(Yes, You Can) Learn to Cook

Learn to cook!Most of us know from learning about personal finance that reasonable DIY work saves money. And I say “reasonable” to sidestep the whole discussion of “oh, you can't perform neurosurgery on yourself, it's best to go to a professional.” Sure, we agree. Same thing with condemned water heaters and jet engine maintenance: Just let the pros do it.

I believe, however, that reasonable DIY yields the greatest returns when it involves food preparation. Unlike mowing the lawn or cleaning gutters, which only happens in suburbs or rainy climates, food is universal. Most of us eat every day, do it multiple times a day, and spend fortunes on it over our lifetimes. With the high cost of restaurants, and tips, and delivery charges, cooking at home makes a lot of financial sense.

Still, many people will say: “Oh, I can't even fry an egg,” and eat out or get delivery three times a day. Funny thing: My friends who do that are invariably broke and fleeing from creditors, even if they eat at cheap places. (And I'm not saying you or your friends are broke from this — only mine.)

I'll spare you the sermon about the health sense of cooking at home and instead give you a couple of more immediate incentives:

    • Good cooking will make you an attractive and popular person. It's a guaranteed path to seduction, it induces feelings of love and affection in those around you, and it is the foundation of a happy family life.

 

  • You shouldn't need more incentive at this point. But consider that, as other pleasures fade away in our old age, the pleasure of eating is the more likely to remain a loyal companion. Good cooking can help ensure that our twilight years are happy ones.

Okay, enough for the introduction. This is how you do it.

Start Easy
Unless you're really motivated or slightly deranged, fancy magazines and weird complicated recipes will set the bar too high. Start instead with something that will give you immediate satisfaction, like learning to grill a burger or making a decent batch of cookies — whatever it is you like to eat on a regular basis, and it's simple to cook, try to cook it.

Take bacon and eggs, for example. They go great together, and there's an art and a science to cooking them just right, and yes, you can do it better than a diner, but you need practice. And what better incentive to practice than delicious eggs and bacon?

Yes, instant gratification is your friend at this point. You want to make that tasty self-sufficiency into a habit, and you want to learn that you don't need to pay others to make your meals fun. Once you learn there are rewards for this behavior, you'll be able to justify the patience that's required of all growth. But first, you need to get hooked.

So do it.

Go buy some good bacon (or vegan sausage, or whatever you like) and learn not to turn it into ashes.

Minimize the Pain
Cooking requires cleaning up afterwards, which can make people like me recoil in terror. I can't remember which carryout chain had a commercial that showed a family buying their product so they could keep a clean kitchen (which in my opinion beats the purpose of having a kitchen in the first place). But yes, cleaning can be a pain, though for some people it can be relaxing.

In any case, keep things simple and organized, or partner up with someone to clean after you, and this will make it a lot more fun to eat those sloppy joes afterwards.

Think of Building Blocks
You can go all over the map and try to cook 1000 things at a time, but I've found it more productive to learn one or two things, get good at them, and move on to the next one.

Recently I was learning to make bread — specifically, “no-knead” bread. Making it is so easy it's a joke. But it takes a little bit of focus, and there's trial an error, and flour to clean up. If you have a busy life, don't try to learn everything at once. Once I mastered the basic loaf, I started playing with variants. Now I can make it in my sleep.


How to Make No-Knead Bread

 

You could approach things by seasons:

  • Learn to grill meat and veggies this summer.
  • Experiment with cooking beans this fall.
  • Try out some stews in winter.

Or you might want to approach your cooking methods one by one: grilling, roasting, sautéing, frying, poaching, stewing, baking, and so on. Or specialize in an ingredient, or a cuisine, or a specific meal: become an expert on beef, or tofu dervish, or the demigod of pancake breakfasts, or a professor of sandwich making. Better to be good at one thing than being terrible at everything, right?

Learn to do one thing right, then move on to the next one.

Don't Succumb to Food Porn
The objective of “food porn” is to make you feel inadequate so you buy things you don't need.

You don't need a knife collection — I'm very happy with a $50 chef knife from Target and a serrated knife I inherited from a friend. You don't need a set of sixteen pots: you need maybe a couple of decent pots and a frying pan to start, and then you can add things as you need them. And unless you're a real asparagus aficionado, and have a lot of cupboard space, you don't need an asparagus cooker.

Think of the Long Term
Learning to cook is much like investing and compound interest: The longer you do it, the greater the returns. I know I suggested you go for instant gratification at first, but as you improve your skills you might start to set larger goals and seeking new challenges, like taking your date to your kitchen table, or making pancakes for your kids at breakfast. Those are great and worthy goals and as close as it gets to buying happiness.

So, to all rookie cooks: Do you have any questions? And for the experienced among you: Any wisdom you'd like to share? Easy recipes? Have any suggestions for essential tools? Good techniques? Encouraging stories? Share in the comments below!

More about...Food, Frugality

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Chase
Chase
8 years ago

I read a lot about the vast sums of money I can save cooking, but as a single man I don’t notice that it saves very much cooking for one.

And all the time to cook for one is a pain. For example if I spend 50 bucks at the store I need to get 5 meals to make it comparable to eating out financially, and more like 10 meals to be saving and I’m just not sure that that happens.

But El Nerdo I agree that cooking can be a rewarding activity.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
8 years ago
Reply to  Chase

I’m surprised to hear that, actually. I’m single and find it saves me a lot of money. (I tend to cook with left overs in mind so it saves me a lot of time too.) For instance, a good stir fry will easily do me four meals. When I make chicken, veggies and rice I make enough for at least another meal or two. Then again, even somewhat healthy fast food isn’t cheap where I live — easily $6 for a sub or $8 for a salad, so it’s definitely worth my while to DIY. When I eat out, I… Read more »

Eric
Eric
8 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

I agree – leftover management is where it’s at for small households – I cook for the three of us, and at least make sure there’s often a work lunch or two in there afterward. My wife makes big pots of chili and soup that last a couple of family meals and/or several work lunches. I’m also getting better at buying or making snacks in quantity so I can stick some in my lunch and not buy individual portions over there (unless it’s a bake sale for something I like).

Adult student
Adult student
8 years ago
Reply to  Chase

I think then there’s a quality distinction though, right? The only dinners I can get for under $10 are pretty unimpressive and rarely very healthy: a sub, bowl of soup, or a couple slices of pizza – that doesn’t even cover a burger anywhere other than McDonald’s. And of course, frozen/canned food is just really cheap, whether you’re cooking for one or for five. That is true – having sufficient amounts of fruit and vegetables or meat as a regular part of your diet are what makes your grocery bill go up. But they’re so good…and $50 a week can… Read more »

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
8 years ago
Reply to  Adult student

I find eating less meat really keeps costs down. For example, I eat meatless meals (love the legumes!) or about half a chicken breast as a serving rather than a full one. (I make a lot of meals that stretch meat, like stir fry or salad.)

A lot of one’s budget depends on what one eats — and how much one eats.

