My girlfriend is an excellent cook.
I’m an accomplished eater.
Eventually, this dynamic caused a push and pull in our relationship and on our wallets. She was doing more than her fair share in the kitchen, so we found ourselves eating out more and more often.
We needed a solution — and fast.
How we created a cooking schedule
Borrowing from the experience of my sister and her husband, my girlfriend and I agreed to divvy up the labor of making dinner — the one meal we sat down for together each day.
She was slated to cook on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Sundays. I was on the hook for Tuesdays and Thursdays. Friday and Saturday nights were for cooking together or splurging at a restaurant.
Here’s what we did: The designated chef scrounged up all the ingredients, set the table, and had the meal ready by an agreed-upon time. We found it was good to give the other person a heads-up on the night’s menu in case they had an insatiable craving.
We also rated each other’s efforts on taste (to keep it fun) and on price (to keep it budget-friendly). In our first couple of weeks of using this system, we found that star ratings and “bad,” “good,” or “great” ratings caused hurt feelings. Instead, we focused on the data point that would further our goal of saving money.
So, at the conclusion of each meal, we checked our receipts and wrote down how much money the dinner cost to make. My girlfriend once spent less than $15 on a delicious combo of breadcrumb chicken and couscous, for example. We rewarded brownie points (but no actual brownies, unfortunately) for lower-cost meals.
Oh, and we instituted one rule: If you cooked, the other person cleaned up.
4 benefits of sharing cooking responsibilities
We created our cooking schedule because we had a problem that needed a solution.
We’ve kept it in place because it yields many benefits. It keeps us sane and cost-efficient.
If any of these results sound appealing to you, you might consider adopting a similar schedule.
1. Save time by not debating about dinner
Before the schedule, my girlfriend felt burdened. After a long day of work, she needed to come up with an idea, from tasty sauteed squid to pan-seared lamb chops, and then execute it.
Whereas that might have resulted in frustrating indecision over the phone or at home, the schedule gives her days off. She can spend some post-work weeknights doing things that are more important or more fun.
There’s also shared responsibility, so we feel more like a team and less like one person serving the other.
2. Save money by eating in more often
We used to go out to dinner at least three nights a week without giving it much thought — despite the fact that we live in New York City, where the average cost of a three-course meal for two people at a midrange restaurant is $69, according to 2017 study performed by SpareRoom.
Now we eat out a maximum of two nights (Fridays and Saturdays) per week. We decided to leave those nights open because our friends are more likely to be free for dinner.
If we keep to ourselves, we cook at home on these nights too. We built flexibility into the schedule so we can swap nights if something comes up. I was invited to dinner with ex-co-workers on my night to cook, for example, so I traded a Wednesday shift for the previously vacant Friday shift.
3. Limit waste by economizing meals
The money we save on restaurants goes to the grocery store — but not all of it. Even though we now cook at home more often than we did before, our grocery bill has remained about the same.
That fact is made possible by our friendly competition to see who can make the best meal at the lowest price. Although we make exceptions for small extravagances — the $4 English cucumber is worth every penny — we try to be more economical in every aisle of the store.
This mindset extends to our apartment. We can report a lower cost for a meal if we use something sitting in our fridge or pantry before it goes to waste. A box of pasta here, a can of beans there, and so on.
We opted for this cooking schedule over money-saving meal-kit services like Blue Apron, for example, because we wanted to make the most of the ingredients we had at home.
4. Improve your cooking skills and your relationship
There are many ways to learn how to cook on a budget. I’m still learning all of them. Because we discourage ourselves from repeating meals, I’ve also been forced to become more versatile. I’m slated for flounder and farro salad next.
The schedule also has made me realize that, although I expressed gratitude in the past, I took my girlfriend’s cooking for granted. Now when I sit down to a meal she’s made, I have a better understanding of how much went into it — which makes it taste even better.
How to start your cooking schedule
If you think you and your significant other, roommate, or relative could benefit from a cooking schedule, you don’t have to get too technical. My girlfriend and I keep track of four pieces of information using a pen and pad in our kitchen:
- The date
- The name of the cook
- The meal (and whether we’d want to eat it again)
- The cost
- Come up with dinner ideas
- Find recipes based on your preferences
- Create grocery shopping lists
- Track calories or other dietary goals
- Plan a balanced week of meals
Other than that, all you need is a day-by-day schedule that fits your work and social routines. You might opt to alternate shifts so you never have to cook on back-to-back Mondays, for example.
Follow the money — into the kitchen
Use your cooking schedule to set a savings goal. My girlfriend and I estimate that by replacing a night out with a night in, we save between $60 and $80 per week. That’s extra money we can put toward our far-off goal of saving to buy a house. Every little bit helps.
Run the numbers to see much you could save and where you might use the extra money. You could make a larger student loan payment or throw it into a money market account, to name a couple of options. Just don’t blow it all on one fancy dinner.
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1 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
2 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 7.89% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.54% APR (with Auto Pay) to 7.27% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of March 18, 2019, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 0318/2019. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at email@example.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on ourstudent loan refinance product.
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3 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the fixed rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular fixed interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.
However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the variable rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular variable interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.
4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown.
All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.5% effective February 10, 2019.
6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|2.54% – 7.12%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.54% – 7.27%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.67% – 8.96%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|3.23% – 6.65%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.69% – 7.43%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.98% – 9.72%6||Undergrad & Graduate|