OK, roll up your sleeves, kids. Let’s talk about cooking.
I am not a natural-born cook. I know that when I start casually tossing off that I baked bread the other day, and fed forty-eleven people on nine minutes notice and oh yeah, I spent sixteen minutes in my kitchen and made 3,527 meals for $0.80 and then went to yoga class before drafting a new peace treaty for the warring nations in Kahplutiburg, you might think that I’m one of those people who was born with a copy of the Joy of Cooking in my wee, oven-mitted hands.
I was not.
When I was first married, I couldn’t make tea without burning the water. A large driving force behind our $65,000 in credit card debt was incessant eating out – in a stroke of coincidence, there is an article about Stop Eating Your Way into Debt! on the Dollar Stretcher today. Actually, it makes me feel better, because I always thought the fact that we had racked up a ton of debt eating out was an example of my personal, private stupidity.
Nice to know I have company.
ANYWAY. I’m going to quote Jill, because she says it quite succinctly. Among the list of excuses:
“I don't know how to cook." So learn. Start simple. Even my 9-year-old grandson could boil himself a hot dog. You don't have to produce a gourmet meal to make your family happy, and in most cases, they would prefer you didn't.
I understand that man can't live on hot dogs alone, but after a week or two of simple dishes, you can move on to more complicated things like frozen French fries and frying hamburgers.
You know what? It really is that simple.
I had a few…uh…well, let’s call them “less than wonderful” meals along the way. The meals I produced in my early days in the kitchen were way less than spectacular.
But they got better. Slowly. The hardest part was getting over…myself. Mankind has been cooking meals for centuries – am I retarded? Am I, like, some kind of monkey-throwback? I can’t figure out how to make rice, for Pete’s sake?
People in the freakin’ Stone Age knew how to make stew and flat breads. C’mon. You can, too, cook.
Here’s one. Meatloaf. Do you know how to make a basic meatloaf, that staple of the red-blooded American family?
2 pounds ground beef
1 large egg
1/3 cup milk
1 cup bread crumbs
1-2 teaspoons onion salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper (more or less as you like it)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
FANCY ALTERNATIVES: put in 1/2 cup of diced onions and two or three cloves of fresh minced garlic. Add a chopped bell pepper. I like to use a dollop of Pepperplant hot sauce (it isn’t “HOT” sauce, it’s actually fairly mild with a nice bell pepper flavor).
Smoosh it all together, put it into a loaf pan and bake it at 350 for about an hour.
Hard? Naw. Buy yourself some potato buds and make instant mashed potatoes, open a can of green beans and viola. You’re eating a decent meal for a fraction of the cost at Applebee’s.
Start with the easy stuff. Yes, the frugal community yelps and screams and carries on about the “high cost of convenience foods” – but if you are comparing eating at Outback with grilling a store-bought steak, whipping up some potato buds and following the microwave directions on the package of Birds-Eye ‘steamers’?
You’re saving money even with convenience foods.
OK, you’re really at a loss? Look for places like My Girlfriend’s Kitchen. Per serving, they are still cheaper than eating out, healthier, AND! MOREOVER!! They can get you started. Pretty soon, you’ll start figuring out how these things go together. You’ll get bold! DARING, EVEN! And before you know it, you’ll find yourself saying, “I could do this at home. I don’t know why I’m paying them to cut up an onion…”
Taken one step at a time, getting into the kitchen really isn’t that hard. Sometimes I wonder if Food Network isn’t doing us some harm, frankly – we watch these shows where Rachel pops out some forty course thing in thirty minutes and it’s all fabulous!, and we feel like if we don’t do the same thing, well, it just isn’t worth doing.
So we don’t do it.
And then we never do get to the level we’d like to be.
I think cooking is a lot like learning to play the piano. You don’t just sit down and do it, no matter how good the instruction book may be. You sit down and fumble a bit. You start simple. You practice, practice, practice. You get good at the simple stuff, and start pecking away at the harder pieces.
Just get in there. Just do it. Don’t be afraid of your kitchen. Keep it simple, and honestly if your choices are ‘eating out’ or ‘Eggo’s’?
Take the Eggo’s. They are still cheaper than McDonalds.
You can work your way up to homemade waffles. Which, by the way, you can make on a lazy Saturday, freeze, and then pop into the toaster just like the frozen version…
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