budget talk

No Cooking Skills Required

I think one reason that many people rely on eating out and store bought foods isn’t due to their lack of time, it’s their lack of confidence in the kitchen. Friends tell me that I’m lucky because I like to cook, that I know how to cook and that must save me a ton of money. That’s true but you don’t have to be a gourmet chef to make meals that has everyone coming back for more.

Cooking Doesn’t Mean PerfectionIf you’re scared that everyone’s going to hate what you cook, take the plunge anyway. Even top chefs were once beginners and just about everyone has a disaster or two in the kitchen. Just last week I put a batch of brownies in the oven, went to work on my computer and forget all about them. It wasn’t a total disaster but the edge of the brownies weren’t edible. With food prices skyrocketing, now’s a great time to learn some basic cooking skills. Visit the library and check out some books. And look on the Internet and you’ll find a bunch of cooking sites. Here are some of my favorites-




And I’m not joking here, but some of the best cookbooks for beginners are the ones designed for children. They’re easy to follow, and you can pick up some basic skills and then move on to the more advanced recipes with lots of confidence.

Three Course Meals Not Required
A good cook isn’t necessarily someone who can put together a three course meal every time his or her family sits at the dinner table. It’s often someone who can throw together a great tasting sandwich or a simple pasta dish. Never be too hard on yourself for serving just easy to put together meals.

But I Hate to Cook
Maybe you do hate to cook, but think about all the money you’ll save by preparing your own meals. Money that you could spend on something else. And yes, even I hated to cook at one time, but I found the more you do it, the more you like it. And don’t be surprised if, like me, cooking turns into one of your favorite hobbies.

Get Your Family Involved
Will turning cooking into a family event make it something you’ll enjoy more? And will learning from another family member like your mother or grandmother, make it more special? If you know a great cook in the family, and yes, every family has one, spend a day or just an afternoon with him or her and learn how to make some family favorites. Or how about learning to cook with your children? Children love to eat meals they’ve made themselves. So most of the time there’s no whining about they hate what you’ve made and usually no leftovers.

Sign up for Cooking Classes
Cooking classes are offered just about everywhere these days. The local supermarket, the community education center. If you’re not sure that you’ll stick with it, opt for the cheaper classes first or sign up for a one time class. And ask if it’s a demonstration class or hands on one. If you’re a beginner, sometimes the hands on classes can be too intimidating so work your way up. Another venue for cooking classes is your local co-op and some are free.

Your Local Extension Center
One of the best sources of information about cooking, nutrition etc. is your local extension office. Just about every area has one and it’s free to use. They have nutritionists and home economists that can offer you tips on cooking and can even give you some recipes for easy and low budget meals.

Call Betty
And if you’re looking for an answer to a cooking problem, many manufacturers, yes, like the Turkey Hotline during the holidays, have toll free numbers you can call for advice. I remember I had one cake recipe that kept getting the better of me. I phoned the Betty Crocker hotline and was told that the humidity was probably the problem. I tried the very same recipe a month later, and yes, they were right. The cake turned out perfect.

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