People Are Eating Out Less and Learning to Cook at Home
When it comes to your budget, one of the biggest expenditures is often food. We all need food on a daily basis, and if you are cooking for a family, this can be especially taxing on your budget. But, food is also one of the areas in your budget where you have the most control and the ability to cut costs.
For those who are pressed for time or don’t have the skills required to cook at home, it usually means turning to restaurants or take-out. Unfortunately, the convenience of having someone prepare, serve, and even deliver your food comes with a high price tag. Even if you’re only feeding yourself, it adds up. Imagine if you spent $7 on lunch and $10 on dinner just five days a week. That’s close to $4,500, and those prices can be a bit low depending on where you live. And if you’re married and/or have kids, you can see how this expense can skyrocket.
So, it’s no surprise that if you could cut back on eating out just a few days a week, you could literally save hundreds or even thousands of dollars each year. Doing this is easier said than done. You still need to buy food at the grocery store and spend time preparing it. If your life is as hectic as most, the idea of coming home from work just to spend an hour in the kitchen, or packing your lunch every morning may not seem worth the savings. But in reality, with a little practice and some basic cooking skills, you can learn how to make cooking at home virtually painless.
Cooking Classes Becoming Popular
One of the biggest hurdles is with being unable to cook, or feeling like you can’t make anything that tastes good. If you didn’t come from a family that cooked a lot of meals at home or you never learned some of the basics, then yes, it can be difficult. You always have the Food Network, but it’s hand’s on practice that makes perfect.
This is why it’s no real surprise that cooking schools are filling up as the economy sinks. From the article, you can see that in one of the nation’s worse economies, the unexpected has happened and cooking classes are filling up. The assumption was that in a tough economy, fewer people would want to possibly spend money on an extra class, or take time out of their day, but just the opposite seems to be true.
Check For Local Classes
If you’re considering a class like this, check your local events calendars. The local library may have information on events like these, and any local community college could also be a good place to look into these classes. The good news is that many of these classes may actually be free. You could learn some food basics, knife skills, or even tips on how to stretch your food budget.
Also, check with your major local supermarket chains. Our local supermarket offers a few free classes and demonstrations on occasion. Some simply have a chef showing how to prepare a certain meal, while others are more educational and talk about different types of food, cuts of meat, produce, and so on.
I’m Also Going to Help
If you’re a reader of the site, you’ll also begin getting some frugal food tips from me. I love to cook, and I love to save money, so it goes hand-in-hand. I guess it comes from growing up in a household that cooked most meals at home, but my wife and I almost never eat out. It helps living in the middle of nowhere so that it makes going out to eat inconvenient, but virtually 95% of what we eat is prepared at home.
So, goinig forward I plan on bringing a few illustrated food and cooking tips to the site. If you recall, last summer I showed a great way to prepare an inexpensive potato on the grill, and over the fall I shared a killer chili recipe that feeds your family for days for just $25. Now that I’ve gotten better with the camera and how to put those types of posts together, I am going to make it a regular feature. Most topics will be budget-friendly recipes that are easy or quick to prepare, or methods for stretching your food out.
Keep an eye out for those upcoming posts. And if you have any questions or something in particular you’d like to see, just leave a comment. I have a few things in mind for the next few posts, but if there are specific things people need help with, that would be even better.
Author: Jeremy Vohwinkle
My name is Jeremy Vohwinkle, and I’ve spent a number of years working in the finance industry providing financial advice to regular investors and those participating in employer-sponsored retirement plans.
I have been cooking at home for a long time, but with the economy and a job loss in the family, I have been doing what I can to stretch our dollars further. I have learned to use every part of the food I buy. I try not to throw anything away. I use leftover chicken bones and parts of vegetables to make stock. I compost everything else to have better soil to grow my own veggies next spring. I have learned to can my own veggies, too, which means I can enjoy the fresh tasting summer produce all year. (although my supply is running short this time of the year) I also make large meals to eat later in the week and freeze anything that I do not think we will eat before it goes bad.
I also scan the Manager's Specials in the meat and produce sections to get the "freeze or use soon" Meats and veggies. the veggies I make into soup or freeze as they are to use later, and the meat I just freeze.
My philosophy has become "waste-not, want-not"
I'm amazed at how much some people avoid cooking - I haven't been doing it for long but it doesn't seem that hard to make something good. I'm always trying to do things a bit differently so I can get a better understanding of what tastes good.
Cooking doesn't have to take a lot of time. For beginners there's a lot of simple 15-20 minute recipes. Once you're comfortable with those you can move on to the really good ones :)
I find a lot of recipes on recipezaar.com - I can think of almost any general idea (like chicken and asparagus) and find a lot of different ways to make it there.
Oooh! I want to visit you guys at dinner time! Sounds like you are making some tasty meals. But really, I think it is great that more people are getting "domestic" with the current state of the world. It's not only good for green in the pocket book, but it should also reduce resource consumption and decrease the amount of waste. A win, win.
Awesome post Jeremy.
I think people are doing a lot of things "in house" now. They are getting a reality check, that not everything will go up infinitely.
Ditto on the large meals that last for days. So far my favorites are lasagna and veggie Chili(I'm a meat lover, so trust me, it still tastes good). We make the chili in the crock pot and so it's ready to roll when we get home. Mostly canned ingredients which are super cheap.
I am trying to learn more recipes to make myself. I usually stick to the same menu week after week. Here is a site for people to check out some new recipes from random people. http://www.cookstr.com/
We're even making our own soup now! It's actually been a really good experience for us. And healthier -- less sodium and fat than premade soup in a can.
My wife and I make larger meals when possible and either eat them for lunches or freeze them for later on. It has done wonders with our budget so far.
If we do well for the month, we'll treat ourselves with a cheap night out reward.
Same deal goes with beverages too (my latest post I talk about the subject). When you get nickeled and dimed, you never realize how much you are actually spending.
Looking forward to the meals you are going to share!