How often do you cook from scratch at home? And be honest!
If you’re anything like us, our number of homemade culinary escapades can vary heavily from week to week.
We all love and appreciate a thoughtfully prepared, made-from-scratch meal shared with family and friends.
But on the other hand…
We’ve bought countless orders on our favorite food delivery apps, gone out to eat multiple times a week, and rely on takeout and fast food when we’re ravenous on the commute home after a long day at work.
And with just a quick tour of our freezers and cupboards, you’ll soon discover our stashes of boxed meals, frozen flatbreads, ramen packs, jarred sauces, prepackaged cookies, and mac and cheese boxes.
There is no denying the ease and convenience of a drive-through meal, or a quick pit stop to pick something up at a favorite restaurant.
Sometimes – ahem, many times – it doesn’t seem worth it to cook or bake at home when the swift removal of a little plastic wrapping from a frozen pizza before plopping it in the oven is so simple.
For others who don’t cook often at home, you might be afraid to make mistakes, or don’t think you’re experienced enough to be a confident home chef.
The daily temptation is there for us to live 24/7 in a plastic-wrapped, dine-in-or-take-out world. And it’s as tasty and tantalizing as that 12-piece bucket of deep-fried fast food chicken.
We’re not telling you to totally transform your lifestyle here – we are all busy, and absolutely need to rely on convenient options to get good food in our growling bellies, at least from time to time!
But we are determined to inspire you to maybe tip the scale in the other direction just a bit, and begin to cook at home more often.
Even starting with a simple goal of preparing from scratch just one additional meal each week is a big change in a more healthful and creative direction.
Not entirely convinced?
Take a break from side-eyeing that bag of chips and container of dip – we challenge you to thrive on the many benefits of preparing food from scratch, starting with these seven big advantages!
7 Benefits of Cooking from Scratch at Home
1. Adapt to Healthy Lifestyles
Don’t be surprised – home cooking can be healthier for you, as long as you make disciplined decisions regarding the foods you prepare from scratch.
By taking 100% ownership of your ingredients, you can choose the best ones to add or eliminate from a recipe that will help you follow a specific healthy diet.
Once you decide exactly what you want to keep or discard from your diet plan, you’ll have further clarity to choose the best ingredients to cultivate a healthy lifestyle.
You’ll see how easy every grocery trip will be, and how much less stressful the cooking process is, once you have your game plan mapped out with a clear list of ingredients to buy for specific recipes.
2. Cater to Tastes and Preferences
The finicky kid. The picky adult.
We know them all too well, and you might have some living in your household.
Or you could be one of them.
Unless you go to the same favorite restaurant or fast food chain every single day for every single meal, you have to cook for yourself and the family eventually at home.
And who knows your tastes and preferences better than… you?
Preparing food from scratch at home is an easy solution to cater to your own specific list of demands, and it will keep you organized, controlled, and prepared for what others in the family prefer to eat.
If you know your fussy young one loves apples and PB&J sandwiches – great! Keep your crisper drawer stashed with fresh fruit, and your pantry cupboards full of bulk containers of peanut butter and grape jelly.
In a flash, you know exactly what to prepare ahead of time and bring with you when you and the kids are invited to a family event with questionable items on the menu.
And for the picky adult, it can also be helpful in various work situations – rather than accepting the limited options you have during your lunch break, make and bring your own lunch that you’ll actually enjoy eating!
And throw in a freshly baked cookie or two for a little treat at the end – we know a crowd pleaser when we smell one!
When you cook and bake from scratch, you can put the best of everything you want into your meal, without leaving it up to chance!
3. Gain Creative Freedom
The kitchen is more than just that room with a fridge and stove – it’s a warm and welcoming creative space!
Preparing food from scratch gives you the fun and energizing opportunity to be artistic, imaginative, and playful.
For an additional boost of motivation, consider coordinating this food exploration with your partner – each week, assign each other one recipe to try from a new cookbook, website, or video.
Another idea is to make something in different formats to have some fun with meal prepping – one example is making meatloaf in muffin pans for individual personal servings instead of a larger family-sized option.
Your creative side will flourish as you look for pleasing presentations for your made-from-scratch efforts.
Many restaurants and bakeries present food in specific ways – why not be inspired by your favorite businesses you typically frequent?
Our humble request for you here is simple – just have fun!
4. Hone Your Cooking Skills
When you’re cooking from home, there is so much to gain and nothing to really lose!
If the main reason why you don’t want to cook is because you’re afraid to make mistakes – we are more than happy to help you boost your confidence.
Our list of 21 common cooking mistakes reviews some of the most basic errors, and we’ll teach you what the solutions are for smarter cooking.
The mistakes you make in the kitchen are perfect opportunities for personal growth. And the more time you spend in the kitchen, the more experience you will gain, and the more able you will be to manage and fix any mistakes or problems you encounter.
The results won’t be instant – so have some patience! You’ll gradually start to develop your skills and confidence with every homemade recipe you prepare, especially after you review these three steps for beginner home cooks.
You’ll start to see improvements, especially when you make the same recipe more than once – your knife skills will become more swift, your dough kneading more powerful, and your tasting abilities more discerning.
You simply have to accept that developing your culinary and baking skills is a process honed and perfected over time – becoming a great home chef won’t happen overnight while you’re waiting for your pork to marinate or your bread dough to rise!
But honing your cooking skills will continue at a faster pace the more you spend time preparing a meal and baking in the kitchen.
