I live in the San Francisco Bay Area with my partner and his twin brother. Although we’re certainly a family, we tend to live pretty independent lives. Meal times are no exception. As children, eating dinner with our families was a nightly occurrence, but as adults we seem to have fallen out of the habit.
I was laid off from my job just over a year ago, so I tend to snack throughout the day and eat a very early dinner. Also, I lived as a vegetarian for several years and hardly ever cook meat. Conversely, the men in my life are hardcore cyclists who come home absolutely famished and consume a startling amount of meat and carbs. As a result, we all make separate meals and sometimes eat hours apart.
About a month ago, we decided to try an experiment: one day a week, each one of us would commit to making dinner for the family. We’ve been incredibly pleased with our arrangement, which has led to some unexpected benefits:
A feeling of community
Sometimes I forget how much I love spending time with my family. It’s easy to fall into the habit of eating in front of the television or in separate rooms without communicating at all. Making dinner family-time means that we’re all sitting around the kitchen table enjoying each others company.
When I’m just cooking for myself, I tend to get into ruts. I may eat pasta with red sauce for three days in a row. When I know other people are going to have to eat whatever I cook, I generally put more thought into meals. By default, I’m adding more recipes to my repertoire and using ingredients I may not have thought to use otherwise.
My brother-in-law and I both feel very comfortable in the kitchen. My partner…not so much. But, by committing to cooking once a week, he’s building knowledge, skill, and confidence.
Since we never had a solid idea for dinner (or the ingredients on hand to make a cohesive meal), we tended to go out quite a bit. I’m not even going to admit how often. Now, we eat at home 5-6 days a week, which is saving us loads of money.
Eating out as often as we were isn’t the healthiest option we could have made. Eating at home means we know exactly what is going into our bodies. Sure, I may go overboard on the butter and cheese from time to time, but at least I’m aware of what I’m consuming.
Although this new system takes a little more effort from each of us, it’s been incredibly rewarding for my family. And if something goes terribly wrong, I have no shame in ordering pizza.