What would it be like to live in New York City for two years and not eat out? No window pizza, no raw food from the restaurant that does it right, goodbye Chinese hole-in-the-wall, and a sad adieu to bagels. But wait, there’s a flip side. You have a kitchen and access to daily farmers’ markets, the widest mishmash of ethnic ingredients in the world, and abundant locally sourced produce (the five boroughs’ urban garden scene is astonishingly big).

So, you could spend those two years crying in your canned soup. Or, you could conquer your kitchen and all that this culinary capital has to offer in terms of ingredients and become one great cook, save beaucoup bucks, throw a lot of dinner parties, support area farmers and feel a lot healthier. Those are just a few of the benefits that New York City–based author Cathy Erway reaped when she signed off from eating out for two years and then chronicled it in her book, The Art of Eating In (Gotham, 2010).

In NY, small, ill-equipped kitchens are as ubiquitous as the array of tantalizing eateries; so, why eat in? For Erway, her two years of home cooking were spurred by just that: how eating out was literally replacing eating in. “I looked around and saw how unpopular the act of basic, everyday cooking had become, and I wanted to find out what the ramifications of this might be.”

As with most big changes, Erway found that the first few weeks were the toughest; but eating in soon became her new rhythm. “After a few weeks, figuring out what to eat, cook, or plan around, that just became second nature. The hardest parts were the times I’d have to explain to people what I was doing, without looking crazy,” she says.

There were surprising results though, like measurably less waste. The trash can in her office cubicle remained largely empty. At home garbage went out once a week, not every day, and was void of smelly take-out cartons and extra sauces.

Another unexpected bonus of eating in was just the opposite of what you’d expect: it helped, not hindered, Erway’s social life.