CHOICE membership

Home Made is Best (?)

Home made is definitely best

Many decades ago the US Consumer Reports (previously known as Consumer’s Union), the granddaddy of consumer advocacy, used to extol the virtues of home made this and that from bread to name it, and that approach spread throughout most of their tests of the times.

An astute subscriber wrote in (this was the 1960’s or 1970’s!) making the point it was not about which was best or most economical, but with the advent of both partners working and juggling families it was not about whether home made is best, but about whether there will be [hummus|bread|fill-it-in] or not for dinner.

The basic query was akin to ‘Would you work an extra 3 hours to make bread to save $0.50 after coming home from work or do you want dinner?’ It made the point and over the next year there was a slow but obvious shift whereby the organisation adopted a more contemporary approach and editorial style because they also realised some people feel marginalised or inadequate when they are on the receiving end of ‘home made is best’ about most everything when they are working to get by and do not have the time or sometimes the skills to do home made. From organisations like Choice they want to know about the best they can buy. Some see discussions extolling ‘home made’ as a judgement on them, not a discussion on the [food]. We are not all contestants on cooking shows :wink:

‘Home made is best’ seems to pop up in most of the food discussions… hence this comment.


I recall an article from the 1990’s which stated that many apartments being built in the US did not have kitchens as many residents could not cook.

They simply had a fridge and a microwave.

Very sad.



I don’t know of anything we cook in the kitchen (inc. bread) which takes 3 hours to prepare. To cook, yes, but not to prepare.

If one adds the time taken to travel to and from the supermarket, as well as the time within the supermarket to pick up say a pre-prepared evening meal because one can’t be bothered cooking. Time saved by buying prepared meals is quickly eaten into by the additional time to go and get the meal.

The major advantages of home cooked meals is they are

  • fresh,
  • healthier
  • not overly processed, and
  • usually low in salt, sugar and other food additives

They also are more delicious as one can tailor make the meal to one’s one taste.


I think you have reinforced my point. My comment was from the 1960-70s and 3 hours is 3 hours.

We shop once per week and it takes about 3 hours all up. Might be atypical or typical. Even for home cooked one needs to get ingredients. Of course home grown ingredients are probably better than store bought one, too, right? Don’t have a garden?!

I neither dismissed nor challenged that. My topic is that sometimes those ‘benefits’ are secondary to having something for dinner. Unintentionally demeaning those who cannot/do not for their own reasons is something some folks are not sensitive to.


I was surprised to find that there are many in urban areas that shop on a daily (or many times per week). Once what is for dinner is decided, there is a trip to the local supermarket to get it.

The comment was about making a special trip to the supermarket because one can’t be bother cooking what is in the pantry, fridge or garden. A special trip for an ‘easy’ evening meals to save time, won’t necessarily save time.


For a while I enjoyed grocery shopping 2-3 times a week as something of a social occasion out. It is different when one is retired than when one has daily obligations. More recently we make a weeks menu and stock up in one go with the occasional top up required.

As an evolutionary reality using the UK for example, the local grocers (at least in the major cities) feature a wide range of quick ready made meals office workers grab on their way home, and those are becoming more common locally. Some of them are actually pretty tasty.

The genre of Hello Fresh, et al, demonstrate how different people have different priorities and the market is filling in the ‘pieces’. No need to go out for the ingredients, or plan the menu, all done except the ‘cooking’.

But my premise was and remains that ‘home made is best’ is not possible for everyone, and some are put off or feel diminished when it is always in their faces that they are somehow inadequate for not being able, or even if able choosing not to.

My inclination is to think the majority of consumers are interesting in buying the best they can; those who are not so interested are self sufficient or happily able to ‘home made’ it.

Back to the Consumer Report period, they also extolled how much $ could be saved my making clothes instead of buying them… if that were proposed today I suspect most eyes would roll.


Near impossible today, as the cost of the material exceeds the cost to buy a ready made piece of clothing. The main (only?) advantages (my other half says in relation to sewing) is the self satisfaction when it is completed and being able to make something is is unique and won’t be seen being worn by others.

