Teaching yourself to cook can lead to some of the easiest (and tastiest) ways to start saving money and cut back on unnecessary spending. From learning to cook your favourite takeaway, to batch cooking and building up your recipe repertoire, read on to find out how you can start to pile up a stack of cash towards your long term savings goals.
Is there anything better than grabbing your favourite dish from your local takeaway, getting home and cracking the lid off to fill your kitchen with those amazing aromas?
What if you could make it yourself at half the price for double the amount? You’d be surprised how many recipes exist for some of the most popular takeaway dishes around. Whether it’s an Indian curry or Chinese noodle dish, these are so easy to replicate, you’ll be wondering why you didn’t give it a go sooner!
Let’s run the numbers. In a typical 4 week month, you may spend $50 a week on takeaway. If you swap this out for fresh ingredients to cook yourself, you’ll save around half of your original spend. That’s $25 a week, or $100 over the month straight back in your pocket. Over the year, this adds up to a whopping $1200!
The best part? You’re not giving up the food. You’re enabling yourself to be able to cook it on demand and have more of it!
Over time, you’ll find those dishes you learn can be tweaked to suit your tastes. You might even try the takeaway version again down the track and find you like your recipe better! No more complaints that the food was soggy when you got it home, or there was too much sauce and not enough meat. You’re in the driver’s seat and completely in control of the meal you’re cooking.
This doesn’t just apply to food. You may have heard of the popular “Latte Factor” from the book The Automatic Millionaire by David Bach. The idea is small amounts add up to big things over time - in this case your regular morning takeaway coffee on the way to work.
If you teach yourself to make a flat white exactly how you like it at home, and cut back to a $5 coffee only once a week instead of every day, there’s another $20 a week saving. Add that up over a 48 week work year and you’ve just saved another $960.
Saving $2000 on takeaway food and drink is enough to fill your first emergency fund or invest in a parcel of shares. What would you do with the savings?
Now that you've reduced your takeaway dinners and coffee, what about those work lunches? This is where batch cooking comes in. If you haven’t come across batch cooking before, the idea is you cook once and feed yourself for the week. Usually this is done on a weekend afternoon, where you prep everything and cook it all (if necessary) before portioning it out to the fridge and freezer ready to grab and go.
As you’re only cooking once, this saves time having to get everything out and cook each day (if you work from home) or saves you time and money rushing out to the local deli to grab a wrap.
To encourage yourself, transfer the amount you would’ve spent on your lunch straight into your savings right before that first bite.
Need even more encouragement? Why not make your first savings goal a weekend away in an AirBNB as a reward after your first month. Then in future months, put the savings towards a more long term goal.
It may take time to get into the new rhythm of cooking your lunches in advance, but stick to it and it will become a habit.
The more your cooking improves, the less often you’ll want to go out for dinner, especially when you can cook something just as good at home.
Over time, you may fall in love with cooking Asian cuisine or whipping up homemade pizzas for you and the family. After learning how easy and cheap it is to pop together your version of Korean Fried Chicken, for example, it might make you think twice next time you see it on the menu for $30!
Heading to a restaurant will become more of a special treat or a social activity with friends rather than the old excuse of not being able to cook.
The aim of learning to cook is not to cut out dining out completely, it’s to find more of a balance so you don’t have to rely on it. It opens up the option - should I eat out tonight? Or do I already have everything in the fridge to cook what I want right now?
Knowing recipes can help shape your meal plans and avoid impulse buys at the supermarket.
Once your new recipes are firmly tested and ingrained, they’ll become as easy as your Mum’s spaghetti bolognese she taught you as a kid. No need to refer to a cookbook or look it up on Google, so when you go to put your meal plan together, it’ll be ready in no time. A quick check in the fridge and pantry and you’ll know exactly what you need to buy.
Then at the supermarket, with your shopping list in hand, you’ll be on a mission to fill your list and less likely to aimlessly roam the aisles - Oh look! Chocolate! - Impulse buys happen to the best of us, but knowing your recipes and having that list will be your best shield against buying all those things you don’t need (most of the time).
By now you can see how over time, the more you learn about cooking, the more the saving rewards start to pile up. From instant money wins like swapping out a takeaway curry for the homemade version, to long term rewards - a lifelong cooking skill that breaks down the reliance on eating out and helps you shop for exactly what you need.
What are some ways cooking has already helped you save money and where can you next utilise this skill to build more savings?
Sarah is from Keepin’ It Frugal, a blog dedicated to living more with every dollar. It’s a home for people who know that by living a life of financial freedom, you gain the power to choose our work, holidays and home. Follow the adventures of Sarah & Laura on their path to FIRE, through frugality and wellness.
Disclaimer: The author is not a financial advisor and the information provided is general in nature and was prepared for information purposes only. This article should not be considered to constitute financial advice. Accordingly, reliance should not be placed on this article as the basis for making an investment, financial or other decision. This information does not take into account your investment objectives, particular needs or financial situation.