ashley english by 21

small measures with ashley: eating in

image sources, clockwise from top left: the daily green, roberto pie, simple phase, backyard harvesting, woman’s day, nat creole

My husband and I are big stay-at-home’ers. From watching a movie in versus going out, to entertaining here versus meeting up with friends at a bar, to being home-based in our careers, we prefer to stay in (heck, we’re even planning on “staying in” for Nugget’s arrival). We love the comfort that being at home affords and often opt for it over going-out options.

This staying-in approach extends to our eating habits as well. More often than not, you’ll find us mixing, whisking, sauteing, and baking our meals in our kitchen as opposed to dining out. This decision is motivated by several factors. To begin, it’s geographically easier to eat at home when you live 10 minutes from the nearest dining destination (and that’s by car). It’s also considerably less expensive. For what we’d spend on ingredients in a dish that might last more than one meal, we’d be hard pressed to find a financial equivalent in a nearby restaurant (although, were we fast food eaters, we could probably do just fine, but that’s not the way we roll).

Furthermore, I’d argue that our food just tastes better. My husband does the lion’s share of the cooking around here. He does so with mindfulness to my eating preferences and propensities (“not too much cheese in my omelet, very little fried foods, nothing too terribly spicy, a heavy hand with herbs, a judicious use of fish sauce, pasta on only the rarest of occasions, etc.“) and a true chef’s heart, wherein freshness, playfulness, and inventiveness are always the order of the day. In short, his food is damn good and is my absolute preference (this holds true for friends and family, as we are rarely asked to dine at other’s homes, most of whom would rather eat here, as well).

Lastly, though, and perhaps most importantly, we elect to eat-in primarily because of the numerous opportunities for making sustainable food choices that doing so affords. Today’s small measure, then, is about eating in.  Creating food at home is an immensely conscientious way of exercising environmental stewardship, I’ve long maintained. To begin, there’s the issue of waste. For those of you who have worked in the food industry, as I have, you’re well acquainted with just how much waste is produced in this field. From the food left uneaten on plates to the packaging tossed into the trash can (unless the dining establishment recycles or composts), the amount of waste generated is massive. Cooking at home heavily curtails the production of so much preventable waste. Uneaten food can be composted, given to pets (my chickens LOVE it when they are permitted to get in on the culinary action), stored for later use, or rendered into new incarnations. Packaging can be properly disposed of, via recycling, or omitted entirely from the onset, through use of using one’s own containers, purchasing foods in bulk, and carrying cloth bags to the market.

CLICK HERE for the rest of Ashley’s “eating in” article after the jump!

If you keep a garden, no matter the size, you also considerably cut down on waste, as your produce won’t require the packaging often found in store-purchased items. The “field to fork” turnaround is drastically reduced as well. Considering that long-distance shipping accounts for a large percentage of the fossil fuels used in agriculture, grabbing fresh basil from your backyard (or balcony!) or even from a local farmer’s market for use in your kitchen is another way that eating in is a small measure towards benefiting our ecosystem.
In her blog “Not Eating Out in New York” Cathy Erway chronicles the advantages of cooking in versus dining out. Now available in book format, titled “The Art of Eating In: How I Learned to Stop Spending and Love the Stove”, the author details the benefits accrued by firing up the range. Interspersed between recipes and anecdotes are Erway’s “Reasons of the Month”, mini arguments in favor of the home-cooked meal. From the cheeky (Reason #39: Because the Hair In My Food Is Always Mine) to the health and flavor-oriented (Reason #17: Because You Can Salt To Your Taste), Erway articulates what provoked her to forgo dining out entirely from September 2006-September 2008 in a city where you can always find prepared (and often delicious) food right outside your door.

On of my food heroes, Michael Pollan, offers up my last argument in favor of DIY meals: knowing exactly what’s in it. As he opines in his book In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto: As cook in your kitchen you enjoy an omniscience about your food that no amount of supermarket study or label   reading could hope to match. Having retaken control of the meal from the food scientists and processors, you know exactly what is and is not in it: There are no questions about high-fructose corn syrup, or ethoxylated diglycerides, or partially hydrogenated soy oil, for the simple reason that you didn’t ethoxylate or partially hydrogenate anything, nor did you add any additives (unless, that is, you’re the kind of cook who starts with a can of Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup, in which case all bets are off). To reclaim this much control over one’s food, to take it back from industry and science, is no small thing; (here’s the kicker!) indeed, in our time cooking from scratch and growing any of your own food qualify as subversive acts.

In no way am I advocating the abandonment of eating out. I plan to do so in a couple of weeks, in celebration of both my husband’s birthday and our 3rd anniversary. I’m merely suggesting the notion that eating in allows you to connect with what Pollan refers to as the “web of relationships among a great many living beings, some of them human, some not, but each of them dependent on the other, and all of them ultimately rooted in soil and nourished by sunlight.” If you’re looking for ways to tread a bit more lightly on the planet (it is the only one we’ve got, after all, and it’s currently massively under siege by, among other things, a fountain of oil in the Gulf), consider eating in every so often. My sincere hope is that you’ll find it as nourishing on as many levels as hubs and I do. -ashley

*Speaking of eating (and drinking) in, I invite you to check out what has become a delicious homemade beverage staple chez English, my husband’s <a href=”“> Sublime Ginger Lemonade </a>. Seriously delicious, seriously addictive. Consider yourself forewarned.

