Health starts in the kitchen
Health starts in the kitchen
I don’t have time to cook.
You’ve heard it. You’ve even probably said it yourself. Not having enough time to do things—cooking or otherwise—has become an increasingly common excuse as people become seemingly busier and busier.
But think about it: aren’t terms like “busy” and “not enough time” kind of relative? For one individual, being “busy” might mean working a nine to five job, then working another part-time job afterward, and finally, a blissful arrival at home at 9 or 10 p.m. For others, it might mean heading to work at 10 p.m., getting off at 6 a.m., sleeping for most of the day and then doing it all over again. And for the third set of people, it might mean not going to your standard nine to five job at all but working from home or taking care of kids.
So, if being “busy” means something different for everybody, how is it possible that people from many different walks of life simply don’t have the time to cook? Maybe not having enough time really isn’t the crux of the issue at all, but rather, cooking healthy meals on a regular basis just doesn’t seem like enough of a priority. Compared to tasks related to jobs, school, or childcare, it can be easy to forget how important the food that you put into your body really is.
Let’s put it into perspective.
No Time to Cook? Try Making Health Your First Priority
According to a 2013 study by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, food is the leading cause of poor health in the United States.  To make sense of this statistic, a Tufts professor calculated that, essentially, twice as many Americans die each year from eating hot dogs or other processed meats (58,000 deaths/year) than car accidents (35,000 deaths/year). Many factors are at play here: unequal access to high-quality food due to socioeconomic disparities, systematic issues in the healthcare system, and a need for higher quality standards and better labeling in the food industry. Unfortunately, most of these factors cannot be controlled on an individual level and will require intentional effort and policy change to be remedied.
However, the way in which you can take charge of your health, even with all of these systematic issues, is by bringing that better health to your very own table with home-cooked meals.
So, maybe the problem isn’t that you don’t have time to cook but that you haven’t been making cooking one of your top priorities. Again, it’s understandable. Grocery shopping trips, chopping vegetables, cooking proteins—it all seems like a lot of work, especially at the end of a long day. But is it really?
Cooking vs. Takeout: A Time Breakdown
So, you’re tired after a long day, and what do you know? You don’t have time to cook. Some might choose to hit the nearest drive-thru, but even that requires some work, so many choose to order take-out—whether that be a mountain of Chinese food, pizza with breadsticks, or another pick from a local restaurant.
Time aside, you’re probably already paying more than you would if you were to cook a similar meal at home. Between restaurants hiking up prices to pay for ingredients and employee wages, tips, and delivery fees, you’re probably already losing $15, if not more. It’s okay, you’ll take the financial hit, you decide. You just really don’t have the time. So, you order take-out and then proceed to wait at least 30 minutes for it to arrive, significantly more if there’s a dinner rush. Interestingly, 30 minutes is enough time to prepare a healthy, quick, and easy meal.
The same goes for carry-out from a drive-thru. Though you save some money because you’re likely getting fast food, which is cheaper than most take-out, you’re still not saving that much time. Between driving to the nearest fast food joint, ordering, waiting in line, and then driving back, you’re likely still spending about 30 minutes on the entire process.
Also, since we’re talking about wasting time, think about that bar on your phone that tells you how much of your day you spend just texting, talking, or playing mindless cell phone games. The average U.S. adult spends 2 hours and 51 minutes on their phones . Now that’s more than enough time to cook a meal—that’s even longer than the time it takes to cook a full Placemat meal filled with healthy, local ingredients for every dietary preference and occasion.
But, I was busy while I was waiting for the food to come. A very valid point, especially if you’re someone who works from home, or had just gotten back from work and wanted to squeeze in a workout or do some chores around the house. But are you this busy every day? Is every waking moment of your week consumed by something?
Even the busiest people likely have some time off during the weekends, and that’s the perfect opportunity for meal-prep. Cooked vegetables can be good for around three to four days in the fridge—the same goes for most proteins. If they’re stored in the freezer, many can last for up to three months . With this approach, eating a healthy meal is as easy as heating up food that you made. Still healthy, still local, but it takes even less time than take-out or a drive-thru.
And how about meals like oatmeal and eggs? They take no time to make but are packed with nutrients and can be paired with other healthy add-ons like natural peanut butter or berries for oatmeal and pre-washed spinach for the eggs.
Solving the “No Time to Cook” Problem
So, here’s what everything comes down to: the problem is likely not that you don’t have enough time, but a lot of the social myths of cooking have gotten to you too. Cooking doesn’t have to be hard or time-consuming, and you don’t have to cook every single day in order to eat healthy meals. And, it’s still possible to eat healthy even when you don’t have time to cook with a few simple tricks like meal-prepping or buying pre-cut vegetables or fruits if needed.
Most importantly, the key to having time to cook is keeping your top priority—your health—in mind. It’s not about doing the impossible and hoping to magically add more hours to the day—it’s about changing what you do with the hours you already have. Remember: you probably have more time than you think.