A recipe for disaster is stirring up new food for thought.
In response to an economic downturn, more people are opting to eat at home than they had a decade earlier.
The trend has led to a greater appreciation of local grocery stores, a proliferation of cooking classes offered to would-be domestic chefs, and has resulted in more families spending time together at the dinner table.
"I think things have changed," said Christina Altieri, who works at the Cambridge Food Co-op, which boasts an ever-expanding line of wholesome and affordable natural foods.
The store, which has been located in Cambridge for 30 years, expanded in November 2009 to a more highly visible space that is triple the size of the previous location in order to meet a growing consumer demand.
"Before the move, we were bursting at the seams," Altieri said.
The store’s expansion has been met by a larger customer base, which in turn enables the company to place bigger orders and get better pricing.
The trend of purchasing healthy food that can be cooked at home has been affirmed by a number of studies recently.
Nearly three out of every four Americans prefer to eat their meals at home today, compared to approximately half of those who reported doing so seven years earlier, according to a new report issued by the American Dietetic Association Foundation.
A new Rasmussen Reports survey conducted in January reported similar findings, with 73 percent of adults saying they enjoyed a good home-cooked meal more than dining at a fine restaurant. The survey also reported an increase over the previous year in the number of times families sit down to share dinner together.
"I think it’s a combination of what is happening financially, but also people are more health-conscious and they get pleasure cooking at home," Altieri said.
"It’s a big topic here. People come in, they exchange their recipes and post them on the bulletin board," she added.
As more people have decided to eat their meals at home, a proliferation of cooking classes from the Battenkill Kitchen in Salem to Chianti Il Ristorante in Saratoga Springs have begun offering culinary lessons.
Restaurateurs have been undergoing creative changes as well to respond to the trend.
"We’ve been here 15 years, so we see the fluctuation and we’ve noticed there has been a drop, especially during the weekdays," said David Pendinotti, owner of One Caroline Street Bistro and The Mouzon House, both in Saratoga Springs.
Pendinotti said his daughter Kaitlyn, a culinary student in Brooklyn, came up with a home delivery and customer take-out option that the restaurant recently implemented to provide the restaurant’s quality dining-out experience with the comforts of home.
"I think people are thinking of finances. This is a healthy option and it’s a good deal," said Pendinotti, adding that customers eating at home experience savings by not having to pay gratuities on top of a bill, and they tend to pick up their own bottle of wine to have with their meals in the home.
In addition to cost savings, Americans seem to be more conscious of making quality food decisions.
A 2010 report issued by the National Grocers Association noted that in addition to the overwhelming majority of consumers eating most of their meals at home, the percentage of consumers never visiting a fast food establishment increased in the past year.
"Things aren’t great, but they’re better than they were," said Byron Peregrim, owner of Byron’s Market in Schuylerville. The market has been operating for 32 years. Last June, Peregrim opened a second market in Cambridge at the former IGA market site.
"I really think it is the economy. Instead of going out to a restaurant, people seem to buying more food from me, packing it away in the freezer and making it at home," he said.
"Our business always catered to the person that cooks at home, and I have noticed business has increased a bit in the past few years, in spite of the economy," said John Bolognino, co-owner of Roma Foods Importing Co., who sell affordable gourmet foods at store locations in Saratoga Springs and in Latham.
"As we come out of this stagnant economy, I think people are realizing it’s not just economical. They’re finding cooking is pleasurable and they re coming together to eat at home," he said.
"Instead of eating fast food where the father takes one kid here and mom takes another kid there, they’re having dinner together more as a family, like we used to when we were kids."