When Should a Little Notion Get Big?

Several days ago, I made coq au vin and from-scratch French baguettes for dinner for my family. It took about three hours of work, all told, and required some things to be done the day before (starting the dough for the bread and chopping the vegetables).

To put it simply, it turned out fantastic. My wife kept saying beforehand that there was no way that it wasn’t going to be worth the time investment, but after eating and savoring the meal, she sat back and said, “I changed my mind. That was worth the three hours.”

After dinner, the conversation turned towards a new direction. Obviously, I really loved being in the kitchen, as I was already talking about trying it again with some minor changes and also giving slow beef Bourguignon a try sometime soon. My wife asked, “Have you ever thought about a cooking blog?” (If you’ve been reading The Simple Dollar for a while, you know I have.) There was also a bit of talk about me attending cooking school, too.

Yes, having a food-related career is something that’s been on my mind for a long time. I thought for a long time about having a cooking blog, and I’ve even thought about pursuing a career as a chef or as a food writer.

When does that kind of itch become something more serious?

Over the last week, I’ve been thinking about this question a lot. Right now, my calendar is really full with keeping The Simple Dollar up and going, working on my second book, keeping up with my reading, being involved in the community, and, most importantly of all, spending time with my children and wife. Where would I possibly find time to squeeze this in?

That’s the first kicker: time. If you look at your day and can’t find room for something you want to do, then the things you’re already doing are more important to you.

One of my most controversial pieces of advice is to suggest that people should turn off their televisions. The conclusion there is that I’m criticizing the hobby of watching television, something many people do. Actually, what I’m encouraging is looking at your time and asking yourself what’s really important to you.

For example, if you watch the Food Network and see someone preparing a meal on there and think to yourself, “I’d really love to prepare that,” but then you just watch the next program on the Food Network, what’s important to you isn’t making that dish, but watching the Food Network.

Now, that’s a fine conclusion to make if it’s what you value in life, but I tend to believe that many people who watch Food Network, think of preparing a dish, but instead keep watching haven’t really thought about it at all. What would happen if they turned off the program, went out, and did it? Then, instead of seeing a great dish prepared by someone else, they get the sensory experience of having done it themselves, the pride of having done it, and the product – something that can be shared with people they care about.

How you spend your time reveals what you really value. If you can’t find the time to do something, you must not value it much. And, thus, if I’m not willing to find time to follow up on that food passion, that means I value the things I’m already doing more.

After some thought, I realized that I would be willing to scale back The Simple Dollar to pursue it. Maybe I could just post once a day after the book is finished and then focus on starting a truly great food site?

This leads us to the second factor: security. The thing we’re doing now – and seeing success with – offers some degree of security. It’s clear that, by the fact that we’re earning an income and people are interested in what we’re doing, that we’re, to some degree, successful at it and, likely, we’ll continue to be successful at it. It’s scary to toss that away and try something new, even if the money is in place to make it happen.

Take my own situation. Right now, The Simple Dollar has 66,000 subscribed readers (meaning they get it by email or by RSS, not directly on the site) and hundreds of thousands of site visitors a month. No matter how good my food writing is, I’d still be essentially starting over. I’d be devoting a good chunk of my daily effort to an endeavor that will take a lot of work to start paying off.

Now, this is fine with me if it’s strictly a hobby – that’s how The Simple Dollar started, after all. But when you start looking at making major career changes, it becomes a much bigger question.

A big part of what I enjoy doing is helping people and reaching people. Starting over is a huge risk – I might be able to help and reach new people, but at the start, I help and reach virtually no one, and if I’m not providing anything new or interesting, I’m not going to help or reach anyone. That’s a huge risk.

This leads to factor number three: the money. If no one values what you’re doing, that means that you’re not going to earn anything. You have to give some of your value to others to earn an income.

Sure, it would be easy to make altruistic statements and talk about how I’m doing this to serve people – and that’s true. But I have a three year old and a one year old at home who rely on me for food and shelter, and thus making radical career changes into things that may not earn any sort of income at all is not a safe proposition.

So where does that lead us? We all have lots of inklings in life, things we’d like to do. The ones that grow are the ones that we find time for. The ones that are really something special are the ones that we’re willing to take a risk for. The ones that change our lives are the ones we can jump on the back of and believe that they’ll take care of us, no matter what.

