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22 February, 2009

You (yes, you): Cooking your way to success

Posted in : From the original blog on by : Lauri Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Fresh vegetables

Being self-employed is a juggling act: getting gigs and projects, running the business, staying in touch with contacts, and trying to maintain some semblance of a life. For this reason, I’ve become very aware of the amount of food spent on dining beyond my own kitchen.  But whether you work at home, take lunch (and beyond) to your workplace, or are on the road during the day, keeping tabs on your food spending is a crucial key to guarding your bottom line. If you’re home and don’t cook for yourself, you’re probably spending a lot more on prepared food and dining out than you need to. If you’re out and about, you’re probably eating out a lot, depending on “cheap” fast food and whatever you can find for the bulk of your meals. Either scenario can cause you thousands of dollars every year, and even the most basic skills or just a few great appliances will help you save loads of money on food that tastes good and costs a whole lot less. This blog can help.

Don’t cook? Fear not: we’ll teach you the basics, one cheap-and-easy recipe at a time. You don’t have to live on ramen noodles and mac & cheese. Rethinking your groceries and your kitchen makes a big difference, and peanut butter and jelly can be a treat, not a staple (unless you want it to be). We’ll teach you how to think about food a week at a time, challenge you to try a few new, great things, and lead you to solutions that won’t make your head spin. With the ongoing construction of a glossary, shopping lists, and kitchen guidelines, you can take the reorganization of your culinary existence one step at a time, with enough help so you don’t get too lost. We’ll help you choose the equipment, appliances, gadgets, staples and spices that will make a real difference, and offer guidance on whether to invest in a lifelong tool or to get the cheapest model available. With recipes, product reviews, and reader ideas, we can help change your life.

Ready to get started?

Here’s your first task: find your starting point. It’s probably safe to assume that you’re interested in saving money on food in general, or you wouldn’t have read this far. So let’s see how far you’re ready to go. Grab a piece of paper, go to your kitchen and do a basic assessment.  Make notes on your needs and wants as you consider the following:

  • How often are you eating out in an average week? How much does that tend to cost you per week? per month? per year?
  • Are you a foodie? Are you interested in new foods and flavors, or do you like your own familiar menu?
  • Does food add pleasure to your life, or is it just a functional necessity?
  • Do you consider yourself a cook, even if not a great cook? Do you know your way around your kitchen and know where things are?
  • Are you comfortable in this space? Do you like cooking here, or do you avoid your kitchen?
  • Do you tend to keep it clean, ready to go when a culinary whim hits?
  • Is your pantry stocked with foods you’re likely to eat?
  • How often do you shop for groceries? Do you use a list, or do you just “hunt and gather”?
  • For those who cook now: when you start a new recipe, do you generally have what you need on hand, do you shop specifically for the recipe, or do you frequently get stuck in the middle because you don’t have an ingredient?
  • Is your kitchen generally functional, or are you starting from scratch?
  • What are the appliances you use regularly now? Refrigerator, freezer, microwave, stove, oven, coffee maker… If you plug it in and use it two or more times each month, write it down!
  • Do you have enough pots and pans, or might you have too many to sift through? Make some notes.
  • Do you have plates and silverware you enjoy? Do you have enough?
  • Do you have tools and gadgets (spoons, spatulas, wire whisks, etc.) that work well? Any missing? How about mixing bowls, measuring cups and measuring spoons?
  • What about food storage?  Do you have enough containers to put two or more recipes’ worth of food in the freezer?
  • Are there pieces of equipment or tools that you already know you need? Make a list.

At this point, you’re just observing: get a clear picture of where your food life is, right now.  Take the next week or so to build awareness of what your current habits and setup are, and we’ll be back with tools to help you decide what you need and how far to go at this point.  The investment is up to you:  some people will choose to eat in a few times more each week; some will want to upgrade their kitchens to eat out a whole lot less; and others will want to make do with what they have.  They’re all possible, and all profitable.  So pay attention to what you’re doing now, and you’ll find your next step quickly.

See you soon!

[Editor’s Note:  This is an adapted version of the first post from the original blog, which focused primarily on food for home-based freelancers.  We now take a broader view, as plenty of people need cheap food from home, no matter where they work.  All are welcome!

We’ll start this relaunch by adapting previous posts and adding them to the site regularly over the first couple of months of 2011.  Please subscribe to our feed, keep in touch and let us know what you’d like to see. Looking forward to cooking with you!]

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