You want to start cooking, in general, because you know it saves money and is healthier and all that. But you’re hungry. Like, now. There’s a taco truck just down the street, and it’s only $8 so…
Is this happening every night? You’re on the takeout treadmill. It can seem harmless enough, but to both your body and your finances, it’s not. Studies have shown that when you eat at restaurants, you eat an average of 200 more calories, 10 grams more fat, and 58 additional milligrams of cholesterol. Also, one blogger found that by eating at home instead of at a restaurant just two days a weeks would save around $8,000 every 10 years.
What could you do with an extra $8,000 over the next 10 years? While you think about that, let’s review 10 commandments of finally starting to cook at home.
- Educate Yourself. Did you just hop in a car at age 15 without someone teaching you how to drive? No. Yet we can sometimes think that cooking is something we should be able to do just by having seen it done. There are principles to learn, and your food will be much more delicious (and the cooking much easier,) if you take time to learn them. We tested this cooking school and recommend it.
- Start Simple. Don’t invite 12 people over for duck confit for your first attempt. Learn how to roast a chicken. If you don’t have a roasting rack, just roll up some aluminum foil underneath. Learn to cook a steak at home. All you need is a cast iron pan. Go for one protein, one hot vegetable, one cold vegetable for a meal. Almost any veggie is delicious sliced up and sautéed with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Salads are great with just lemon, oil, and salt.
- Get Your Groove On. Cooking is a physical activity that, like many others, is made more fun with a little booty shaking. Make your cooking music mix. Whatever you want to de-compress with at the end of the day. Cooking can seem stressful, but if you set yourself up correctly, it can really be a time for relaxation.
- Get a Cooking Buddy. If you hate cooking but want to learn, having a buddy that also wants to learn will help immensely. You don’t have to learn alone. Pick a cooking night of the week where you make something together, then enjoy the meal.
- Cook Once, Eat Twice (or More). You can double almost any recipe and freeze the rest to make your own microwavable meals so that you benefit from economies of scale and have some pre-made work lunches. Learn how to freeze. Invest in some good storage containers and set yourself up for the week.
- No Mysteries in the Kitchen. Everyone who’s worked at a restaurant knows this. Anything in your kitchen should be labeled with at least what it is and when it’s good until. If you open a jar, write with a permanent marker what date you opened it on. In the freezer, this is even more important. Keep at least one Sharpie handy.
- Make a Weekly Routine. Planning is essential for not just getting takeout. Make your grocery list in your kitchen, and start with the question, “What do we need to use up?” You can then go to AllRecipes.com and do an ingredient search for what you have to find recipes that use it. Then pick your meals and make that list! Put a recurring appointment on your calendar to remind yourself.
- Stock Your Tools. Make your kitchen a nice place to be. Keep your kitchen as clean and uncluttered as possible and buy some silly tools you just enjoy using. Check out this list to get started.
- Let Mistakes Happen. You’re going to have meals that you mess up. Always have one panic pizza in the freezer that can be ready in 15 minutes, just in case you need it. Have a back up plan, because you’re learning. Consider each mistake a lesson, and don’t beat yourself up when they happen.
- Value Your Cooking Skills. People who know how to cook are valuable everywhere they go. If you’re ever couch surfing, you can thank your hosts by cooking for them. For every potluck you go to, you can have something to contribute. Cooking is a specific skill that gives you something to offer almost anyone.
By embracing the kitchen, stocking your tools, and setting up a system, you’ll break away from the hold of the taco truck and the pizza delivery guy. Over time, you’ll see huge differences in how you feel and how your bank account looks.
Image Credit: Shutterstock/bearsky23
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