Kingston
Kingston
8 years ago
Reply to  Chase

I live half the week on my own as a student away from my “real” home, and I find $50 worth of groceries for one person goes a long way. But you have to be willing to eat leftovers and to be reasonable about meat consumption. If you can get on board with that, you can save a lot and have a healthier and often much tastier diet than you would eating out. I eat grilled or roasted chicken, chicken curry, occasional beef or lamb as stew or burgers, but also lentil (and other) soup, homemade hummus, fancy omelettes, gorgeous… Read more »

Holly
Holly
8 years ago
Reply to  Chase

I beg to differ. It can save you money on dates, and help you woo the SO of your dreams. My mother in law smartly taught her sons that they needed to learn to cook at least 3 meals well. One impressive meal and two “regular” meals that they could cook occasionally for friends, for dates and for themselves. And yes, I was duly impressed by my future husband’s cooking on our 4th or 5th date. He still relies on these meals on “his” nights to cook, and when he wants to have a party. As someone who grew up… Read more »

Rae
Rae
8 years ago
Reply to  Chase

It depends on what you buy. A can of soup or beans or tomato puree will typically be less than a dollar. A head of lettuce, a box of pasta or rice, a bag of lentils or carrots or potatos or peppers, a frozen vegetable mix, a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter, etc. are all a couple of dollars and good for several meals. For me the real trick is accumulating a bunch of different herbs and spices. Start out with one you know you will always use – for me it was basil. Then each following… Read more »

Kris
Kris
8 years ago
Reply to  Rae

To keep prices down on spices, I would advise to try to avoid getting these items at a regular grocery store. At $5 a pop for small containers of spices, it is a losing proposition. Go to the ethnic grocery, lo-cost local supermarket, or wherever you go to avoid paying exorbitant prices. Even CVS and other drug stores have the basics for $1 or $2. The other thing is to just start to pay attention. With those 3 things you learn to cook, know what they cost. I am stunned by how much I have paid for things by not… Read more »

Amanda
Amanda
8 years ago
Reply to  Rae

Buying spices in bulk can save $$. I use a lot of chile powder so I buy large quantities of it in bulk. However, there are some spices I need for just one recipe that I don’t cook often. I buy a small amount in the bulk section!

DaftShadow
DaftShadow
8 years ago
Reply to  Chase

It’s all about economies of scale and perspective. Couples and families just notice quicker because their dollar amounts are larger.

Because you’re one person, a $6 home meal vs $10 takeout doesn’t seem like much, and in many ways it isn’t! Only 4 dollars a day, and I don’t have to cook/clean!?!

But if you shift perspective a bit, you can see it’s actually a large difference… $1400 per year difference! (4*365). That’s a big chunk of change to give away. That’s almost $20,000 over ten years!

Beth
Beth
8 years ago
Reply to  DaftShadow

Good point! You have to look at the savings per person per meal. Time-wise, you come out ahead cooking for one. I can cook a batch of something and it lasts me a few meals — one prep, one clean up. That’s very different from that one batch only doing one meal for a family. One big savings I notice is tax. Here in Ontario, there’s 13% HST on prepared foods and restaurant food. It’s not an issue for a treat a couple of times a month, but every day? I’m not giving the government 13% of my lunch money,… Read more »

Renee
Renee
8 years ago
Reply to  Beth

I couldn’t agree more, as a fellow Ontarian! I hate paying out the HST. I’d love to see a blog article dealing with different ways to beat it – any takers out there?!! As for the topic of cooking vs. restaurant, I am a professional cook, and you just can’t beat learning to cook at home. Its very true that the success of restaurant meals lie in learning to properly use spices and herbs, as well as specialty condiments and items like capers, pickles, sundried tomatoes etc. Just a pinch of these items can really elevate a dish. Our local… Read more »

imelda
imelda
8 years ago
Reply to  DaftShadow

That’s exactly it – I find myself facing the nightly quandary of $6 for a dinner at home tonight, or $8 for takeout. It seems like a small difference, plus I’d have to cook and clean.

BUT I’ve realized that, almost always, that $6 home meal actually lasts for 2 or 3 meals. So the savings are even greater. I just have to think beyond tonight.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago
Reply to  Chase

Hey Chase yeah I agree cooking for one is tougher, but it can totally be done with no pain in either of 2 ways: 1) Batch cooking. Prep all on Sunday, eat through the week. 2) Quick cooking. Make sure all is done fast. I like batch cooking in winter when I can spend an afternoon making chili and drinking beer and hanging out, but in summer I hate the heat and I like to play outside. So here’s one to try: Costco sells 4lbs of turkey burgers for about $11. That’s 12 patties, less than $1 each. They take… Read more »

IdaBaker
IdaBaker
8 years ago
Reply to  Chase

I totally agree with Elizabeth on this one. I cook for two and I know it saves us money with every meal.

It’s not only about leftovers and sandwiches, but how about just one burger or eggs for dinner, or even grilled chicken breast.

Once you get used to it, cooking doesn’t take much time, and I think you’ll discover home cooking is healthier and more to your taste than food from outside.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
8 years ago

Yay! Glad to see El Nerdo in the running for staff writer! The info on GRS is solid, but I like to see some personality too. I read this post even though I knew how to cook just to see what El Nerdo came up with — and was not disappointed! I second the point about starting with something that gives immediate satisfaction. Muffins, cookies and soup top that list for me. In the winter, there’s a ton of stuff that can be made in a slower cooker. I’d also add learning how to stir fry. You can stir fry… Read more »

Steve
Steve
8 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

+1. This article was the most fun to read personal finance article I’ve read all month.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

Hey, this is probably my last post for the day, but I just wanted to give a very big thanks to everyone who commented.

And I really wish I could reply to everyone personally, but unfortunately it’s neither possible for my schedule nor (I suspect) desirable for the good flow of comments anyway.

Still, I just wanted to let you guys know that I read every single comment, and that I’m really truly grateful to everyone here today.

Best,

Your Friendly Neighborhood Nerdo

SB @ One cent at a time
SB @ One cent at a time
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

We want to see you as GRS writer. Keep us entertained and share your wisdom a lot more in coming months.

SA
SA
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

El Nerdo has posted some of my favorite GRS comments ever in my years of reading this blog. Cheers and good luck to you.

TinaPete
TinaPete
8 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

Agreed! I have a crush on El Nerdo’s posts; they are smart, always add dimension to the thread, and are wise in respect to human relationships. You can just tell that EN is living a good life as well as a frugal one. More please!

Joshua
Joshua
8 years ago

Why would you need an asparagus cooker anyway, they are amazing on the grill, just add a little butter and salt and enjoy(warning they do like to try to burn sometimes though). Anyway, good points on trying to master something then moving on, my recommendation is stir-frys, they are easy to make, only need one pan, and have virtually unlimited food combinations. Keep up the writing! =)

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago
Reply to  Joshua

Ha ha, yeah, people tried to sell me an asparagus cooker when I was looking for a pot to steam vegetables. In the end I used a pot marketed to make pasta– it’s got a perforated cylinder you can pull out and space below to boil water. So it makes a good steamer as well as a pasta cooker, and if you remove the thing with the holes it triples as a good stock pot. Anyway, the asparagus cooker (for those who wonder) is like a steamer but narrow. The stems go in the bottom, in water, while the tips… Read more »

Bella
Bella
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

We love asparagus, but we also prefer them grilled – adn I just foudn out that you can get that grilled flavor by ‘roasting’ them in the oven!

