Cooking at home is an excellent way to save money. But if you’re accustomed to dining out for most meals, it can be a difficult transition. Fortunately, there’s plenty of help available on the web.
The Lazy Person’s Guide to Eating More Meals at Home is a good place to start:
If you read personal finance blogs long enough, you’re going to get the idea hammered into you that cooking for yourself rather than eating out all the time is a key part of getting your budget under control. But what if you’re lazy, and a crappy cook to boot? Then what? Well, I’m lazy, and I used to be a crappy cook [occasionally still am!]. But these days, almost 100% of our meals are cooked from scratch, by me. This did not happen overnight, that’s for sure. So, here’’s what worked for me.
The author advises that people making the transition from dining out to eating at home should:
- Start small — Pick one day a week to make meals at home, or two, or three. Start with easy recipes.
- Start with simple ingredients — Don’t make it complicated. Don’t be afraid to start with prepackaged foods. (One of my favorite meals has always been a can of chili. It always will be. I just bought a case of the stuff at Costco yesterday for 86-cents a can.)
- Find a good source of recipes — Borrow some cookbooks from the library or from a friend. Find one you like. Learn to cook from it. Copy out your favorite recipes.
- Use the Taco Bell approach — Learn to recombine a few basic ingredients into multiple tasty dishes.
I have friends who dine out for nearly every meal: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I’m sure they have a good time and eat well, but this is an expensive habit. Some people don’t eat at home because they don’t know how to cook. It’s easy to learn, though. And cooking is a skill that you can use for the rest of your life.
AskMetafilter often fields questions about cooking at home. Here are some of my favorite:
- brilliant “dinner hacks”? “I am looking for unique ideas for making quick, easy, heathy, inexpensive dinners (in my case, for two) every night… or at least most nights. “
- What do you think is the cheapest, healthiest, tastiest, easiest meal to prepare?
- And for advanced cooks: How do you impress your dinner guests?
With just a little practice, you can learn to make tasty, nutritious meals quickly. And in time you will find that you’ve mastered a particular recipe or two and can take pride in serving delicious food to friends and family. (I make a killer clam chowder.)
Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything is a good choice for a beginning cook. Bittman keeps his recipes simple. He also does a fantastic job of explaining basic concepts so that the average reader can understand, for example, why you use one cut of beef for a roast and another for a steak.
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