Home Cooking Means Healthy Cooking on a Budget


One of the benefits of home cooking is that it does allow healthy cooking on a budget. While classically trained chefs may whip together exotic ingredients to pamper your palate and the new, trendy chefs might create fusions of the most delightful kind, the dishes are not meant to save money. Nor are those recipes likely to make your cardiologist happy — unless he is heavily in debt.

Home cooking is popular with almost anyone and is one of the best genres for a small, independent restaurant.

What Is Home cooking?

Home cooking, no matter where in the world it originates, has a few common themes.

Fresh Ingredients

Like all of the best dishes, home cooking starts with fresh, quality ingredients. For generations home cooks have brought freshly picked corn, green beans, and other produce in from the garden to create simple dishes that live in our memories for decades. Things like pickled beets, wilted lettuce, corn on the cob, and creamed baby peas and new potatoes are loved by generation after generation. These are foods that were made from the items at hand and it is the freshness of the ingredients rather than their exotic flavors that keep them bookmarked in everyone’s recipe books.

Simple Ingredients

Think of the simplicity of a good potato soup or strawberry shortcake. There aren’t necessarily a lot of ingredients and the flavor profiles aren’t very complex at all. The charm of these dishes is in that simplicity — the ability to let the flavors of the ingredients take center stage. In the United States this might mean sun-warmed tomatoes sliced on a plate with just a quick twist of salt and pepper. In Mexico it could mean tender beef, seasoned perfectly and rolled in a soft tortilla. Different countries have different ingredients but the theme of simple ingredients stays the same where ever you are in the world.

Recipes that Come Together Quickly

No matter which culture or generation you are talking about one of the common denominators that defines home cooking around the world is ease and speed of preparation. Home cooks just don’t often have the leisure time to spend four hours on a meal. Either the food is slow cooked or it is tossed in the pan and served within a very short period of time. This also lends itself well to the home cooking style restaurant.

Foods Are Affordable

Most home-style recipes do not rely on expensive cuts of meat or unusual herbs from far off places. Soups and stews are made with leftovers, dried beans are simmered to sweet perfection in a rich, tangy sauce, and casseroles make meat stretch to amazing proportions. Most home cooks do not rely on things like caviar or ostrich but on the ingredients that are easily obtained.

Ingredients Are Healthy

Finally, one of the hallmarks of home cooking is that it tends to be healthy.  When food is fresh and simple it doesn’t need a lot of heavy sauces or pounds of salt added to make it more palatable. Grilled asparagus with an herbed compound butter carried with it an enormous amount of flavor without adding too many superfluous calories. Many home-style recipes are baked or sautéed rather than deep fried, and so are also healthier options.

Commercial “Home Cooking”

In order for a restaurant to succeed in the home cooking genre its menu must appeal to the deepest parts of the customers who eat there. It should build nostalgia and release pent up memories triggered by the foods from childhood. Its decor should be nostalgic as well so that it appeals to the eye as well as the palate.

One of the most successful ways of creating a loyal customer base is to have specials that change daily and consist of regional dishes.  Everyone is sure to get something that they love and you can bet that they will tell their friends.

Keeping it healthy, affordable, and memorable will keep people coming back to see what you have cooked up for them each day.

photo credit: ilovememphis via photopin cc

- Marye Audet

Marye Audet is an author, freelance writer, and editor. Cooking, baking, and recipe development have been a major part of her life since she baked her first loaf of bread at age 13. Luckily, with a husband, eight children, a son in law, and three grandchildren she has enough test-tasters to handle the steady stream of experiments that come from her kitchen.

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