At least in the United States, it seems as if we have been trapped in a mindset where convenience always wins. Adults are over-scheduled, children are over-scheduled, and suddenly what we eat moves from the back burner to the microwave, and we become completely distanced from where our food comes from and how to prepare it.
1. By making your own food from whole ingredients (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, meat, eggs, dairy, etc.), you avoid additives like food dye, preservatives, anti-caking agents, and artificial sweeteners and flavorings in packaged and processed food.
2. When you make your own food, you control the amount of salt, sugar and fat that goes in to it (and what kinds). Processed foods often make up for lack of flavor by increasing these ingredients to unhealthy levels. And while your body will still process all sugar as sugar (so it should be enjoyed in moderation!), I would rather eat raw honey than processed corn syrup.
3. Real food tastes better. If nothing else convinces you, this should. Real food tastes like food. Compare something you would normally buy packaged at the store to a time when you had that food homemade. Did they taste the same? Probably not. Canned or boxed chicken stock just can't compare to the kind you make on your stove with real chicken and vegetables. Homemade roasted tomato sauce with extra virgin olive oil is not the same as what you buy in the jar. And that bread wrapped in plastic on the shelf is miles behind homemade or what you can get at the bakery.
4. It does not take that much time. One of the biggest excuses for not preparing home cooked food is lack of time (I often used this one myself as a college student--I am not pointing fingers!). Yes, it will take more time than throwing a box in the microwave, but not that much more. And that added time is not always "active time." While chicken stock technically takes several hours to cook, those hours are not spent slaving over the stove. Just throw everything in the pot and walk away.
5. Cooking brings us together. Passing down recipes, techniques and sharing them with friends and family. Taking pride in something you made and sharing it with others. All things that are invaluable and shouldn't be underestimated.
So, if you're up for a challenge: this week, pick one thing you would normally buy in a box or can and try making it yourself. It does not have to be a big thing, it could be as simple as pumpkin puree (yum!) or soaking your own beans.