BTW, in some cases, making curtains and some other fabric products is still cheaper than readymades.


My impression from seeing the number of people in the various junk food chain outlets in town at all times of the day, is that a significant number of people don’t care what they eat!
But perhaps that isn’t typical, as I have read that Tamworth is one of the highest ranking, if not the capital, of overweight people in Australia.


About the 1970’s(?) was the rise of the frozen dinner and keeping goods in a freezer for later consumption, which reduced the frequency of food shopping. It was one of a number of social trends that allowed the Home-maker more freedom, less time in the kitchen, shopping, washing etc.

Roles started to change too. Cooking, child care, housework was no longer solely a woman’s job and women started to enter the workforce. That was a double edged sword. Advances gave them more time, but work gave them less. But it increased the spending power of a family unit.

I would argue that the move to ready made foods also advantaged single men. Often leaving home without basic food cooking skills, their diet was restricted to cafes, pubs and snacks.

Then we became fearful of the Additives in processed foods. I remember (and I still have) the Choice book demystifying all those numbers on labels. There were lots of reports that xyz causes cancer, usually debunked over time. Perhaps this was a backlash at ready-made Vs honest home baked.

We have come a long way (some would argue not!) from the dreadful Frozen TV Dinner and now have a wide array of ‘complicated to cook’ foods readily available at far less cost than if we sourced the ingredients and prepared it ourselves. Take hummus as an example. For me to source a small amount of raw chickpeas, cook, de-skin, mash would cost more than $1.99 for the Choice best recommended.

Is Home-Made better? If the extra cost, time and effort is appreciated and the product is good; then Yes. If you value food miles and grow it and process it yourself so you know exactly what is in it and its environmental impact, then Yes again.

But if like Mr Z, a particular bread takes his fancy and try as much as I can, I can’t replicate the Bakery’s product, then I am happy to travel 30km and pay $3.90. Ditto with the $7.99 Hot Chook. All combined with a trip to town for other things of course.

Is Ready-made better? I am in a rural area - if you are invited somewhere you turn up with a home cooked cake, scones, or at least bought crackers & cheese if you top it with home-made pickles; but in the last 5 years in my circle of friends that’s changing and store bought is becoming acceptable, in fact normal. A lot of R&D went into turning out a tasty product. Sometimes that is trumped by home-made. Take Choice’s Banana Cake review. The highest scoring was Fiona Mair’s home-made recipe (which I regularly use).

To replicate ready-made meals requires a good pantry of herbs, spices, additives, etc which may be beyond the small household; only needing a pinch of cardemon or a slice of avocado, the rest may go off. I rarely cook cakes now and just recently had to throw out 1/2 kg of flour that was 2 years past and bitter. But I still love growing and cooking my own food.


Perhaps they actually like it and care about taste and convenience and nothing else?


I would suggest that apart from the processed point, all of these are optimistic assumptions. It all depends on who is doing the cooking, what their skill level is, what they are able to cook, what food they have at hand to cook with, their living conditions, and what they can afford as ingredients.

It would seem that most of us who post here follow sensible and healthy diets, but I know from first hand observation that not everyone cooks healthy food. Contributing factors to a poor home prepared diet may include cultural background, poor poximity to fresh food, time, low education levels, budget & socio-economic status, etc.

So when considering whether home cooked is best or not, spare a thought for all those who’s home cooked diet is not so healthy or appropriate to our climate.

I am not saying pre-prepared food is better, but in some circumstances home cooked can be downright unhealthy.


One of my wife’s sisters and her husband used to eat a lot of very large pork forequarter chops, and after removing the rind from the cooked meat, they would return the rind to the BBQ and cook it until crisp and eat it.

They are both now in very poor health.

Many indigenous women used to buy the large packs of lamb forequarter chops at Coles as it was the cheapest meat available at around $7/kg but certainly not the most healthy.

Of course. Coles and Woollies have now jacked the price up to $17/kg making them much more expensive than the likes of corned beef.

Personally, we buy the healthiest cuts when marked down or on special, or both.


