Want to Save $2,900 a Year? Learn to Cook on a Budget

learn to cook

Honesty time: You probably devote too much of your budget to eating out.

Millennials spend an average of $2,921 on restaurants each year — money that could be used to repay student loans, save for a house, or go on vacation. Case in point: By eating in, this woman saved $7,000 in two years.

I, too, used to avoid cooking. I thought it took too long, wasn’t worth it, blah blah blah. But in reality, I just didn’t know where to start.

A few years older and wiser, I now love cooking. I think it’s one of the best ways to eat healthy, save money, and cherish your food. If you’re interested in learning to cook on a budget, keep reading.

4 ways you can learn to cook on a budget

In 2016, for the first time ever, Americans spent more on dining out than on groceries.

And since restaurants often charge a whopping 300 percent markup on raw ingredients, you can undoubtedly save a lot of money by learning to cook.

Here are four methods you can use to learn to cook on a budget.

1. Books

Your first stop when you’re learning to cook should be the library. It has a wealth of cookbooks and guides that will help you begin your culinary journey.

I like checking books out of the library rather than buying them, since you never know whose writing style is going to click with you. Then, if you enjoy a cookbook, go ahead and buy it.

Here are some books I recommend you check out when you’re learning to cook:

  • How to Cook Everything: The Basics: Food writer Mark Bittman’s series of cooking guides belong in every kitchen. They go in-depth into ingredients, knife skills, etc., teaching you the hows and whys behind the recipes.
  • Good and Cheap: This fabulous cookbook is free to download on Leanne Brown’s website. It walks you through pantry and produce basics, as well as simple, easy-to-adjust recipes. Bonus: If you decide to purchase a physical copy, Brown will also give a copy to someone who can’t afford one.
  • The Haven’s Kitchen Cooking School: Although I haven’t read this book, it gets rave reviews. You’ll learn about everything from eggs to soups — along with the equipment required to make them.

2. YouTube

Learning stuff before YouTube existed must have been so hard.

Thankfully for us, cooking channels abound — and for visual learners, they’re a great way to discover new recipes and techniques.

Here are a few you might want to check out:

  • Chef Todd Mohr: Promising to spill the secrets of restaurant chefs, Mohr’s channel could help you determine when your steak is done or your knife is dull. He also offers online cooking classes.
  • ChefSteps: Although perhaps not ideal for the super novice, this channel has tutorials on a variety of techniques, such as cooking sous vide or shucking oysters.
  • Gordon Ramsay: You’ve undoubtedly heard of this fiery chef — and if you like his style, you’ll probably like his channel. It even has a beautifully-produced “Cookery Course” that features how-to recipes for duck breast and stuffed roasted chicken.
  • Brothers Green Eats: Want some goofy, laid-back cooking teachers? Then head straight to this channel, which caters to millennials with videos that might teach you to meal prep on a budget — or recreate the Wendy’s value menu.

3. Blogs

I love following cooking blogs; they always inspire me, and the photos are just so pretty.

The following blogs and websites offer simple recipes and tips:

  • The Kitchn: One of my favorite websites out there (that I also sometimes write for) is The Kitchn. It basically has all the answers to every question you ever had about cooking.
  • Good Cheap Eats: This blog lives up to its name with advice on grocery shopping, meal planning, and freezer cooking.
  • Epicurious: More than just recipes, this food site has articles, how-tos, and videos that any aspiring cook would love.

4. Online courses

Ready to take your cooking to the next level? Check out an online course.

They’re more expensive than the other options, but still much cheaper than in-person cooking classes or schools.

After some research, I came across three that people seem to enjoy:

  • Foodist Kitchen: This course focuses on creating a cooking habit, and promises you’ll “learn to cook without recipes in 30 days.” It offers 30 daily email lessons and a Facebook group for $99.
  • America’s Test Kitchen Cooking School: This program has 200+ photo and video courses that teach you to “cook confidently, with or without recipes.” After a 14-day free trial, it costs $19.95 a month.
  • Salted TV: At only $9.95 a month, this might be the best deal of the bunch. You’ll learn skills and recipes by watching HD videos with expert chefs; topics run the gamut from cooking with truffles to reviving wilted greens.

Don’t resign yourself to being one of the many millennials who waste money on unhealthy restaurant food.

Take small steps to learn to cook on a budget, and you’ll be wowing your friends and family (and wallet) before you know it.

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