Panda
Panda
8 years ago
Reply to  Bella

Another vote for oven-roasted asparagus. Super quick, super easy and all it takes is a cookie sheet.

Ben
Ben
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

As a replacement for the asparagus cooker, could you use a crockpot and the top and bottom cut out of a taller can? Stand the asparagus up in the can where the bottom would be in water and the top would steam? Actually, couldn’t you just use a tall pot?

Easy cooking cookbooks.
– A man, a can, a plan
– The starving students cookbook.

Good article

frances
frances
8 years ago
Reply to  Ben

Or you can be completely lazy and steam asparagus in the microwave. Just wash, trim, wrap in a loose roll of wax or parchment paper, and nuke away. Once you figure out the timing for your typical serving, it’s perfect.

Shannon D
Shannon D
8 years ago

I am currently living alone right now too in Japan, and I find that cooking at home does save plenty of money. For 1000 yen (~$12.50) I can get enough food for breakfast, lunch and dinner and still have 1-2 meals worth of leftovers. I eat pretty well too and buy a lot of fresh fruit, vegetables, and herbs. For example, tonight I had saffron-butter salmon with basil salad and tomato pasta. The cheapest thing I could buy to eat would probably be fast food beef with rice for 280 yen (~$3.40) or so. That’s really the lowest of the… Read more »

imelda
imelda
8 years ago
Reply to  Shannon D

Yeah, the thing about Japan is that restaurant meals almost *are* on par with home-cooked meals, on price. A filling bowl of udon or ramen and a side of tempura or inarizushi is under 500 yen. (like $5)

But, as I mentioned above, and as you hint at – I could cook something at home for 500 yen and it would last 2 or 3 meals. So even though the restaurants feel cheap, it’s a real tradeoff.

Jacq
Jacq
8 years ago

Love the post El Nerdo! Love to cook, it’s a great hobby to have and agree on building a repertoire over time. My suggestion is to use allrecipes.com or cdkitchen.com – you can put in what ingredients you have (great for using up things or if you hit a sale on something) and build your dish around that item. Plus the 4-5 star recipes really do deserve their ratings. Nothing worse than making something out of a cookbook and you find out at the end that you don’t like it. Also – if you really like a certain dish at… Read more »

Nicole
Nicole
8 years ago
Reply to  Jacq

We LOVE outdoing restaurants. It’s a great motivator to eat at home, too – we can make 5-6 servings of Chipotle’s barbacoa at home with little fuss for less than the cost of one burrito out. And it’s turned out that several ‘we can only get that at a restaurant’ favorites are also really easy to make. Chicken tikka masala and pad thai? Impossible to get in my town. /Incredibly/ easy to make. It’s at the point where I don’t think there’s anything we can get at a restaurant that’s better than what we make at home, and I have… Read more »

Brenton
Brenton
8 years ago
Reply to  Nicole

Mmm… Chipotle barabocoa burrito… If I could learn to make a chipotle barbacoa burrito at home for less money, I dont think I would ever leave the house for food again…

Eileen
Eileen
8 years ago
Reply to  Brenton

Does anyone know how to make Chipotle’s rice in their burritos? I can never seem to get it.

http://traderjoesreviewer.blogspot.com

RobertaM
RobertaM
8 years ago
Reply to  Brenton

Brandon see if your market carries chachete (beef cheeks). I don’t know where you live but here in Houston even Walmart carries it. The Mexican markets all carry it too. Put it in the crock pot with a couple of tablespoons of water. Add some salt, and I put paprika or chipotle powder for a smoky flavor. Cook on low over night and it’s ready for breakfast tacos in the morning and then make you a burrito for lunch! The internet if full of recipes too. This is just low maintenance recipe that works for me. El Nerdo I’m glad… Read more »

RobertaM
RobertaM
8 years ago
Reply to  Brenton

Sorry Brenton not Brandon! :/

CERB
CERB
8 years ago
Reply to  Jacq

I want to second going to sites like allrecipes.com for ideas. If 2,000 reviewers have given a recipe 5 stars and described it as easy to make and delicious, that’s a great place to start!

Paularado
Paularado
8 years ago
Reply to  CERB

YES! Watch the videos at allrecipes, especially the ones by Chef John of foodwishes.com. He makes great videos and many are very simple.

I’m currently rebuilding my food repertoire because my husband’s stomach has become very sensitive lately and I have a 2 and 4 year old. My old meal plans aren’t really working. I figure that if I find a successful recipe every couple of weeks, I’m doing great. The videos at allrecipes have been helpful. Also, sign up for their daily email.

Fake
Fake
8 years ago
Reply to  CERB

That’s exactly how I describe the site whenever I recommend it, which is often! Seriously, folks, the site is great.

Lisa
Lisa
8 years ago

So happy to see El Nerdo has an article up! I’d say some of the easiest things to start with are stir-fry, a basic pasta sauce, and sandwiches. But really, whatever you like to eat is what you should ultimately learn to cook. I think one really good tip is that when you’re starting to learn, it’s ok to mix some store-bought stuff in with stuff you’re making from scratch. So if you want to try homemade pizza, maybe you want to buy the dough from the store for the first 2 or 3 times you make it before trying… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago
Reply to  Lisa

Also great COLD!!

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

I meant to write THUMBS UP before “great cold” etc. but the editing seems broken. Anyway–yes!

Nicole
Nicole
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

Cold it has a fancier name– vichyssoise

I love saying it. Vishy swaw.

sjw
sjw
8 years ago

While stirfry is “easy”, it never really worked for me when I was learning because it felt like a lot of chopping, and I’d need several vegetables, which meant way too much food for one person. Also, I suck at making rice. Solution for rice -> naan bread for curries, glass noodles for stirfry. Solution for too much food -> things that freeze well, of which, alas, stirfry is not. Soups, stews, and shredded slow cooked meats mean you don’t need to eat the same thing every day for a week. Solution for chopping -> single or dual veggie dishes.… Read more »

Nicole
Nicole
8 years ago
Reply to  sjw

Rice cookers are your friend. It is the one ‘single-purpose’ appliance I think is absolutely completely and totally worth the space it takes up. I, too, used to suck at making rice. I burnt it, I undercooked it, I forgot it. Then I spent $30 on a rice cooker. Now we have perfect rice, every time. Even better, I do nothing to get it that way! Just throw it in and turn it on, and let it bubble in the background while you do the rest of the meal. Also, if you’re just starting, buy mixed frozen veggies or things… Read more »

Stacy
Stacy
8 years ago
Reply to  Nicole

It’s true, chopping gets faster with time. Also, as I’m chopping up a carrot for salad on Monday, broccoli for a side dish on Tues, etc., I keep preparing extra for the last half of the week. By Thursday and Friday I just pull out the prepared veggies and make the stir fry or more complicated dishes. Or, if I have time, I prep a lot of veggies on Sunday afternoon. I’m a working mom who sometimes takes classes at night, so making things simple to throw together keeps me from going out.

amber
amber
8 years ago
Reply to  Nicole

I buy the frozen veggies that are pre-chopped for my stir frys. It makes life so much better. You have to be careful though in the freezer aisle. Many of the pre-packaged stirfry mixes will include rice!! or worse, noodles!! They actually make you pay for this at the same rate as the rest of the mix. I found a mix that is just shrimp and veggies for about $6/lb. Sometimes I add extra veggies, and it easily lasts me 3 generous meals.