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ashley english / small measures



Thank you Ashley! It’s so true… I love to eat out, but it always feels so decadent — by this I mean both calories and dollars! We eat in most nights of the week and even bring out own lunches to work because of all the reasons you list above. There’s nothing like a fresh simple dinner, whether a simple weeknight or a dinner party with friends.


Thank you! It’s so good to see a post about cooking at home. In addition to being more friendly to the environment, your finances, and often your taste buds, cooking at home makes you feel self sufficient in a way that restaurant food just can’t.


I love home cooking. It’s so much better for you and, even though good home cooking takes a level of skill above me right now, my husband and I are making a more concerted effort. Having great kitchen appliances is definitely helpful!


A great conversation starter Ashley! I certainly think the advocacy implies cooking and baking from scratch. As a family we don’t eat out much, but the convenience of prepared meals in the grocery store is what I often find myself trying to avoid. Making my own salad dressing may seem like too much work for some, but that extra 5 minutes means I know exactly what is in that dressing- how much fat, sugar and salt that I’m passing along to my family.


Home cooking is so much better than eating out, on so many levels. Last night’s homegrown salad was nothing like the plate of pale crunchy water served at many restaurants, and our backyard chickens loved the lettuce trimmings.


At least several times a week my boyfriend states that we cook so much better than any restaurant he knows of. He also made me so happy when we ate out the other night and he told me he’d ordered the chicken off the menu because he saw that it was locally raised. I think he just likes to toot my horn, but I love it.


Eating fresh healthy meals at home is the first step in becoming not only healthier but closer as a family. Great Article…Thank-you!!!


Ashley, I always enjoy your articles! You have touched on a subject near and dear to my heart with this one! Your views are so in line with my own it’s uncanny! I would add one more point…In our ever busy modern lives, cooking at home and eating in creates the added benefit of an opportunity for bonding time, with your significant other, spouse or family. I like to think of dinner time as a time to stop texting and start talking!


My one complaint about doing a lot of eating in (which we do) is ALL OF THE DANG DISHES! But it is totally worth it to know exactly what you are eating :)


Thank you for your article. Although it felt odd to me. I guess I’d need an article proposing to eat out. My family and me hardly ever eat out. Family recipes are a lot more precious than any fancy restaurant. I need to know what is in my food. I need to prepare food myself to appreciate the effort of having a proper meal. Prepared meals from grocery stores are also no option for me. I might be a little old fashined, but I believe preparing food and sharing meals with family and friends at a nicely set table is essential cultural and family life.


Amen to this post!
My boyfriend and I are definitely stay-at-home’ers as well. I can’t remember when was the last time we dined out. Oh and yes, homemade food tastes soooo much better – even though that means I cook 7 days/week and 3 times/day! But I love it. Just the idea of knowing what’s in my food makes me feel better already. :)


My 2 girls and I eat in for all the reasons you mention. My husband eats out AT LEAST 15 times a week. He goes out every week day for lunch, then brings fast food home for dinner. On the weekends, if he gets hungry, he will call in a pizza rather than make a sandwich. He will not eat at home and it KILLS me!

How do you convert someone??!!

Nikki Katz

My husband and I love to cook at home. We not only eat in a lot, but we like to plan a menu for 4 days at a time before we go to the store. This allows us to only buy the fresh ingredients we need so that nothing goes bad. We are also excited now that we have a house we have started growing our own veggies and herbs and composting our remains. They are not ready for harvest yet, but we can not wait until they are. Eating is one of the things we love to do together and that includes every step from going to the store to preparing the meal. I am glad to see that other people feel the same way. Our 6 month old will start solids soon and I can’t wait to come up with homemade goodies and teach him from the start to leave out the processed unhealthy stuff.


Thanks for this. My family and I “eat-in” 95% of the time. It is an enriching lifestyle. We often find that my daughters’ friends are sitting around a table for a “real dinner” for the first time in months when they sleepover. So many kids eat alone in their rooms, or in front of the TV with take-out, sad.


Ah! I love staying in and entertaining here too. Kudos to an amazing life!


I think the other side of this is to note that when you do eat out–and we do, usually once a week–eat locally! Avoid the chains–they tend to be over-salty and the ingredient lists a little questionable–and support your local economy. I don’t mind spending the money on a restaurant meal once or twice a week if I know the dollars stay in the area.


This post really hit home with me! We are quite attached to eating in – using fresh, local ingredients and enjoying spending time to create meals… where even the simplest meal is to savour! It’s wonderful to see so many others embracing these healthy homespun ideals! Love the blog too! Sam :)


Living in Cornwall UK the seafood and farm produce on our doorstep makes the local restaurants too good to miss! So many healthy, interesting and inventive menus around! I love to cook and have dinner parties at home but eating out and exploring the Counties culinary offerings is a real pleasure. As long as you pick places making an effort to be responsible / sustainable etc then i think its great to support local small businesses whilst getting out and about. In my opinion its’s all about balance, making responsible choices and doing your bit for a better future.

ashley english

Jen & Laurent-I couldn’t agree more. When I do eat out, I always seek out places serving local and seasonal foods. Such locales generally tend to be more ecologically responsible with their waste, as well. Thanks for the reminder!

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