I’m constantly surprised that people can spend $250+ per person per month. Over time this adds up to tremendous amounts of money. Most likely, such huge food bills are due to eating out or eating preprocessed foods, so this is likely to be followed by substantial sick care costs down the road.

The simple answer is to learn how to cook. You might say you can’t cook, but I say you can always start by following recipes. Anyone can follow a recipe. Well, maybe with one possible exception. Looking into yacht crewing, I read a story about how a ship’s chef on a maxi yacht got a visit from one of the guests. Apparently the guest felt she had to at least say hello to the crew and make some small talk, so she walks into the galley and after a few uncomfortable moments points and asks “… so what is this?” … “Well, uh it’s a kettle”, says the chef. “And what’s that for?” … “You know, a tea kettle .. for boiling water for tea”. Ahh, the complicated lives of the rich and famous.

However, if you’re insufficiently rich to still know what a kettle is, you should be fine.

Now, you can follow recipes for the rest of your life, but if you really want to save money, you got to learn how to cook. Start experimenting with ingredients. First try adding too much of one thing or too little of another and see what happens. I recommend doing your first experiments with bread. Substitute milk for water. Substitute some of the flour for out meal. Try different kinds of flour. Try honey instead of sugar. Butter instead of eggs. See what happens. Soon you’ll know what the difference between a muffin and a loaf of bread is.

Move on to other areas. It is easiest to learn within a subfield. So for instance, do different kinds of stir frys for a month until you understand what makes a good stir fry and what ruins it. Find out which ingredients work together (apple and carrot) and which don’t (carrot and tomato).

Try to reach a point where recipes are no longer needed. At that point all you need to do is to look into the cupboard and make something up. Alternative, when you go shopping, you’ll only buy what’s on sale and build your cooking around that rather than hunting for expensive ingredients from a recipe.

Originally posted 2008-06-06 07:22:55.