Categorized | Business, Restaurants

Home cooking more popular during the recession

appliancesfinalBy WINNIE ANDREWS

Angelina Russo has an economizing strategy that includes buying pre-made cupcake mix.

“Cupcakes at Magnolia are $2.50 to $3 apiece so it’s a lot cheaper,” Russo says. Russo is comparing prices of cupcakes from the popular Manhattan shop to those she could bake from mix at the Madison Avenue Crate and Barrel. The box of coconut cupcake mix makes 10 cupcakes and costs $10.95. She notes that the same price would buy only four cupcakes at Magnolia.

Russo is cooking more and going out less because of the recession, she said. She is a home attendant for the elderly and lives with her husband and their 19-year-old daughter in New York City. Before the economic crisis, Russo, 40, ate out one or two times per week. Now, she eats in restaurants only one time every two weeks.

Like Russo, many Americans are eating in to save money. This year, 52 percent of restaurant goers aren’t eating out as often as last year, while 42 percent are eating in cheaper restaurants, according to a Zagat survey released in early October. The same survey indicates that 21 percent of restaurant eaters aren’t ordering extras such as appetizers and desserts.

The shift towards eating at home might inspire consumers to buy more ladles, food processors and wine racks. Kitchen appliances will be one of the few consumer goods that fare well during this holiday season, according to predictions by the marketing information company Nielsen. This would be one of the exceptions to otherwise sluggish holiday spending; Nielsen predicts that eighty-five percent of American households will either maintain or reduce their holiday spending from last year.

Cooking utensiles at Crate and Barrel (Photo: Winnie Andrews)

Lorraine Marcus was browsing the Crate and Barrel kitchenware on a recent afternoon. When asked if the economy has changed her restaurant habits, she responds with an emphatic “yes!” Before last year, she went out about five times per week, now she is going out once a week, she said.

Candace Plostoker, a PR fundraising consultant from Long Island, was also at Crate and Barrel looking for dessert plates. She hasn’t changed her restaurant habits much over the last year, she said, but does look for cheaper grocery prices than before the recession.

Dining at home can save a chunk of change. The average meal for one person in New York costs $40.78, according to a Zagat survey. The most expensive meals in the country can be found in Las Vegas, where an average receipt rings up at $44.44, about $10 more than the national meal average.

Cathy Erway, a copywriter in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, stopped eating in restaurants in 2006. They were too expensive and she was bored with the monotony of always eating the same dishes, she said. So Erway swore off restaurants and began cooking her own meals.

Erway saved $212 a month by cooking at home, or about $5,000 over the course of the two years she stayed out of restaurant seats, she said. The biggest challenge was planning lunches in advance. However, she got the hang of it eventually. “I started to adapt to the routine, I realized it was pretty easy to do and I just kept going,” she said.

During her break from restaurants, Erway started a blog about cooking called “Not Eating out in New York.” She said there were a few kitchen gadgets that she particularly liked. A food processor is particularly good for making hummus inexpensively, and makes preparing pastries a lot easier, she said. “It’s not necessary, but I find that I can make a lot more things now with it,” she said. Erway also likes electric ice-cream makers and said she likes to make inventively flavored ice cream with it.

The trend towards home cooking could be good for overall health. Maudene Nelson, a nutritionist at Columbia University’s Institute of Human Nutrition, said restaurant food tends to be higher in fat, sodium and protein, and those who cook their meals eat more fruits and vegetables than their restaurant-going counterparts.

Nelson encourages home cooks to use what she calls “the plate method:” one-third or less of a dinner plate should be filled with protein like meat or beans, one-third with vegetables, and one-third with carbohydrates like spaghetti, noodles, rice or sweet potatoes.

Cooking classes are also doing well.  Business is strong at Pizza a Casa, a mobile cooking school and catering company in Manhattan. The company’s owner Mark Bello said his 5-hour pizza courses routinely sell out. They cost $150 per class.

Bello said being in the kitchen appeals to people. “In addition to it being economical, cooking really brings people together,” he said.

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This post was written by:

Winnie Andrews - who has written 7 posts on NY Food Chain.

Winnie is a native Californian interested in covering immigration issues, education, health care, and of course, food. She is concentrating in Digital Media at Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. Winnie graduated from U.C. Berkeley with a double major in English and French. She has interned for several public radio stations, including KQED in San Francisco and KXJZ in Sacramento as well as Capitol Weekly, a public affairs newspaper in Sacramento, California. Winnie worked in France for a year before landing at Columbia. There, she enjoyed speaking French and trying to figure out French culture. She is interested in international reporting.

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3 Responses to “Home cooking more popular during the recession”

  1. Trey says:

    Coffee makes our hearts skip a beat and fall in love with it again. And kitchen aid coffee makers bring coffee closer to our hearts, making it more tasty and easier to make.

  2. Coffee Club says:

    The main reason why home cooking is more popular this times is many people are now saving money, especially many people are losing their jobs.


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