Without a doubt, my largest expense every month (outside of rent) is eating out. I realized this only recently, when I sat down to get serious about my monthly budget and answer the question "Where the hell does all my money go all the time?" It's restaurants. Several times a week. A challenge that many families struggle with, and thanks to a recent study, we are starting to understand why.
An article in the January edition of the Appetite journal by Shannon M. Robson, Lori E. Crosby and Lori J. Stark surveyed 27 midwestern families with children between the ages of 3 and 10 who each reported that they eat outside of the home three or more times during the week.
The parents said they felt comfortable and confident preparing a home-cooked meal for their families, but they struggled in other areas related to picky eaters, conflicting schedules and their perception of how much a home-cooked meal really costs.
Here are some of the findings:
- The families said their children's after-school activities (like team sports) got in the way of dinner, as "children were not hungry or home at the typical dinner hour and parents did not want to cook after 8pm."
- The families felt that eating out was reinforcing because it "provided quality family time and diminished barriers such as picky eating."
- Parents estimated that preparing and eating a meal at home took significantly more time than driving and eating out – they guessed cooking at home took around 1 hour and 20 minutes and eating out took around 30 minutes.
- The families also significantly overestimated the cost of home-cooked meals compared to take-out and frozen meals.
The researchers suggestions for curbing your take-out appetite? Families need to work to address time management and their kids' picky eating, but also get educated about how to cook at home affordably.
Can you relate to the families in the study? What are your biggest hurdles to eating at home more often? How do you get over them?