PennySaved
PennySaved
8 years ago
Reply to  Nicole

I make my rice in the microwave in a covered casserole dish. For example, for regular rice, mix together 1 cup rice, 2 cups water or broth, any seasonings, couple of tsp of oil. Heat on high for 5 minutes, covered. Still covered, then cook for 15 minutes on 50% power. Let rest for 5 minutes and fluff. For brown rice, I use more water and more 50% cook time. I just generally follow written rice recipes for cooking on the stove and just do it in the microwave. The 5 minutes on high heats up the water to boiling.… Read more »

Holly
Holly
8 years ago
Reply to  sjw

ITA with Nicole about the rice cooker.

I find that stir-fry is better utized as a way to use leftovers. Take the dribs and drabs of meat and veggies left over from meals the prior few nights, toss them in a hot frying pan or wok with a bit of oil and soy sauce, and serve them over rice.

Holly
Holly
8 years ago
Reply to  sjw

I second the rice cooker. Perfect rice every time.

Stir fry is better utilized as a “leftover” meal. Make more a little more meat & veggies than you plan to eat earlier in the week, chop them and toss them into a hot wok or frying pan with soy sauce & a bit of oil, heat and serve with rice.

FWIW, if you want to use brown rice in a rice cooker, you need to add a little extra water.

michiel
michiel
8 years ago

For all who have limited to no experience in the kitchen, I can recommend the ipad app culinary school. It has lots of lessons on the techniques, as in how to actually cook, bake and slice stuff, instead of just recipes. A great way to expand your comfort zone in the kitchen.

TB at BlueCollarWorkman
TB at BlueCollarWorkman
8 years ago

Awesome, El Nerdo, great job! My mom got me this cookbook when I was starting out (before my wife started cooking awesome meals), and I gotta say, it’s AWESOME. Easy. Cheap. Good. It was called “A Man, A Can, and a Plan.” So that’s another option for people to try. Cookbooks that are super easy and use only a microwave.

Justin @ The Family Finances
Justin @ The Family Finances
8 years ago

Ha, I was totally going to mention that book. My wife handles most cooking duties now (not only is she better at it, but she really enjoys it). But back in my single days, making simply, cheap recipes was the way to go. I’d make double batches and then take the leftovers to work for lunch.

Sheryl
Sheryl
8 years ago

Half of my mom’s “secret recipes” come from an old Betty Crocker Microwave Cookbook. It’s very possible to make seriously good food in a microwave, if you’re cooking challenged.

AnneKD
AnneKD
8 years ago

One of the best investments I ever made was to buy cookbooks where I could learn how to cook, not just put together recipes. Bittman’s _How to Cook Everything_ and the old warhorse _Joy of Cooking_ are the books I use most. If I need to change a recipe, like subbing something, the books gave me the knowledge and encouragement to switch stuff around, especially the Bittman books. I don’t buy for specific recipes unless we’re having a special meal; I buy for the pantry/freezer, Also, one of the most important things I learned in college was from a friend… Read more »

Jen
Jen
8 years ago
Reply to  AnneKD

Those are my two go-to cookbooks as well. Bought the Bittman for my college-age son and he’s already added a few dishes to his repertoire.

Here’s my newer secret, and I hesitate to put it here because it’s my new secret weapon:
foodwishes.blogspot.com

For easy but delicious — try the pasta fazoolander. It has beans, spinach and tortellini — extremely easy to make and everyone in my family LOVES it. That’s a husband and three sons all begging for a healthy and easy soup. It’s like magic.

Also, the mushroom gravy is amazing. I’d eat that just plain!

Nicole
Nicole
8 years ago
Reply to  Jen

Another cookbook recommendation: If there are only one or two people in your household:

Help! My apartment has a kitchen! by Kevin and Nancy Mills

Seriously, this is a life-changing book, especially for folks who don’t have a lot of time. Full of easy quick tasty pantry recipes that take less time to make than getting take-out. Helps especially with the “uh, what do I make tonight” quandry? (They also have a book for 4-5 people: Faster! I’m starving!)

Christy
Christy
8 years ago
Reply to  Nicole

I recommend the cookbook The Roasted Vegetable by Andrea Chesman. Glad to see that you are writing El Nerdo!

kelsey
kelsey
8 years ago
Reply to  Nicole

That was one of the first cookbooks I got in college. It’s small, simple, and written with a bit of humor. Great for someone just starting out.

Amanda
Amanda
8 years ago
Reply to  Jen

I prefer checking out cookbooks from the library. Some are available online through the library others I have to put on hold and check out. The best ones are usually out so it’s better for me to search and put them on hold. I usually find about 10 recipes I want to try in each book. Half of them aren’t to our liking after we make them. But I have fun and it’s a good way to try a couple new recipes each week and eventually find a few to add to our regular routine. Don’t want to get bored!… Read more »

Patti
Patti
8 years ago
Reply to  AnneKD

Agree about Bittman and Joy of Cooking. If you are a new cook, having one or two reference cookbooks is extremely helpful. Don’t know how long to boil an egg? Joy of Cooking. Bought a hunk of meat on sale but don’t know what cooking method to use? Joy of Cooking. Online directions vary so widely that having one reference that you can understand is helpful. Frankly, I also subscribe to the Bittman approach described in Food Matters. Have a well stocked pantry, buy local fresh seasonal food, and then invent what you want based on your tastes when you… Read more »

Pam
Pam
8 years ago

Great article! I get caught in the eating out trap too much. Another down side to eating out is that I don’t feel good after eating restaurant food. Buyer’s remorse and a stomach ache are far too common for me after a restaurant meal. This article is a great foundation to keep me encouraged to cook more. Thank you!

Sarah
Sarah
8 years ago

As a total homecooker, I know without eating at home, brown-bagging and cooking from scratch I’d be totally broke, instead of just poor. Despite this knowledge and experience — I really enjoyed reading this article! Thanks! Also, I hate FOOD PORN! Love that comment and no thanks Martha Stewart…I don’t want to look at your tools or cookies! They just make me feel inadequate.
Great article!

LA
LA
8 years ago

El Nerdo is entertaining, writes well, and is interesting. I would love to see more of his writing at GRS. Fantastic article!