With every onion you slice or chop, with every steak you sear to browned perfection, with every batch of gnocchi you roll by hand, and with every chocolate tart you craft, you’re continually growing as a home cook and baker.
5. Improve Quality Time with Others
When friends and family enjoy a homecooked meal, more time is spent at home together, from prepping and cooking to eating and cleaning!
The rest of the family might become curious enough to join you in the kitchen – you can consider those heavenly aromas wafting from the kitchen into the living room to be free marketing!
After a while, they might be interested enough to help make the entire meal with you.
Natural curiosity aside, you can also intentionally encourage your family members to help you cook, or bake together.
Decide to make dinner at home for your next date night, and cook together as a couple.
Or host a fun family gathering or party centered around the kitchen by choosing recipes that help to get the kids involved. Making personal pizzas, creating a DIY taco buffet, or rolling pasta together are all fun dinner options.
Dessert is even easier – a simple chocolate chip cookie recipe is an easy, introductory start to simple baking techniques.
This is your chance to share these skills with others. It is always fun when a whole family prepares a meal together, and it’s particularly meaningful when you introduce your friends and family to recipes passed down through the generations.
When you’re not eating fast food on the run between school and soccer practice, or work and more work, try to plan at least one meal when the family sits down at the table together each week.
Break bread, talk, and share this often short but significant time together!
6. Minimize Spending
Constantly going out to restaurants, as well as ordering takeout and delivery multiple times each week, can become quite expensive!
When it’s not managed well, this type of spending can make a serious dent in your budget, giving you less disposable income for other household needs.
While we choose to pay for restaurant dining and the experience surrounding that kind of atmosphere, this may not be the most sustainable option for many as a daily form of spending.
Food and labor shortages, utility bills and rent, and maintenance of equipment are just a few among the many reasons why you might see inflated costs and serious markups at food-related businesses.
And even though a trip to the grocery store also comes with its monetary punches, there are still ways to save by preparing food from scratch at home.
Buying in bulk is a smart way to save money – if you know there are a handful of essentials that you and the family eat regularly, switch to the bulk options rather than individual sizes. This can apply to a range of items like produce, drinks, frozen foods, and dry goods.
If you enjoy ordering drinks out, learn how to make a few favorite alcoholic beverages at home, or purchase bottles of wine and beer! By purchasing bottles of a few key spirits, liquors, and liqueurs, you can craft many cocktails right at home.
You’ll gain some bartending skills without dedicating a chunk of each check to individual drinks that you would have purchased at a bar or restaurant.
Although you will need some basic pieces of kitchen gear to get started when making meals and other food from scratch – like a stand mixer, food processor, or blender, these purchases are designed to last for years.
And the initial costs will certainly be worth every penny in a very short time, based on how often you use these essential appliances!
7. Relieve Stress in Multiple Ways
Once you learn how to cook from scratch, you will look forward to it as a pleasurable and relaxing event – most of the time!
There are many people who find repeated and routine kitchen tasks like prepping simple ingredients to be quite soothing, especially when you ease into a rhythmic motion of expertly using your knife or mandoline.
And this time presents the perfect opportunity to listen to your favorite music, or catch up on any podcasts you’ve been seriously behind on for the past few weeks!
If you really want to see how much of a stress reliever it can be, make some bread completely from scratch. But don’t use your stand mixer for kneading – use your own hands!
The breadmaking process includes kneading and punching, a physical way to unwind and release any tension.
Cooking and cleaning both involve a little manual labor, and we know that it’s not always fun. Find ways to divide these tasks in your household – you don’t always have to do everything!
If you live in a household where multiple people can cook, alternate cooking and cleaning responsibilities each week or month.
And take advantage of the benefits of meal prepping, an incredibly useful strategy that can significantly reduce stress in busy households.
If you have enough freezer space, prepare meals and other ingredients in bulk, divide them in airtight bags or containers, and relax knowing that you have backups available when you need them.
Scared? Simply Start Small!
The whole idea of cooking from scratch does not need to be scary or overwhelming.
You are not required to completely change your current way of life in just one day – continue buying your favorite burger and fries combo, and simply introduce home cooking techniques a little at a time!
Not every single item you prepare has to be made entirely from scratch. We understand that you may not be willing or won’t have the time for all that work.
You don’t need to churn homemade butter, make your own chicken or vegetable stocks, grind whole coffee beans, or break down a whole butternut squash – accept that there are some prep steps you shouldn’t have to worry about completing all on your own.
Rely upon a few store-bought convenience products you know you’ll need to get you through the week, and continue enjoying a weekly restaurant outing with friends and loved ones.
We only hope that you take a shot at preparing more food from scratch, and see the benefits for yourself!
And our advice doesn’t end here – we have even more helpful tips for when you’re in the kitchen. Read these articles next:
- 15 of the Best Ways to Use Overripe Bananas (Besides Bread!)
- How to Use Each Side of a Box Grater
- Potential Downsides of Sous Vide Cooking
© Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on August 13, 2014. Last updated on February 16, 2023. Uncredited photos via Shutterstock.
About Nikki Cervone
Nikki Cervone is an ACS Certified Cheese Professional and cheesemonger living in Pittsburgh. Nikki holds an AAS in baking/pastry from Westmoreland County Community College, a BA in Communications from Duquesne University, and an MLA in Gastronomy from Boston University. When she's not nibbling on her favorite cheeses or testing a batch of cupcakes, Nikki enjoys a healthy dose of yoga, wine, hiking, singing in the shower, and chocolate. Lots of chocolate.