My Favorite Money Saving Tip – Learn to Cook

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The following is a throwback blog swap post from Joe at Retire By 40, where he writes about his journey to early retirement and other fun stuff along the way!

My favorite money saving tip is to learn to cook. Food takes up a huge chunk of everyone’s budget and the easiest way to reduce that expenditure is to cook at home. I came home today to find Mrs. RB40 stabbing a potato while complaining  that a baked potato costs 6 bucks at the cafeteria! $6 for a baked potato? That’s ridiculous. It’s a good thing she knows how to make a great baked potato.

I was lucky that I learned to cook in my parents’ small Thai Restaurant. Well, to tell the truth it sucked to be working at the restaurant when I was in high school, but I picked up an invaluable skill set. I can cut up and disjoint a whole chicken into bite-sized pieces. I can prep vegetables quickly. I can make many Thai dishes like chicken curry, pineapple fried rice, Thai beef salad, and other dishes they don’t even serve in restaurants.  Once you get a few basic things down, you can cook many more dishes from recipes. I started off cooking Thai food and then gradually expanded to other cuisines. Now I can make great bleu cheese burgers, steamed mussels, pizza and more. I still hate washing dishes though, it’s a good thing I have a wife.

Learning to cook is not easy, but anyone can do it. You just have to cook frequently enough so you get the hang of the basics. You can start by cooking a few times a week and gradually your dinner will get better and better. These days, it’s easy to get recipes for anything that you like from the internet, so give them a try.

Cooking at home is also a lot better for your health. Do you notice any problems when you go out to eat? The portions are huge.  I’m a bit of a pig and if you put a big plate of Macaroni Grill’s Chicken Scaloppini  in front of me, I would eat as much as I can. At home, I can control the portion size much better and it makes a big difference. Restaurant dishes are also high in sodium and fat. That’s why restaurant food tastes so good. Salt and butter make everything better. I love going out to eat as much as anyone, but as I get older, I am more conscious about what I put into my body.

I’ll make a prediction and say 90% of us will have to modify our diet for health reasons at some point. Last year, I had a bit of problem with my inner ears and the nutritionist put me on a small meal plan to keep the sodium level steady. I now eat 5-6 small meals throughout the day and it would have been a huge adjustment if I ate out every day. However, since we mostly cook at home, it was pretty easy to pack smaller meals. We just had to buy a few more small Tupperware containers.  It is so much easier to modify your diet if you cook at home.

Cooking at home is my best saving tip. What do you think? Do you cook at home or do you think eating out is worth it? Do you have any experience with diet modification and how do you deal with it? 

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