Cooking From Scratch: Save Some Serious Dough

September 21, 2009 at 11:35 pm 4 comments

No, not that kind of dough...

No, not that kind of dough...

Ah, friends.  It’s been quite a journey.  And so it ends, 30 days of cooking from scratch, ending momentously on my 28th birthday.  But wait … there’s more!

Now begins the fun part — figuring out what I learned … what was worth it, what I’ll continue to do, and what was, well, kind of stupid.  Hindsight is 20/20, after all.  So let’s begin by talking dough.

The Sweet Taste of Money
Once a month, I get cranky and depressed … when I get my credit card bill, that is. A few happy hours here, a couple sushi dinners there, and next thing you know you’re signing away your first born to Citibank.

But lo and behold, my monthly bill was $300 cheaper than my average this time.  (Figure 8 dinners for $20 each  including tip, 5 lunches for around $8 a pop, a brunch a weekend for $15 each, and a few happy hours, and that’s $300).

When I first told my brother about all the money I’d saved, he was skeptical.  He found it tough to believe that you could cook for less than $3-5 a person per meal — the cost of a decent bowl of pho.  As it turns, out he’s right … and wrong.  How can that be?  Well, here’s what I found out about saving money when you’re cooking from scratch:

  • Setting up a functional kitchen can be expensive … at first. The actual cost of making an apple pie isn’t that high.  But if you need to buy a pie pan, a rolling pin, flour, and sugar, it starts to feel like you might be better off just getting a McDonald’s apple pie (until you actually eat it …)  The point is, once you get past the initial cost of set up, that’s when you start to see the real savings from cooking at home.
  • There isn’t a huge difference between a grocery bill for 2 versus 4. Through the course of this experiment, I cooked a lot of meals with and for friends.  But surprisingly, my expenditure on groceries didn’t increase twofold.  Cooking for 1 feels expensive because of the nature of shopping for food … you inevitably end up cooking for 2-4.
  • There’s less time for happy hour when you’re cooking every night. I can admit I’ve got an expensive habit … happy hour.  It’s not so much the drinks as it is the lovely happy hour menus.  I’m a sucker for them, what can I say?  But with cooking dinner every night, who has time for happy hour?  And that means money in the bank.
  • Even if you’re using premium ingredients, cooking in bulk saves money long-term. When I’m at the farmers market, I forget the difference between want and need … like the time I almost bought 12 kinds of chili peppers. While cooking in bulk might increase your current grocery bill, it’ll reduce how much you spend on food in a month.

With that, I’ll stop talking about dough so I can start thinking about batter … cake batter, that is.  After all, what else is there to think about on your birthday?

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Entry filed under: Money, Preparation. Tags: , .

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. uma  |  September 22, 2009 at 8:29 am

    this is so great, shiwani! happy birthday!

    Reply
    • 2. shiwanis  |  September 22, 2009 at 10:25 am

      Thanks, Uma! We should still cook together soon :)

      Reply
  • 3. bill@rankmagic.com  |  September 23, 2009 at 9:33 am

    Happy Birthday! So what will you continue to do and what was “well, kind of stupid”?

    Reply
    • 4. shiwanis  |  September 23, 2009 at 10:05 am

      Thanks, Bill! Well, I’ll definitely continue to do things like make my own butter, yogurt, and flatbreads. But I think it was kind of stupid to try and take shortcuts on things like cheesemaking. There’s a reason why there are age-old, painstaking processes to cheesemaking! For example, the 30-minute mozzarella had the consistency of mozzarella, but tasted like milk. There’s no way to get the right flavor without doing the work…

      Reply

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