On most days though, I’m hesitant at best about putting fast-food in my family’s mouth. It’s costly, often laden in salt and fat, and frankly isn’t nearly as good as what I can make at home.
Not that we don’t suffer from our chaos. The 30-minute window between getting the kids home and when we leave for soccer or scouts seems to fly quickly by. Sometimes, there doesn’t seem to be much time to even whip up spaghetti or quesadillas. But we do it anyway.
Taking the long route to putting food on the table may not be easy, but for almost all Americans it remains a choice, and if you can drive to McDonald’s you can drive to Safeway. It’s cooking that’s the real challenge. (The real challenge is not “I’m too busy to cook.” In 2010 the average American, regardless of weekly earnings, watched no less than an hour and a half of television per day. The time is there.)Yesterday’s New York Times asks “Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?” and answers a resounding no. Bittman cites the costliness of his local McDonald’s, where a meal for a family of four could easily top $28. Here in the Midwest, take the simplest of meals, the kids’ meal, for each of us, and I’m out $12 to $15. That buys me on the busiest of days a rotisserie chicken, a package of microwave rice, and veggies to steam, with room for a gallon of milk. (Cooking time: Five minutes.) And there's likely leftovers for lunch, as well as the makings of chicken broth later.
- Mark Bittman, New York Times, Sept. 25, 2011
Sure, my children clamor for the thrill of Happy Meal toys, but they know that eating out is a treat, not a right. It’s reserved for special occasions, and we leave it there. As Bittman writes:
Children, after all, are born without bad habits. And yet it’s adults who must begin to tear down the food carnival.