Stacy
Stacy
8 years ago
Reply to  LA

Seconded!
I always enjoy El Nerdo’s comments and while I didn’t think it was possible to come up with an unusual take on the frugality of cooking at home, he did it! Love the idea of learning things that have the highest payoff for you personally, and picking one thing to learn then building out from that. I’ve seen too many people try to cook something extravagant, spend tons of $$ on ingredients, fail, then declare that they “are horrible cooks” and go back to eating out.

imelda
imelda
8 years ago
Reply to  LA

Agreed! When I saw the title of this post, I groaned. I hate cooking. Then I saw that El Nerdo had written it, so I gave it a shot. Not only was I pleasantly surprised by how funny and strong the writing was, I was also convinced! I’m making a list right now of dishes I’d like to learn. I love the advice of learning 1 kind of food or cooking technique at a time. (the one critique I have is of the section on cleaning up – 1 little trick or piece of advice would’ve made it worth the… Read more »

Sree
Sree
8 years ago
Reply to  imelda

Agree, Imelda. I’ve been drawing up a mental list of foods I must try my hand at. I try a lot of different recipes and most of them turn out edible, but when I get home after work, I can’t seem to recall what to make- and end up with the same old boring easy stuff. Now I make lusts of ‘potentials’ in advance, and life’s a bit easier. Here’re some cleanup tips I learnt from my mom: All the trash goes into a paper bag or old plastic box on the counter, and keep tipping it out as it… Read more »

Sree
Sree
8 years ago
Reply to  Sree

Correction: lists of potentials…

stonalino
stonalino
8 years ago
Reply to  Sree

I loved “lust of potentials”!

my honest answer
my honest answer
8 years ago

I totally agree – cooking yourself saves a lot of money. And not just on eating out – you save by purchasing fewer pre-prepared items as well. I’d just say don’t be disheartended when you start out. When I first started cooking regularly, I made about one bad meal a week, and once a month would be a disaster! But over the years (about 5 now) I really have got much much better. This past week I cooked three really delicious meals (and I’m not just saying that, they really were great!). A few years ago I never would have… Read more »

Charlene
Charlene
8 years ago

Love this article and El Nerdo – well done. When we married, I was the cook in the family and was quite good at cooking grilled cheese sandwiches and cold tuna/noodle salad. I wasn’t scared of cooking as much as at the time there was little time for me to learn. He will eat anything! Then I developed an interest in saving money and over the years have enjoyed learning how to cook well. My best investment: a quality chef’s knife ($150) that keeps an edge, and a pair of tongs ($12)

Joe D.
Joe D.
8 years ago
Reply to  Charlene

Tongs, yes! So important!

sushi
sushi
8 years ago

I think the main requirement (in my humble opinion) is to have a taster (aka guinea pig) to try out the dishes prepared. I don’t think I would be a reasonable cook now if DH was not so excited and encouraging of my cooking. He was so happy to taste my initial experiments (eg, burnt and uncooked rice pilaf !) that made me want to do better!!

soledad
soledad
8 years ago

So here’s a question. I love bacon and eggs but I never know the right way to dispose of the bacon fat. What is the preferred way? I don’t want to clog up the kitchen sink.

El Nerdo is a keeper.

Nicole
Nicole
8 years ago
Reply to  soledad

We let it cool, then put it in a glass bowl in the fridge to use in cooking. Something my father used to do, and originally we’d thought it was because he’s ultra-frugal and Sierra-clubby (same with making soup stock from leftover meat bones), but later found out no, it’s something they taught him in the cooking classes he took as a young man in San Francisco. We do it for the flavor– it makes a huge difference. A little goes a long way.

Joe D.
Joe D.
8 years ago
Reply to  soledad

We wipe out the fat with a couple of paper towels and dispose of. Or pour into an old coffee can and recycle.

Alice
Alice
8 years ago
Reply to  soledad

I second keeping the bacon fat. You can pour it while hot into a small mason jar. It keeps a week or two in the fridge, but you’ll probably use it up way before that. I recommend using it to fry up potatoes, or eggs. Or pancakes. Or anything.

Becky
Becky
8 years ago
Reply to  soledad

If you don’t save it for cooking, let it cool slightly and pour it into your kitchen trash bag. If that freaks you out, pour it into an empty can from your recycling bin, let it cool, and put that in the trash.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago
Reply to  soledad

The best way to dispose of bacon fat is to use it! 😀 You can fry the eggs in it afterwards, you can toss it with apples and cinnamon and brown sugar in a frying pan for an easy “hot apple pie” experience, you can use it for your pancakes, etc. You can keep the fat around for some time but don’t let it grow rancid– rancid fat is *the worst*! But the traditional way to throw it out is the grease can, as Joe D & Becky describe. Collect it there and throw it in the trash. If you… Read more »

sjw
sjw
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

You can also keep chicken fat (separated out from homemade stock) in the freezer, which works really well for potstickers, or as some of the oil in a hot potato salad dressing.

Jacq
Jacq
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

Bacon on the broiler pan in the oven cooks the most evenly. For no-splattering, the simple solution is to dredge it in flour:
http://www.squidoo.com/cooking-bacon

Renee
Renee
8 years ago
Reply to  Jacq

You can also use bacon fat to make ‘suet’ balls for birds. I keep old fat in empty frozen juice tins – just let the fat cool down a bit before pouring it into the cardboard tin. To make the suet balls, bring the fat to room temperature, and add outdoor bird seed, millet, bits of apple and orange, raisins, peanuts etc. You can also mix in some peanut butter first. Just form balls and reharden by putting back in the fridge of freezer. You can use an old onion mesh bag to hang the ball off a tree or… Read more »

Nicole
Nicole
8 years ago

Great post! My husband couldn’t cook before he met me and now he’s a better cook than I am. It’s harder to eat out (except at certain restaurants) because what we have at home is so much better than what we can get out. Most recently he’s been making ice cream. Yesterday was lemon ice cream. The best I have ever had in my entire life, including gelato abroad. One thing we did do after several (10?) years of him taking forever to chop veggies was send him to a cooking class– that tremendously improved his knife skills, making cooking… Read more »

Susan
Susan
8 years ago

I love this post because I love cooking & eating!!! I particularly appreciate the comment that makes mention that good food will be one pleasure you can still indulge in the waning years….right on!!! 🙂 Love it.

Nicole
Nicole
8 years ago
Reply to  Susan

Empirical evidence from the survey of consumer finances (and I think also time use surveys) finds that as people age, they spend more on food at home and less on food out.

Jason @ WorkSaveLive
Jason @ WorkSaveLive
8 years ago

Cooking saves a TON of money. It’s actually something that my wife and I enjoy doing together.

It’s so much fun to throw together ingredients and have it end up turning into a delicious meal.

I often an amazed as to how much people spend on eating out and wonder why they don’t cook more. My wife and I spend $280/month for groceries. That includes all of our breakfast, lunch, and dinners.

Joe D.
Joe D.
8 years ago

Great article, El Nerdo. I’m an older GRS reader (almost 50), and I blog about the necessity of old school principles. One of my favorites is this: once you learn cooking basics, you will always outduel the restaurant: in price, quality, and DIY satisfaction. I couldn’t boil water either, but I didn’t need to because I was surrounded by great cooks. With tips from my Italian American family, it hasn’t taken me long to master homemade tomato sauce and its close relative, the meatball. I have since moved on to other dishes, and plan to have mastered 25 recipes in… Read more »

EMH
EMH
8 years ago

I completely agree, “Good cooking will make you an attractive and popular person.” My husband and I met right after college and he invited me to his place for dinner since we couldn’t afford to go out to eat. He made me zucchini parmesan in an arrabiata sauce and I fell head-over-heals in love with him that night. It wasn’t just the food but I never met a man at 24 who knew how to cook and it amazed me. I found a “renaissance man”! He will still make it for me and I feel like Anton Ego when he… Read more »

DaftShadow
DaftShadow
8 years ago
Reply to  EMH

Fellow Dudes… Please re-read above post. Right Now. And then repeat after me: “I love to cook!”

