There are plenty of obvious topics for a blog focused on making your life easier: time management tips, career advice and even a little personal finance information. But cooking advice doesn’t immediately come to mind. Considering how much time we each spend daily on eating — let alone eating healthily and cheaply — I think a little cooking advice could be very productive, and I’ve got nine good reasons why.
- Good nutrition makes for a productive mind. When we’re busy, we eat poorly: vending machines, fast food, etc. But we often wind up more tired with each bite. Learning a bit about cooking and nutrition can steer us towards food that can help us think better, as well as takes minimal effort to prepare. While nutritional information doesn’t show up on many productivity blogs, even a few tips on the meals that can help us get through the work day are relevant.
- Cooking saves money. Eating at restaurants or picking up prepared food costs money — significantly more than you would pay for ingredients, and often more than the cost of labor can explain. Cooking (especially from scratch) allows you to not only cut out the cost of labor, but to plan meals around inexpensive ingredients. Other costs factor in as well: travel to and from the restaurant, drinks (I’ve seen places charging $2 for essentially a can of soda, not to mention the cost of alcohol), and the tip for the server.
- Making a meal can actually be faster than ordering one. If I order a pizza, it can take 30 minutes for that meal to make it to my door. If I actually have to leave my office or home to pick up food, it can take significantly longer. But I can name off hundreds of meals that I can make in under 10 minutes as long as I have the ingredients in my kitchen (omelet, pasta, sandwich, salad and many more). I can even bake cookies in less than 20 minutes if I need a sweet snack.
- Being able to cook makes for a relatively inexpensive hobby. While there are a few cooks who need each brand new gadget, cooking, as a rule, is still cheaper than many hobbies. After all, you will still need to buy food whether or not you cook it yourself. And hobbies are good for the brain — being able to step away from work and do something you enjoy can be the best way to make sure that you return to work refreshed and relaxed.
- Meal planning makes planning the rest of your schedule easier. You’ll know when to go grocery shopping, when to start dinner and get a better grip on your schedule in general. Everybody has to eat at some point during the day, and there’s no reason to let yourself get out of sorts because you forgot to eat, or ate too much. Furthermore, meal planning can help you keep food expenses down as well as stay on track to eat nutritionally. Personally, it’s also cut the time I spend at the grocery store, trying to decide what to buy, in half. I can get in, get out and get on with far more interesting things on my task list.
- Cooking can help you become more environmentally friendly. Say you pick up a bunch of individually prepared meals — Hot Pockets, microwavable burritos, whatever. At minimum, there will be some sort of plastic wrap, but you may also have a box or a plastic bag — a lot of wrappings that go straight in the trash. On the other hand, if you cook, you can use reusable containers and dishes. There are tons of ways to use your kitchen to make your life greener.
- Eating right can keep you healthy. All of us who spend a lot of time at the computer worry about staying fit. While it isn’t enough to replacing exercising, eating well can reduce the need to exercise. The difference between working off a burger from McDonalds and a homemade salad is worth a little effort in the kitchen, I think. But we all need a starting point — knowing that eating a few more vegetables isn’t enough to balance most of our diets.
- Eating at home saves on gas money. I’d much rather pay for the gas to go to the grocery store once a week than have to worry about filling up to go out to a whole list of restaurants. While I don’t begrudge the gas to go a nice restaurant, the damage to both my wallet and the environment doesn’t seem to be as justified for a trip through the drive-thru, especially if I have to go out several days running. I can also plan my errands and pretty much all of my travel time better if I know where meals fall on my schedule and what I need for each one.
- You can cement a relationship with a good meal. There’s a reason that offering to cook for your significant other can make for a special date. Eating is a fairly intimate act — and you can make it more so by cooking the meal. Romantic relationships aren’t the only ones you can help along with a good meal. Cooking for friends or even business contacts can make a lasting impression. I don’t cook for many of my business contacts — but ones that I want to deepen our relationship to friendship beyond the office are often invited to a meal.
There are so many ways in which a little time spent in the kitchen can help us lead more productive lives. I think cooking has — excuse the pun — earned a spot at the table.