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Recession lesson: Cooking is fun

Forced to eat at home, consumers find they like it. The rise of celebrity chefs and recipe websites has fueled the trend.

By Teresa Mears Feb 1, 2011 1:58PM

We've finally found a silver lining to the recession: More people are cooking at home and enjoying it.


They even plan to keep it up when their financial situation improves.


While that isn't necessarily good news for the restaurant business, it is good news for consumers, most of whom can produce healthier and better meals at home than they can buy in a restaurant.


"People are becoming not only accustomed to eating at home, they're enjoying it," Darren Tristano, executive vice president of restaurant consulting firm Technomic, told Ellen Gibson of The Associated Press. "They can sit in front of their 50-inch flat-screens and not have to tip a waiter."


This is how Gibson explained recent developments:

Instead of handing their money over to mediocre eateries during the week, people are saving up for the occasional nice meal, says Stifel Nicolaus analyst Steve West. Meanwhile, cooking has become hip, says Rick Smilow, president of the Institute for Culinary Education, where registration for recreational courses was up 10% last year.

A survey by the market research company Mintel found that 60% of people who eat out said the recession had changed the way they spend their food budget. And 24% plan to eat out less this year than they did last year.


The rise of the celebrity chef on TV is making the culinary arts hip among a generation who didn't learn to cook at home because many of their parents didn't cook much, either.


Arien Rozelle and her boyfriend are eating at home on weekends to save money, Gibson reported. To make it fun, they act out their own version of "Iron Chef": One buys random ingredients and challenges the other to create an interesting dish.


Emily Co at Medill Reports writes that social media and online recipe sites have helped make home cooking more popular. She has charts showing the rise in use of recipe websites and the decline in restaurant sales (as well as a healthier recipe for red velvet cupcakes).


She interviewed Tim Chen, 32, a Chicago software engineer whose love of home cooking came as a result of trying to save money during the recession. Chen loves being able to find recipes online. He told Co: "It's easy to find what you want based on your mood. With books you only get what you were in the mood for when you bought the book."


When, one of the most visited food websites, polled its users in 2009 about why they were cooking more, most listed the economy as the reason. But in 2010, the poll respondents said they were cooking at home because they enjoyed it


"I think that home cooking is definitely expanding," Stephanie Robinett, director of communications at Allrecipes, told Co. "(We see people) participating with food social-networking sites, sending recipes to friends via Facebook, or emailing recipes to friends. The more technology becomes a part of cooking, the more the younger generation will start to take part in it."


Are you cooking more? Are you finding that you like eating at home better than eating out?


More from MSN Money:

Feb 1, 2011 4:03PM
It's true, I have gotten more gutsy after watching cooking competitions.  I don't exactly love cooking; I find it a bit stressful, especially with a small kitchen and no dishwasher.  But I do like eating...
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