It’s like taking candy from a baby… 🙂

Nicole
Nicole
8 years ago
Reply to  DaftShadow

My mother decided my father was the one for her when he made her lemon garlic pork chops on a date at his place. Definitely makes men more attractive.

Bella
Bella
8 years ago
Reply to  Nicole

It’s not just men that are more attractive! A significant shift happened about the time I was growing up – people didn’t teach their sons how to cook (because it’s women’s work) and then they stopped teaching their daughter’s how to cook (because it’s ‘women’s work’) and no one learned how to cook. I find that among my friends I am one of the few that knows how to cook well (honestly that’s not bragging, they tell me all the time that they CAN’T cook). And my husband’s friends are very envious of him that he has such a great… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago
Reply to  DaftShadow

internet hi-five 😀

madge
madge
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

just want to back this up. i fell for my man for many reasons, not the least of which was a simple spicy pasta with olive oil, anchovies, olives, garlic, and lots of hot pepper. with homemade bread!

listen to el nerdo, he is 100% right.

chacha1
chacha1
8 years ago
Reply to  DaftShadow

My husband pulled this one on me when we first started dating. 🙂 He made spaghetti squash alla margarita.

I was pretty blown away, given that my previous BF could barely toast a bagel.

Kristen
Kristen
8 years ago

I wholeheartedly recommend the America’s Test Kitchen cookbooks. I have yet to try a recipe that wasn’t fantastic, and it’s well put-together with easy to follow instructions. (No, not affiliated with them – I just like their scientific bent – that they will make a dish 20 times to get it just right!)

Dar
Dar
8 years ago
Reply to  Kristen

Totally agree about ATK! During a prolonged illness a couple years ago I discovered their shows “America’s Test Kitchen” and “Cook’s Country” on PBS. They showed how to make Thai-style basil chicken, a standard favorite of mine to order at a local Thai restaurant, and I thought, “Wow–that’s so simple even I could do that!” Before that my culinary skills consisted of opening cans and microwaving frozen pizza. Now, two years later, I am ATK’s biggest fan and have made dozens of their recipes–much to the delight of my girlfriend, family and friends. I can’t thank Chris Kimball and the… Read more »

Kaytee
Kaytee
8 years ago

Don’t underestimate the sheer awesomeness of a crockpot. Ten minutes with a knife and you have a bunch of meals. We often eat half and freeze half. I cook large amounts of rice or dried beans and freeze the excess. Alternatively, you can spend an hour with a knife and some bags to pre-prepare some freezer to crockpot soups. That way you can dump the contents of the bag in some water, turn on the crockpot, go to work, and come home to a ready made dinner. I’m not huge on single use appliances, but I love my waffle maker.… Read more »

Wilson
Wilson
8 years ago
Reply to  Kaytee

Agree with both. Waffles freeze well and you might as well make a bunch at once cause you’re making a big mess anyways for just a few. Crockpots and slow cookers are great cause you can just dump in your ingredients and when you come home, there’s your pork tacos, black beans, stewed chicken, basically whatever you can think of. Plus little mess and clean-up. Really, even if you’re in a tiny apartment you can make a ton with just a slow cooker and doesn’t require much space.

Rebecca
Rebecca
8 years ago

There’s a movie, I think The Mexican with Brad Pitt, and the director in a special section shows you how to make his favorite shredded pork dish (Boston butt with achiote paste cooked in banana leaves). My husband and I have made it many times and love it. But what has really stuck with me is that the director, while he’s making the pork, is talking about his food philosophy and it’s this: “People always brag that they’re terrible at cooking. But there are two things that are essential to the human experience: sex and food. Who goes around bragging… Read more »

Marisa
Marisa
8 years ago

My suggestion is that most of the fancy herbs and spices are merely suggestions, not absolutely crucial to any dish you’ll make. If a recipe calls for freshly picked basil and all you have is dried, save yourself $4 at the store and just put in a dash of dried basil, or skip it altogether. Don’t spend a bunch of money on extra ingredients you’re only going to use once.

Jen
Jen
8 years ago

I’ve cooked for a very long time because I enjoy it–I understand that for people who do not enjoy cooking, the whole thing can feel like a chore. My recommendation is to use the library for cookbooks. They usually have the basics (Joy of Cooking, etc.) and you get not only the recipes but the how/why too. My favorite cookbook when I was learning to cook was Julia Child’s The Way to Cook. It’s a fairly basic cookbook (nothing like her Art of French Cooking!) and it is organized by technique, which I found very helpful in gaining an understanding… Read more »

Richard
Richard
8 years ago

Cooking is a great way to save money. I make a game of it and try and find something new to cook every Sunday. it’s surprisingly fun and stress free.

Matt
Matt
8 years ago

Great advice. It was a stupidly easy dish my mamma-in-law made that got me started.

“How can taglitelle with butter and fried egg taste so good?” I thought, and I was off…

Now I’m lucky enough to be at the stage where, sometimes at least, cooking for myself relaxes me. Not so much for dinner parties, but slowly slowly…

Rachael
Rachael
8 years ago

Great article! I second buying any new cook a good cookbook. My personal choice is Mark Bittman’s newest, How to Cook Everything: The Basics. It’s cooking from soup to nuts, and has excellent pictures that demonstrate how to do each step, with simple variations. On a side note, I’m also single, and I’ve been trying to lose weight. Cutting out processed (prepared) foods and anything with added sugar 6 days a week has cut $40 to $60 off my weekly grocery bill, and just over 15 pounds off my body in 6 weeks with no stress and almost no cravings.… Read more »

Carmen
Carmen
8 years ago

Great article, but your pots really do make a difference in your cooking. Cheap-o pots will not hold the heat properly and lead to more scorching and burning. By far the best pots are All-Clad brand, but be prepared to dish out the big bucks. An excellent contender at a quarter of the price is Tramontina. Cooks Illustrated did a comparison on these and found that Tramontina pots are made with the same triple-ply technology as All-Clad and are much more affordable. One last thing, make sure you get some non-nonstick pans. Non-stick pans won’t give you the great caramelization… Read more »

Carla
Carla
8 years ago
Reply to  Carmen

Or just buy cast iron. I find that non-stick cookware doesn’t offer as much flavor, or color as cast iron.

Kimberly
Kimberly
8 years ago

This article was well written–funny and informative! Hope we get to see more of this author. 🙂 I used to be the person getting take-out three times a day (seriously, at one point, I kept nothing in my fridge–not even ketchup). But I learned to cook, and now can make tastier food than most restaurants. If I can do it, trust me, anyone can. One thing that helped me was websites with photos of recipes in the middle of being made. Food can look a little strange half-way through, and it’s scary for someone without a cooking background. The Pioneer… Read more »

elena
elena
8 years ago
Reply to  Kimberly

Our local healthfood store lets me buy very small amounts of bulk spices from their bins.
It is so much cheaper and helps when I want to try a new recipe but don’t want to buy $15 of spices.

