After reading Kelly’s post yesterday, I wanted to share an article I read this weekend that really resonated with me.

But first, the two winners of yesterday’s coffee giveaways are SusiTravl and Steve Subrizi. Congrats, guys! Look for an email from me later today. img 31571 - IS Junk Food Cheaper? (and giveaway winners)

So onto this article. I should probably own up off the bat and admit that I love pretty much anything I read by Mark Bittman. I admire his ability to put into plain language the complex issues that health professionals have a hard time articulating.

Something nutritionists, doctors, and other health care providers—not to mention pretty much, well, anyone who buys, cooks or eats food—have been grappling with is the notion that junk food is less expensive than healthy food. This past weekend in the New York Times, Bittman took on this commonly-held belief in his article “Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?”

Bittman argues that cooking and eating at home can be both healthier and cheaper than dining in fast food restaurants and relying on processed foods. To illustrate his point, he shows how it can easily cost $28 for a family of four to eat at McDonalds, whereas a home-cooked meal consisting of roasted chicken, vegetables, salad, and milk sets a family of four (or even six) back by about $14.

He also addresses the issue of measuring value by calorie, saying that makes about “as much sense as measuring a drink’s value by its alcohol content.” He then goes on to discuss access to food: “If you can drive to McDonald’s you can drive to Safeway.”

From there, he discusses cooking. I tend to agree with Bittman that “cooking is the real challenge”—you need to get into the habit of using what time you have for food prep. That doesn’t mean you need to lay out a Thanksgiving-quality spread every night, but investing a few minutes or an hour here and there throughout the week can help make it easier to throw together a healthy, balanced meal, even on a weeknight.

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"Home cooked" doesn't have to mean this every day.

I love that he puts an emphasis on bringing back the pleasurable aspect of cooking. “Somehow, no-nonsense cooking and eating — roasting a chicken, making a grilled cheese sandwich, scrambling an egg, tossing a salad — must become popular again, and valued not just by hipsters in Brooklyn or locavores in Berkeley. The smart campaign is not to get McDonald’s to serve better food but to get people to see cooking as a joy rather than a burden, or at least as part of a normal life.”

Cheers to that.

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Beans-and-veggie dishes are easy to make ahead

Have 30 minutes? You can:

  • Wash and trim veggies for later use
  • Make hummus
  • Pre-mix dry ingredients for dishes like oatmeal
  • Make single-serving snack bags of nuts
  • Pack lunch for the next day
  • Set aside beans to soak overnight
  • Throw together sandwiches, salads, make eggs…

Have an hour?  You can:

  • Roast some vegetables. Pepper, eggplant, and cauliflower are some of the easiest.
  • Bake tofu, fish, or other favorite protein source
  • Boil some lentils for later use in salads, soups, and other dishes
  • Prepare vegetables for future meals or make extra at dinner
  • Make your family’s favorite healthy cookies or muffins—always better than store-bought sweet stuff

Have 2 hours or more? You can:

  • Roast a chicken
  • Make soup
  • Make homemade marinara sauce
  • Boil soaked, dried beans
  • Make granola
  • Prepare a big pot of brown rice or other grain to use throughout the week

How do you make time to cook? 

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