Saturday, June 7, 2008

Pop Quiz: Fast Food vs. Home Cooking

Common excuses used to justify eating fast food instead of cooking something yourself is that it takes too long to cook, it's too much work, and I've even heard it said that it's cheaper to hit the local drive thru instead of cooking something yourself. Let's see if that's true. Here are two meals:

Meal A is a hamburger from a local fast food restaurant. It has bacon, cheese, tomato, lettuce, pickles and onions on it. It comes with French fries, ketchup, and a soft drink.

Meal B is a baked tilapia filet, seasoned with some Old Bay low sodium seasoning, with steamed peas and corn and a glass of skim milk. Also included but not pictured, because it was eaten while the tilapia was in the oven, was a lettuce and tomato salad sprinkled with a little cheddar cheese and lightly drizzled with a low fat salad dressing.

  1. Which meal took less time to prepare?

  2. Which meal was less work to prepare?

  3. Which meal was cheaper?

  4. Which meal is more nutritious?

I'm sure it will come as no surprise that Meal B is the more nutritious meal but it might be a surprise that Meal B was also faster, less work, and cheaper to prepare.

Preparing Meal A consisted of getting in my car, driving to the local fast food place, waiting in line at the drive thru window, and then driving back home with my meal. I could have shaved a little time off by going to a closer fast food restaurant but not a whole lot. While not exactly a lot of work, obviously I couldn't do anything else while driving.

Preparing Meal B consisted largely of taking things out of bags and putting them in bowls or cookware. The lettuce portion of the salad was ready made so it was a simple matter of taking a couple of handfuls out of the bag and putting them in a bowl. I used cherry tomatoes that had to be rinsed off in the sink before adding to the salad but that didn't exactly take a lot of time. The cheese was already shredded. The tilapia simply needed to be taken out of the bag, put in a baking dish, sprinkled lightly with seasoning, and put into the oven, which I'd pre-heated while making the salad. The peas and corn came in single serving packs that simply had to be put in the microwave and heated for a couple of minutes. Very little work with most of my time spent waiting for the fish to be ready during which I ate my salad while watching television.

So what about cost? Meal A ran just a hair over $6 while Meal B was around $4.

Nutrition-wise, it's no contest. Meal A is high in fat, starch, and processed sugar. Meal B is low fat, has a nice bit of fish, and several servings of vegetables.

It's easier than ever to make simple, nutritious home cooked meals. The next time you're at the grocery store, take a good look around. You might be surprised at the amount of healthy, nutritious food that comes ready to eat or cook these days.


Snorii said...

If you grab something on the way home from work, it might be faster, but thanks for the entry. It all makes sense, but it is nice to have a little more motivation to cook myself healthier meals. Thanks.

Rip Ford said...

Oh sure. My perceptions are colored by the fact that I presently work from home so the kitchen is just a few steps away while I have to jump in the car to hit a fast food place. When I worked downtown, there were burger, mexican, and fried chicken fast food places on the way home and it wouldn't have taken long to stop at one and pick something up. For that matter, pizza is never more than a phone call away.

I was just trying to make the point that cooking a decent meal at home doesn't have to be time consuming or a lot of work.