So what am I doing? I’m going to take that first step and find some room. I’ll treat it like a hobby, much like I started The Simple Dollar. Once my book is finished, for an hour or two a day, I’m going to devote myself to writing and creating and sharing about food. I’m going to store up a lot of material on the subject, then launch something related to it, just to see how it goes.

In the end, for me it is enough of a passion that I’m willing to give up some other things in my life for it. I’ll put away a few video games, utilize the time that’s currently taken up by my book a little better, and see what happens.

Here’s the take home message. If you have an inkling, sit up. Make a little room in your life – if you can’t find room, then it’s probably not worth thinking about, but if you look around a little bit, you might be surprised at the space you have if you make a few different choices. Dip your toes in the water just to see how it feels. Don’t worry about success or failure – just enjoy yourself and see what happens next.

If you enjoyed reading this, sign up for free updates!

Loading Disqus Comments ...
Loading Facebook Comments ...

75 thoughts on “When Should a Little Notion Get Big?

  1. Adrienne says:

    Hi Trent,

    A bit of advice from the wife of a chef and restaurant owner. There is a HUGE difference in cooking at home for pleasure and professional cooking. We have seen many restaurants fail because they did not understand that completely. Also the atmosphere of a professional kitchen is a different world (read Kitchen Confidential) and from what I know of you from reading your blog I don’t think you would enjoy it.

    It sounds like you’re going the food blog route which is nice. Cooking professionally is really hard work (and the pay really low – even for the high end restaurants).

  2. Peggy says:

    I think you’d enjoy “Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch” By Michael Pollan Published August 2, 2009 in the New York Times Magazine. Wish I had a link for you. Sorry.

  3. Robin says:

    “My wife kept saying beforehand that there was no way that it wasn’t going to be worth the time investment”

    I’m pretty sure your “wasn’t” should be a “was.”

    :)

  4. ajw_93 says:

    Hooray! This is exciting news, I love your food posts! And let me tell you, that pizza recipe is the bomb. Good luck!

  5. Baker @ ManVsDebt says:

    I’ve never, EVER, read about cooking, followed recipes or anything similar until last month.

    Honestly, I always just passed by your occasional food post. But then I read one. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve prepared two separate “how low can you go” meals, and I’ve made the dal recipe at least 5 times now (with my own variations).

    I know look forward to the posts. As soon as we get our own place, I’m hoping to personalize the kitchen even more. I’d be a huge fan of a cooking blog even if you posted once or twice a week right now. A big thumbs up!

  6. Jonathan says:

    This is one of the most inspiring posts I have read in quite some time. I need to spend the next several days giving it serious thought, because I can see definite applications in my own life. Good luck with the new pursuit. Based on the passion I’ve seen when you write about cooking, I’m sure it will be a success.

  7. Tara S says:

    I would read your food blog! I have 3 food blogs that I check every day…I find them to be the most useful tool for my own little frugality journey. :-) That, and Googling recipes.

  8. Trent,

    Have you ever thought about getting a staff writer for TSD? That would free up some time to write about cooking. Honestly I’m still amazed you can put up 2 articles a day.

    Perhaps you should allow guest articles or something of that sort.

    -Nate

  9. Carole says:

    I have no idea what you should do except I think you are an exceptional and prolific writer, and you should continue to find an outlet for that(hopefully a profitable outlet).

  10. Mike Vrobel says:

    Being a food blogger is my hobby. Come on, join us! It’s fun!

    I always enjoy reading your recipes, and I’d like to see what you would have to say about food and cooking if you spent more time on it.

    The Pollan article referred to by @Peggy is this one. It covers some of the same ground you did with your “Watch Food Network/Get off the sofa and cook” idea. The conclusions they reach about that idea are extraordinarily depressing:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/02/magazine/02cooking-t.html

    You need to read Michael Ruhlman’s rebuttal, which I agree with 100%:

    http://blog.ruhlman.com/ruhlmancom/2009/08/julie-julia-foodie-cook.html

    Of course, my take on that was “yeah! What Ruhlman said!”

    http://dadcooksdinner.blogspot.com/2009/08/julia-ruhlman-and-pollan-or-why-im-cook.html

  11. Mighty says:

    Thanks for being open about how you’re going about discerning what your next steps should be.

    I do like the idea of you doing guest posts at times, maybe you could have two guests do a post one day a week and use the time saved to pursue the cooking blog. You could just give them the benefit of traffic, or a minimal wage, or a choice, like Dumb Little Man does (that’s how I found your blog).