It’s understandable that busy/working people with little time to spare for cooking would turn to already-made or frozen ready-meals (perhaps as a healthier alternative to Take-away).
And they shouldn’t be made to feel bad about it.

But if we consider: how long does it take to make a pasta in tomato sauce dish; or make stir-fry veggies; or pan-fry chops or sausages; or open a can of cooked legumes, place in a deep saucepan with whatever herbs and flavours you like, add stock, and when boiling add short pasta. Just 10 minutes later you have a filling nutritious bowl of soup.

As far as taste is concerned there’s no comparison: Pesto for example, takes only a few minutes to make; the store bought one only tastes of garlic, and they have added lemon juice so that it doesn’t turn black!

PS Having baked my own bread and biscuits during the Covid19 lockdown I’m not advocating extreme home cooking, it just gave me something to do and minimised contact, but it is time-consuming and labour-intensive!


One day you will retire, and can get back to cooking your own meals.

You should look forward to it.

LBNL you can still keep your skills up on Saturday and Sunday. AM, Midday and PM!

And, you can prepare ready-cooked meals at the same time and put them in the fridge / freezer.

Tim Bailey


I think there is more pressure on cooks to come up with unique, interesting, tasty meals all the time. Possibly pressure from the TV cooking shows who turn out chef standard plated meals. I have spoken to people who feel stressed with the pressure of having to come up with creative meals every day, while also working and thinking about a thousand other things.

The meal kits (Hello Fresh, Dinnerly etc) try to bridge the gap, by providing interesting recipes with portioned ingredients for the home cook.

Even the CSIRO’s Total Wellbeing Diet is complicated - today I should be cooking - breakfast of Cheesy Basil Scrambled Eggs, lunch - Lunchbox nacho kit with pico de gallo, avocado and cheddar, & Chicken liver, beetroot, fig and spinach salad tonight. So much left over (one slice of avo and none in the next 3 days - so out it goes - or would if I was following the recipes).

And they wonder why people give up. The basics are there, (you only have to do the Units of protein, carbs etc), but they present it in complicated recipes that need home cooking.

Maybe it is our generation … but I notice that older people are very happy with simple meals and happy to have the same days running. I cook a stew and Mr Z is happy to have it reheated (actually asks for it) for days rather than freeze it and have something different each day.


Geez, I just cook whatever I feel like at the time based on what I have available, there is no menu planning. Cooking your own meals shouldn’t be complicated!

I understand pasta is better for you after reheating, which I often do - leftovers simplify cooking :wink:


Very true. I suppose I was describing my own experience. There is however the opportunity for anyone to easily achieve each of these outcomes should one chose to do so. Buying pre-packaged, ready prepared meals the opportunity to achieve these outcome is very difficult or near impossible.

We are the same. I could never eat something that others tell you to eat … it is like someone telling you what to wear each day.


My wife and I are very happy to eat the same meal for several days as it is both more economical and more convenient.

Roasts cooked on the BBQ and the roasted veggies are much simplier to prepare and cook for 4 nights and to simply rewarn in the microwave and the air fryer.

Lambs fry & bacon is fantastic for consecutive nights, as are numerous other dishes.

Baked beans and bacon cooked in a saucepan also lasts for around 3 to 4 meals.

When your home cooked meals are delicious, why would you not want to eat the same meal for a few days.

As the old John Laws radio ads used to say years ago when he was spruiking Mortein, “When you are on a good thing, stick to it.”

At least until he jumped ship to Pea Beu.

Great article.


And further down from that article is this

This mentions deaths and food poisoning from pasta infected with B. cereus. Pasta that has been cooked, cooled (room temperature or fridge) and then reheated. The article does not specify 5 days as the catalyst as the deaths mentioned are from different time periods and methods. I think the ‘5 day’ title was click bait.


I think the article is click bait, especially when and cooked foods which are handled the same way has increased potential of food poisoning the longer it is stored. While some foods the time is shorter, especially those which are loose and allow air entry and have large surface area (like rice, pasta, cous cous etc) the risks apply to all foods.