Jen
Jen
8 years ago

I started learning a year ago and definitely recommend starting slow, but continuing to add/experiment along the way. It is cheaper and can be far healthier. Roasting vegetables that are just chopped and tossed in olive oil, salt and pepper was a revelation for me. Vegetables can be delicious with just that (cooking time /temp vary but easy to google any of them, then I ignore any extra steps/ingredients).

Brenton
Brenton
8 years ago

Good luck El Nerdo. Your comments are always great. Hope you pass the “test”. A good article for your first one.

Jo@simplybeingmum
8 years ago

I’m not sure whether it’s a cultural thing, but I’ve noticed a few posts about cooking at home rather than eating out to save cash and improve health. I’m from the UK, and haven’t really noticed families eating out with such regularity. They do, do it, but I’d say the majority of people I know cook at home – with an occasional meal out. My biggest tip in saving on groceries is to go with basic ingredients – you can do a lot with them. Don’t buy the added value option, it isn’t needed once you have just a few… Read more »

amber
amber
8 years ago

Jo I think we do have a lot more options for restaurants out than you have in the UK or most of Europe. So many times going out just becomes the easiest thing to do because it is available right there and everyone is hungry NOW!

Nicole
Nicole
8 years ago
Reply to  amber

We have friends living in London who complain about how hard it is to go out to eat compared to the US. (Especially since they’re vegetarian!)

Megan
Megan
8 years ago
Reply to  amber

Agreed. Also, the sheer quantity of restaurants in the US doesn’t mean they’re all very good. There are strip malls near my house filled with every sort of chain restaurant you can think of, but most of them are just “OK.” Either the food is mediocre and you leave thinking “I could have made that at home better AND cheaper,” or it’s not very healthy. But the restaurants are plentiful and most are fairly fast, so people will keep eating there.

Jo@simplybeingmum
8 years ago
Reply to  amber

I do wonder if we are headed the same way though? UK tends to be a few years behind, but eventually it hits us also!

Jenny
Jenny
8 years ago

I love this article! I used to be a mediocre cook, with my meals consisting of boxed macaroni and cheese, Shake n’ Bake chicken breasts, and spaghetti (with canned sauce). I believe that as long as I have a recipe I can make the dish. Now I’m intermediate level… not everything I make is fantastic, or even really good, but I keep plugging away at it. My tips for busy folks: to prevent workday exhaustion from getting in your way, keep it simple. Grilled Ham & Cheese sandwiches are perfectly fine for dinner. Use non-workday evenings to experiment with new… Read more »

Kandace
Kandace
8 years ago

Love reading El Nerdo’s comments and now his post!

Does anyone else get burned out with cooking? I love it, but find I am the major cook in the house. Along with full time work, tending a garden, sometimes I resent having to come up with something great for dinner. When I’m tired, thinking about cooking makes me want to go out to eat.

And sometimes the thought of coming up with three meals a day for the next 40+ years, and the clean up afterward, makes me ready to call Dominoes.

Anyone else have a similar problem?

Samantha
Samantha
8 years ago
Reply to  Kandace

I only cook for myself, but I live with a married couple and I notice this in them. She makes big meals, often from scratch, but the next night they’ll get takeout, I assume because she’s burnt out from the last night’s dinner and doesn’t want to go through that again. To me it seems like two steps forward, one step back, because I think it’d be more adviseable to either make simple meals every night, or make a double batch and eat it for two nights. I guess the best solutions are (1) simple meals that don’t exhaust you… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago
Reply to  Kandace

Yeah, we’re self-employed so sometimes it’s FATIGUE TIME. Nothing wrong with the occasional break! We do get the craving for pizza every now and then but then we realize it’s a bunch of money for little satisfaction. So here are some alternatives -Keep a couple of frozen pizzas at hand. -Have a stash of snack-type foods ready to eat. Cheeses, salami, pickles and some almonds and you’re good. -Make a smoothie. This is our lazy strategy in hot summer days. Almond or coconut milk, frozen blueberries, bananas, scoop of whey powder, scoop of flax seed, rrrrrrrrrrrrr (that’s the blender)— it’s… Read more »

Jen
Jen
8 years ago
Reply to  Kandace

I think fatigue is natural. I am the cook in our house too, and every once in a while when I’ve had one of “those days” I just do not feel like cooking. I do a few things: one, I keep something very simple available in the freezer (there are individually frozen fish entrees I can get at the gourmet frozen section of my grocery store)–that way, all I’m doing is putting something in the oven and a veggie in the microwave. Or, I’ll ask my husband to do the cooking that night; he’s more than happy to accommodate every… Read more »

Megan
Megan
8 years ago
Reply to  Kandace

If there’s another adult in the house, can you have them take over cooking one or two nights a week? Even if they’re one of the “I can’t even boil water!” types, they can still make something. Scrambled eggs and toast for dinner are just fine; just add a piece of fruit or make an omelet instead and add veggies.

chacha1
chacha1
8 years ago
Reply to  Kandace

I definitely do. DH and I both work full-time, but I do 99% of the meal planning, grocery shopping, and cooking. Burnout? Oh yeah. One trick for me is to make at least one “big pot” meal at least once every two weeks. A giant pot roast, a tureen of chili or chowder, something like that – we can eat several times for one prep effort. The other trick is to plan & budget for takeout at least once every two weeks. I don’t cook Thai, so we call the Thai place once in a while. Or we’ll pick up… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago

Wow, thanks for all the responses. Much appreciated. I’d like to start my comment-posting for the day with an EASY summer recipe. So easy a monkey can do it. I mean, it’s not even a recipe. Really, anyone can do it. TOMATO SALAD You’ll need: 1) A chopping surface 2) A knife 3) Ripe tomatos 4) Onion 5) Vinegar 6) Olive oil 7) Salt 8) A glass/ceramic dish or pan or something. 9) Something for tossing: a spoon, tongs, clean hands, whatever. Take however many tomatos you want to eat. Cut them so you get round slices, not wedges. Lay… Read more »

KSR
KSR
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

BALSAMIC! Num. Fantastic good read El Nerdo. Hope to see many more. Have you tried the no-knead dutch oven method? Only one I use now.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago
Reply to  KSR

Hey I hope I’m not too late replying but I had a busy day at work and the blog was running slow.

Anyway yes, the only method I know is with the dutch oven (inside the oven). It’s great.

Only problem is I don’t like heating up the oven in the summer and I don’t really have a space for outdoor cooking. But I’m intrigued by methods like the “real” dutch ovens, meaning– on the ground, covered in hot coals, on some mountain. Yumm!

KSR
KSR
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

Ha! The blog was running slow because of your famous popularity. Do you feel the love?!? Wow!! Nerdo, you have a big following and an endless fan base (and obvious new duty/job in your life). Congrats to you! Keep ’em comin’.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

accidentally double-posted. kindly nuke it, GRS gods! (actually i guess nuke the one below that’s a copy of this. or not! thanks.)

