1) Let’s talk about the benefits of home-cooked meals.
A study Marcotte cites is super-focused on the burden of cooking and how stressful it is to prepare a meal. Don’t I know it. My family eats together every single night. The vast majority of the time — basically all the time — we eat home-cooked meals. Sometimes these meals are more like “home-heated-up fish sticks!” and sometimes they’re more complex, but when my husband and I married, I insisted that we begin eating together as a family and we do. It’s unbelievably difficult to plan and execute meals. I hate it half the time. And I love cooking! But the grind of having to figure out what we’re eating, shopping for the ingredients and adjusting based on high produce and meat costs, and then timing the whole meal to come out at the right time … it’s hard. I’m not going to lie.
One of the main reasons we do it is for the integrity of our family and the discipline of time together. We have a tradition of watching (and discussing) Jeopardy! together at the front end of our meal and then discuss our day and plans for the next day after the Final Jeopardy round is complete. Through this regular time together, we grow together as a family. We learn about what’s bothering our kids or we learn hilarious stories about the days’ events. The kiddos get to learn how adults talk to each other and they learn how to eat at a table politely so that when we do go out to restaurants, they behave. If we go over to friends’ houses, the kids know how to not bother the adults as well. Yes, it’s work, but the benefits are many.
And I hate to appeal to studies … but … studies indicate that eating together as a family helps protect children from the effects of bullying and is usually associated with lower rates of eating disorders and teen pregnancy as well as higher GPAs and self-esteem.