Cooking to Financial Success

Andi B. blogs at Modern Tightwad and is most content being at home with her husband and dog, writing about ways to make the life you love, the life you can afford.

One of my favorite ways to pass a day is cooking from scratch. There’s something incredibly fulfilling about plunging my hands into dough, and smelling fresh food cooking in our oven. When my family is at home, and we’re all tired, a warm meal on a cold day can revive us all. And when I cook my great-grandmother’s matzo ball soup recipe, I’m connected to all of the memories of her I hold dearest. My husband and I love cooking for our friends and have even been known to bring food over to other people’s houses. Cooking is also our family’s greatest financial tool.

Cooking as a financial tool? How does baking bread relate to finances? From a mathematical perspective, the food section of our budgets often has the most flexibility, and it’s often the place we fall most short. It’s pretty difficult to resist the lure of a “no dishes” night, as we call going out to eat. In addition, food is a primary form of entertainment for my husband and I. He works in the restaurant industry and we love going and trying a new chef’s masterpiece. However, we try to strongly consider the cost. A family of two spending $40 on eating out once a week will spend $2000 a year. In my pre-tightwad days when I wasn’t cooking like I am now, our food budget shot up past $600 in one month, for two people! Fiscally, it’s smarter to cook at home.

Cooking also teaches life lessons. You have to be patient, understand that things have their time. You can’t rush the dough rising anymore than you can speed up the closing date of your house. Sometimes souffle’s rise or fall seemingly without a reason, like my credit score.

There is very little that we eat that we can’t make at home including fresh baked bread, tortilla chips, jams, jellies, sauces, and more. Here are some tips to keep you cooking at home:

  1. Have food in the house. The reason we eat out most often is I’ve forgotten to keep a basic necessity like bread for the sandwiches in the house. Every week look at the sales flyer for the store you go to most, make a note of the super good deals and create a few meal ideas around them. Hopefully, when someone asks, what’s for dinner, you’ll have several options.
  2. Invest in durable prep and cookware. I’m not talking about the latest and greatest cooking gadget. I mean durable, resilient basics: pots, pans, bakeware, knives, cutting boards. My husband wasn’t a fan of cooking due to our tiny kitchen, until I bought him a cast iron griddle for crepes. Every year we go to the Kershaw warehouse sale to replace any knives that are beyond saving. Having cookware that isn’t falling apart makes cooking easier, which means you’re more likely to do it. You don’t have to drop a bundle on a shopping spree, but over time picking up single pieces will greatly enhance your “home chef” experience.
  3. Know how to cook. I was very fortunate that my mother enjoyed cooking and baking with me and was willing to answer my questions. On the other side, I once had a babysitter who didn’t know how to boil water (comforting, I know). If you don’t know a pot from a pan, or if your recipe choices have all gone stale, investing in a community cooking course may be just the ticket.

Cooking at home can be a wonderful experience, for your family, and your pocketbook. It’s the greatest asset I have in my budget.


Cooking to Financial Success — 8 Comments

    • @ Steve Zussino I know it is amazing how many people don’t know how to cook even the simplest things. It really blows my mind. I honestly think it is one of the things that is going to cripple this next generation when it comes to health and finances. Knowing how to cook is a life and money saver.

  1. Totally agree! The cost of eating out has steadily gone up (and so has the tipping percentage!). Cook at home, eat healthy and save money!

    And, in my opinion, one of the best cooking gadgets is a pressure cooker! 🙂

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