Frugal Friday – Preparing Your Own Food

One of the best ways for the typical person to save money is cut down the cost of food, and one of the best ways to do that, in turn, is to prepare more of your food yourself.  It was the top reason on my list of ways to cut down on your food spending, and it’s definitely a key to keeping yourself and your family fed without having to spend a fortune in the process.  Learn to cook, and you’ll find yourself saving plenty of money over the course of your lifetime.  (You’ll also have more control over what you eat, and be able to eat healthier and better, to boot.)

A fully stocked fridge means less money spent on eating out, after all.

I realize that it’s not as simple as all that; from the issue of knowing how to cook to having the time to prepare the food, it can be tricky to be your own chef.  While I can’t hope to turn you into a gourmet chef in single blog post (or even in an entire blog; although if my fiancee takes her friend’s advice, she might give it a shot…),particularly as I’m still in the process of teaching myself the finer points of cooking, it is possible to pass on a few suggestions to help you make your meals and save plenty of money in the process, such as:

1. Keep it Simple to Start: If you’re just getting started in the world of cooking, it’s tempting to try to jump right in and prepare the sort of amazing meals you’re used to from restaurants and your family’s cooking.  Trying to do that right off the bat, though, is a recipe (if you’ll pardon the expression) for disaster.  Instead, start with some simple foods to get yourself off on the right footing.  When you can make yourself something simple without any problems, like cooking hamburgers or chili from scratch, then consider expanding your culinary adventures.

2. Be Sure to Follow the Recipe: Recipes are a very useful tool for the beginning chef.  If you can follow what the recipe says, you can prepare nearly any type of food on the planet.  While it’s tempting to try to do it all on your own, finding a recipe to follow is really the way to go, at least until you’ve become a skilled chef and can figure out what to do on your own.  Plus, there are plenty of good sources for recipes on the web, so you have lots of good recipes to try.  (Just stick with the simple stuff to start.)

3. Take Advantage of Modern Tools to Ease the Process: This is one of those tips that might seem counter productive; modern cooking tools can be quite expensive, and trying for anything like a fully stocked kitchen can get costly very quickly.  But hear me out: the advantage of having access to tools like, say, a crock pot, is that it can make it easier to make things like ribs, chicken wings, or roasts, allowing you to have delicious food without the expense of going out to a restaurant.  It can take time to get really good at using all the tools that are available, but doing so can allow you to make sorts of delicious food from the comfort of your own home.

4. Don’t Be Discouraged: Unless you are lucky enough to have someone in your life with cooking talent who is willing to look over your shoulder and teach you how to cook, you’re likely to make more than a few mistakes as you learn (even if you do have someone looking over your shoulder, mistakes are still possible, as anyone who has done exactly the wrong thing while their instructor’s back was turned could tell you).  The key is not be discouraged; as with anything worth doing, cooking takes practice.  Just remember that once you are a reasonably talented cook, you’ll be able to make any number of meals and more than make up for the burnt ones along the way.  (Plus, for my fellow guys out there: there are few things women find more attractive than a guy who can cook, except perhaps those who can clean (and are willing to do so).)

There you have it, some ways to keep your money flowing while still eating more than Raman everyday (although, if you like Raman noodles, it is one way to keep your food expenses down).  If you have any other means of cutting down your food expenses, or just want to share some favorite (and hopefully simple) recipes, I’d love hear about them.  Have fun, eat well, and stay healthy!

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