One of the greatest money savers is cooking at home. You can often prepare tasty, simple foods at home very easily and quickly and with minimal cost; I regularly make meals that take less than ten minutes of preparation time, feed the whole family, and cost only a dollar or two.
Disclaimer: One of my greatest passions (besides personal finance, of course) is cooking. Please, don’t encourage me to start a cooking blog, too, because I just might do it and then my family would never see me.
The biggest problem is that many people do not have a well-stocked kitchen that is geared toward this purpose, so they often end up having to buy a lot of ingredients when they decide to actually try cooking something at home. Not only is it a new and challenging experience, it also seems very expensive because one has to buy so many ingredients.
Now, if you ask me, a well-stocked kitchen should include an incredible amount of staples (and that’s not even a full list of what I’d want on hand – think more herbs and spices). But let’s face it: that’s just not realistic for a lot of people who are just getting started with cooking at home. They want a small investment and the ability to turn out tasty meals without too much concern.
How does this save money? Each time you prepare a meal at home, it is less expensive than eating out. When you have staple foods on hand, it is much easier to prepare a meal at home, and thus you are more likely to prepare something at home than to eat out. $100 is actually a very small investment in your kitchen, since it only takes ten or so meals at home instead of eating out to make up for the cost of the staples.
Here’s my shopping list for bare-bones kitchen essentials. If you have these on hand, you should be well-prepared to produce many dishes, and your food shopping should be reduced to buying perishables, including meats and cheeses and fruits and such. Plus, you’ll discover before long how much tastier home-prepared food is.
Brown sugar (actually useful in many things)
Herbs and spices
Tarragon (maybe not essential, but my favorite spice)
Oils, Stocks, Condiments