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Wilburn: Save valuable time by cooking at home
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Many of us have busy schedules, and eating out is often our solution to meal time when we’re on the go. But does it really save us time and money?

To answer these questions, let’s look at a few examples of foods that we commonly order out.

The morning is often a hectic time, getting children ready for school and preparing for the work day. Sometimes we don’t take the time to make breakfast at home and find ourselves at the drive-up window of our favorite fast food restaurant.  We compared the cost of making an egg and cheese breakfast sandwich at home versus ordering out and found that making a sandwich at home could save you about $1.75.

But does it save you valuable time, too? The answer is yes!

Researchers went out to find out how long it would take to order a breakfast sandwich during the morning rush hours. Turns out, the time it took from ordering to receiving the food at the drive-up window took about 13 minutes. Making a breakfast sandwich at home we would save about 5 minutes.

This may not seem very different but when you factor in the difference in cost it is clear that cooking at home is a real savings.

We also looked at the price difference between making a pizza at home, buying frozen pizza and ordering out. Pizza can be a real treat, especially on a Friday night after a long work week. But we wanted to see if ordering that delivery pizza was really worth it.
Our “homemade” pizza was made of pre-made refrigerated dough, pizza sauce and mozzarella cheese. We found that homemade pizza was the smartest choice for your food budget.

Compared to frozen pizza, you could save an average of $2.35. Even when compared to the lowest-priced frozen pizza, you still found some cost savings. When comparing homemade cheese pizza to takeout the savings were over $6.

Making a pizza at home may take a little longer than ordering out, but you can use the 15 to 20 minutes it takes to cook a pizza by spending time with family or catching up with chores around the house.

From these examples, we can see making food at home can save us money and often valuable time, too. Making food at home also has many other benefits that we may not always think of.

Make time for family
With our busy schedules, it can be hard to find time to be together as a family. Eating meals at home can help gather family members together. Also, research shows that when families eat together; they have a more nutritious diet.  My husband has also found out that when he does half the work (chopping, setting the table, unloading the dishwasher) that he gets to eat in half the time it would take me to do it by myself.

Make it your way
When making food at home, you can make food exactly how you like it. Whether it’s a bowl of fresh fruit filled with peaches, watermelon and blueberries and topped with lemon yogurt or using low-fat cheese in your casseroles. You know exactly what you’re getting when you make it at home.

Cut down on the fat, salt
Foods we order out can be loaded with fat and salt, especially when we eat at our favorite fast-food restaurants. When you make food at home you can control how much salt and butter you use. This can help cut down on the amount of saturated fat, sodium and overall calories you eat. Eating at home can be a smart choice for your heart and overall health.

Add healthy options
Making food at home gives you the chance to add healthy options to your food that may not be available when ordering out. For example, when making pizza at home you can choose whole-wheat, pre-made refrigerated dough. Whole wheat is a great way to add fiber to your diet. You could save even more money by making the crust and sauce from “scratch.” Add a side salad or heat up leftover vegetables to round out your meal.

Adapted from:  University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension

Debbie Wilburn is county extension agent in family and consumer science with the Hall County Extension. Contact: 770-535-8290.