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago

Wow, thanks for all the responses. Much appreciated. I’d like to start my comment-posting for the day with an EASY summer recipe, as a bonus thing that didn’t fit into the article. This is so easy a monkey can do it. I mean, it’s not even a recipe. Really, anyone can do it. Try it. TOMATO SALAD You’ll need: 1) A chopping surface 2) A knife 3) Ripe tomatos 4) Onion 5) Vinegar 6) Olive oil 7) Salt Eight) A glass/ceramic dish or pan or something. 9) Something for tossing: a spoon, tongs, clean hands, whatever. Take however many tomatos… Read more »

Valerie
Valerie
8 years ago

To save time and money, I cook one say a week = Sunday. I cook 5 meals that can be have ingredients that cross over to the meals that I’m making and then put half each meal in the fridge andd the other half in the freezer. Then anywhere from 4-6 weeks later, so I’m not sick off of left-overs, I go “shopping” in my freezer. Hence I feel like I’m saving even MORE $$$ and time by doing this 🙂 By the way I’m vegetarian however cook/bake a lot of vegan ingredients. I highly recommend a vegan cookbook because… Read more »

Carolyn
Carolyn
8 years ago

I have been on a 6 year endeavor to teach myself to cook.  I don’t have fancy tools and really haven’t succeeded in cultivating proper technique.  I am a foodie at heart and aspire to make multi course meals far beyond my skill level.  I have managed to get good at 5-6 repeat recipes I cook often for weeknight meals…simple things like chili, beans, spaghetti, and tacos, that most of us can eventually master.  About a year ago I found a GREAT cookbook (Relaxed Cooking with Curtis Stone) that is really simple with clear instructions and food that makes my… Read more »

SuzyB
SuzyB
8 years ago

Great article! When I was a teenager in the 70’s I saw my grandma make egg-noodles from scratch and wanted to learn something that looked so cool. Grandma taught me, and then my mom declared egg noodles “my dish” to contribute. Even if they were gummy, the family found something good to say about the taste. Then eventually, they became as good as Grandma’s, and wow… the feeling was amazing. Now I make Noodles from scratch, Apple Pie with my own crust, and the best Samosas ever! (see how they all involve the same element, dough?) El Nerdo is absolutely… Read more »

Matt at Healthy N' Wealthy
Matt at Healthy N' Wealthy
8 years ago

I always enjoy El Nerdo’s posts, so it’s no surprise that I enjoyed this article. One of the main reasons why I enjoy cooking for myself is that I know exactly what I’m putting into my food. After eating really healthy for a while, everything in restaurants tastes salty and buttery. I probably don’t save much by cooking for myself because I buy really expensive food (grass-fed, free range, organic, etc). Also, I find that the time required to clean is the worst part about it. However, it’s a small price to pay to be able to eat great food… Read more »

Sandi_k
Sandi_k
8 years ago

Add some balsalmic vinegar and gorgonzola cheese to that, and you have a signature side dish. 🙂

Jenn
Jenn
8 years ago

My biggest suggestion for anyone starting out, who hates the time factor: embrace batch cooking. For 6 months I was starting out in a new job in SF alone, while my husband finished his PhD across the country. Groceries in my neighborhood were expensive, so I’d basically maximize savings by making big dishes and eating them everyday until they were gone. The major bonus is you spend a little time one day cooking and the rest of the week wear out your microwave. You come home tired and hungry to a dog that needs to be walked, and you don’t… Read more »

DanM53
DanM53
8 years ago

Cooking is the second least enjoyable activity there is. The first was a vasectomy, but I only had to endure that once.

If I never have to cook again, I’d be happy. If only my wife could be content with Corn Flakes for every meal.

shauna
shauna
8 years ago

I was always one of those young adults who said “I can’t cook and never will.” I’ve learned over the last couple years mostly because eating out was just not financially feasible anymore. I actually found that baking was a good place to start. The recipes are so specific that you don’t have to fill in any gaps or guess. And the steps are usually very linear and non-time sensitive. If you over-mix the batter a little, it might throw things off a tad but it isn’t going to burn anything or start a fire in your kitchen! Soup is… Read more »

Beth
Beth
8 years ago
Reply to  shauna

I second asking friends! Most of my favourite recipes come from friends and family.

I would also recommend food blogs, especially if you have an food allergies or intolerances. It’s thanks to food bloggers that I can cook and bake dairy-free without much problem.

Drew C.
Drew C.
8 years ago

I loved what you said about cooking at the beginning: “It’s a guaranteed path to seduction, it induces feelings of love and affection in those around you, and it is the foundation of a happy family life.” I don’t know if I completely agree with that, but it is pretty funny, and somewhat true. I do notice that I am more attracted to women that can cook (being a man). I try to do my fair share of cooking, but grilling is one of my favorite things to do. If you can find the right seasoning, it is a meal… Read more »

Dog Lover
Dog Lover
8 years ago

Feedback on the article: well-written and accessible–great job! However, it could benefit from more financial tie-in. For example: 1. Buy seasonal produce to benefit from low prices 2. Cook in big batches and freeze some to reduce your time cooking 3. Buy bulk when you can to reduce costs (meat on sale, rice, grains, dry beans, etc.)–but make sure to STORE PROPERLY to avoid spoilage or infestation 4. Etc. (Sorry, I didn’t have time to read the other comments, so these points may have been made already.) PS I recently heard about Once a Month cooking–would be great if I… Read more »

Dog Lover
Dog Lover
8 years ago
Reply to  Dog Lover

Oh, and a tip for new cooks: season, season, season!

I love my Italian blend of herbs and spices, along with freshly-cracked pepper. I also use a ton of garlic–throw a few cloves into pasta sauce (cream or tomato-based), stir-fry, sautéed mushrooms, etc.–delicious, and I think it has prevented me from catching colds! You should heat some oil in a pan, slice the clove in half, and add the garlic before adding the other ingredients.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago
Reply to  Dog Lover
Thanks for the comments! Yes of course there is a lot to develop for the PF side of things; more recently for example Donna wrote about how she cooks in batches.

I wanted this to be a little different, more of an invitation and encouragement for those who suffer from kitchen allergies (ha), so I focused on the motivation and a on building on success. For more on this check out the response I’m about to post to Ash (I think it will be on page 2).

Tie the Money Knot
Tie the Money Knot
8 years ago

Nice article. I really like 2 things that were noted:

1) Spending more and more time cooking is like investing and compound interest. Nice analogy.

2) Not spending too much up front, like with expensive knives and other kitchen gadgets. Best to start basic, build confidence, and move forward. I actually took a cooking class years ago and did have fun and learned a few things, but found that it was too advanced and they used cooking utensils that were high end and a bit much for where I was at.

Crystal
Crystal
8 years ago

I’m 30 and when my husband and I first started dating, he had to teach me how to brown hamburger!!! Seriously, I was hopeless. I agree that you should start simply. I started out just baking… chocolate chip cookies, brownies, cake from a box, and then got better from there. My Betty Crocker cookbook is a life saver! Simple recipes, easy to understand instructions. I recently threw away my Rachel Ray cookbook I had gotten as a wedding gift… the recipes and ingredients were far too upscale for me. Don’t feel like you have to cook like they do on… Read more »

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