One of the quickest ways to save money is to cook at home. Before we embark on a complete series of cooking and saving, let’s look at a few pieces of equipment and some tricks which will keep the money in your wallet.
The first thing anyone thinks about when facing the kitchen and preparing a meal is the heat. Heat is necessary but can be a huge drain on the budget you are saving by cooking in the first place.
Of course there are rules. Let’s save the most money.
What are you cooking? Use the smallest three.
- Smallest vessel.
- Smallest heat source.
- Smallest number of utensils.
1. If your food fits in the pot, pan or bowl with only enough wiggle room not to boil over, you will use less heat to cook. Less heat=Less gas or electricity. When you are done, you will use less water and energy (yours or the electricity for the dishwasher) to clean.
2. If you are using a 1-quart saucepan, use the smallest burner. If you are using a loaf pan, use the toaster oven instead of the wall oven or the stove’s oven. Ovens produce heat which must be dissipated by your air conditioning or vented (along with your cool air), which also requires electricity.
When possible, use the microwave. It produces the least heat waste of your kitchen appliances and will save on air conditioning.
3. While you cook, keep a bowl of water to rinse your utensils. Try to use one utensil to prepare the meal rather than one per dish. Save yourself the time and water of cleaning 18 utensils.
This also applies to the dishes you use to serve. Can you serve in the kitchen straight from the pot? Did you know a salad plate will hold a full meal? If your food covers less than half the plate, the plate is too big. You are going to be washing a half-clean plate.
When choosing a recipe, pick the one which makes the correct number of servings for your table. Only three people eating? Choose a recipe for four or six. Your goal is to prepare the correct amount or enough to have a second dish later in the week or for the freezer.
If you choose a recipe which makes enough for 12 people, you are more likely to tire of the dish and leave the leftovers to spoil. Making only enough for the people you are feeding is also good for your waistline because you are less likely to “finish it off” to keep from putting it in the refrigerator.
Choosing the correct plate and bowl size to serve is also important. Seeing the plate full is a psychological trick which helps your stomach begin feeling full even before you begin to eat. Serve on the smallest possible plate. Salad plates are an ally when making portion control a priority.
Since you already know you are not feeding an army, buy only the ingredients you actually need to prepare your dishes for the week. Not wasting ingredients is equal to keeping money in your wallet. No?
Would you wad up cash and toss it in the bin? That is precisely what you are doing when you throw away ingredients you have not used to prepare meals. Whether the ingredients spoiled or their shelf life expired before you used them, you are throwing money away.
Choose your recipes based on the ingredients you already have in the refrigerator, freezer, pantry and spice cabinet. Not sure what else you can do with what you have? Search “recipes” and your ingredient.
Read the Instructions
Boring. Yes. Necessary? Absolutely. Burning a dish, substituting the wrong ingredient or not preparing or combining ingredients properly means money in the garbage can.
Before you begin, read the recipe. If you do not understand the words, look them up. Watch videos from your favorite food network to learn how to sauté, mince, dice, chop, julienne,… are you getting this? Do you know how to measure? Do you know the difference between dry and wet measure?
Do you have what you need? Right sized vessel, ingredients, utensils.
Do you have any idea when food is cooked? Is your meat the correct internal temperature? Are your veggies cooked through or still partly raw? Start checking at the shortest cooking time. IOW, if the recipe says cook 10-12 minutes, check at 9:30. If your food is overdone, you are feeding the bin or convincing your family they would prefer poverty and fast food to a home-cooked meal.
Cooking is not difficult. After mastering just a few skills, saving money is a breeze in the kitchen. No one is going to bat an eyelash if you spend some of that savings on something outright fun.
Do you use the smallest heat source? Can you answer some of the questions in the last section? What part of food preparation is your favorite? Do you save money in the kitchen by cooking?
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