the like. It’s much more profitable (and sustainable) for the restaurant if you get takeout directly from them (and pick it up yourself).

    These statements are strictly from my research on the topic; I have never worked for a restaurant.

  4. Or do a meal subscription plan and then cancel each week. I’ve been doing this for about almost 2 years now and this is how it works:

    1.) Sign up for a free box of food. Then, cancel your plan. You will get a weekly email asking you to “come back” with a 60% off any plan. I choose the plan for 2 people x4 a week (it’s really for 3 people, there’s always extra food leftover). The discount is over $50 off from $80+. So we pay about $34 per week!

    2.) Meals take about 30mins to make…and you get to choose what you want based on your diet, family requests, etc! Often times you get free surprises in your box (pancake mixes, fruit baskets, etc).

    You don’t have to do major grocery shopping for dinner (and lunches). Just shop for everyhting else.

    telling you,,,best kept secret ….even my son loves to eat thanks to all the sampling of different meals he gets…

    P.S> Same applies to Blue Apron, etc…everyone wants your business…

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