Americans are watching more television programming than ever before – more than 151 hours a month. That’s up six hours a month from last year. reports that the results, based on a recent Nielsen survey, are attributed to more options in what to view, more choices in when to view shows (DVR’s are helping with this), and more ways to view those options. We’re no longer simply watching TV on their televisions. We can now watch from our computers, our cell phones and our mp3 players.

There’s another factor playing into this increased viewership, too. It’s the economy. Television is entertainment that you’ve already paid for. No need to spend extra money.

There’s another way we can entertain ourselves without spending a lot of extra money. It’s time to get out from in front of our televisions, computers, cell phones and iPods and turn our gaze to something less passive. We’ve all got to eat, right? Let’s make growing, preparing, and sharing good food a form of entertainment. Let’s thumb our noses at this crummy economy and enjoy each other’s company while making and breaking bread together.

  • Start an edible garden. It will get you outside, provide you with something to do besides watch TV, get you moving, and provide you with delicious, inexpensive food. The best tasting tomato is always the one you grow yourself.
  • If you don’t have a backyard, use a container on a windowsill, a balcony or even a fire escape. Herbs, peppers, eggplant, lettuces and tomatoes all work well in containers.
  • Spend more time in the kitchen cooking from fresh, whole ingredients. If you’ve got 151 hours a month to watch TV, you certainly have the time cook a good meal.
  • Get others involved in cooking with you. Ask your spouse or your date to help you chop vegetables. Teach your children how to peel carrots or potatoes and how to grate fresh cheese. If you’re using cooking as a replacement for entertainment, you’ll want to get others involved, too. Conversations will happen. Memories will be made.
  • Take pictures of it all — the garden as it progresses, the people preparing the food, the finished dishes.
  • Start entertaining at home. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Have a board game night and ask everyone to bring a potluck dish. Have your best friends over, get them involved in preparing the meal, and share a bottle of inexpensive wine while doing it. DO NOT let the guys go into another room and watch TV while the girls are in the kitchen.
  • Host a cooking class for your kids and their friends.
  • Learn how to make bread.

What ideas do you have?  

Image: Ocean Yamah

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Turn off that TV
TV isn't the only inexpensive entertainment option in this crummy economy. Food can be very entertaining.