  12. Michael C says:

    Trent-

    First, do cooking blogs generally receive as much traffic as personal finance? I would hazard a guess that they do not. But, I think this is just an argument to post less frequently. I don’t think blogs that post less frequently suffer from that much from less frequent readership. I usually just read TSD once or twice a week anyways, so if the level of posts went down I would be able to keep up easier.

  13. Ruby Leigh says:

    Trent, As I was reading this, the whole time I was thinking in anticipation “I really hope he starts a food blog” … Glad to see it’s on the way. I can’t speak with any certain knowledge if it will be as profitable, but I can say that your food posts on this blog our some of my favorites especially the “how low can you go” series.

  14. Amy says:

    Doing it for fun sounds fine… a whole lot of people blog for themselves or immediate family and never assume it will ever be popular. I guess the fact that you are thinking so hard about it and telling your financial blog readers about the decision process makes me wonder the real motive. Perhaps I’m just not sure a guy who thinks subbing garlic powder for garlic is ok is going to have a big following :D

  15. Jon says:

    I’m a “retired” restauranteur. I love to cook, and to entertain friends and family. I’ve thought, a few times, about getting back into the restaurant business, but the time commitment to run a successful restaurant is incredibly demanding. I satisfy my urges with the occasional catering gig, instead, and enjoy the free time my day job gives me, instead of spending all my hours at my own restaurant.

  16. Hannah says:

    I find myself speculating that you, too are a reader of The Pioneer Woman, since she just posted her Coq Au Vin recipe, and man it looked good. I would subscribe to The Simple Chef (wait that doesn’t sound right…)just like I do The Simple Dollar, but I hope that you will ramp up the quality of your food presentation to that of popular food bloggers like The Pioneer Woman because the photos you take now don’t look all that appetizing to me. Just a friendly criticism.

  17. mary says:

    This column really resonated with me. I like the guidelines you set forth. They’re very straightforward and practical. Thanks, Trent

  18. Kevin M says:

    I’ll read it, I still use your bread recipe almost every week.

    One reader down, 65,999 to go.

  19. ethel says:

    Nothing really profound to add. I just wanted to say that posts like this remind me all over again of how much I love this blog.

  20. Rico says:

    I’ve been struggling with an inkling for while… like 3 years. It eventually led to so much discomfort that I had to completely shelve the idea just to get some relief and perspective. Your post is both timely and relevant. I’m at a point where sticking with the current situation is a monumental effort everyday, but it provides all the security for my family.

    Does your take on this change if the current career, the one that provides all the security, is completely draining the life out of you? I think TSD still brings you a lot of joy, so sticking with it while you dip your toes into something else doesn’t sound too bad.

  21. Eden Jaeger says:

    I like your analysis on this one. I find that I’m often much too quick to jump into something new because I think I like it, but I haven’t really considered the sacrifice necessary to make it a success and how it might affect my other endeavors.

    I think you’re taking the right approach. Best of luck to you.

  22. Trevor says:

    Trent, you taught me how to bake bread. That is something incredible for a male college student.

    You gave me confidence that I can cook.

    I would read that blog.

  23. dougR says:

    Trent, I have no idea what you “should” do. But here’s a possible way to proceed, based on my own experience: many years ago, bitten by the food bug, I took a comprehensive basic French cooking course given in the chef’s own kitchen. It wasn’t more than six weeks long, once a week, but it has enriched my life since, beyond describing. Sauces, forcemeats, braising, patisserie, poaching, ALL sorts of dishes, a festival of wonderful smells and every kind of ingredient, familiarity with all the basic cooking processes, ability to pronounce the basic French dishes (and know what’s in them!) and also a few choice French cuss words when things don’t turn out quite right–and I ended up with that, plus a terrific set of French copper cookware that I basically use to heat canned baked beans nowadays, since my circumstances are very reduced. But I would wish you the same kind of awakening, and whether you decide to turn to it professionally or not, is up to you.

  24. Phil says:

    Just wondering what you decided to do. I’m considering doing a home cooking blog as well.

  25. Anne KD says:

    My ‘inklings’ haven’t led anywhere financially rewarding (yet), but as for personal growth, it’s been a GREAT ride, even for things that I end up not pursuing. The people I’ve met along the way have made it worth the time and effort. Finding time to create a business out of these things is the hard part for me, mostly because it requires learning things that I’m not too interested in. For example, I started a small business (martial arts studio) that ran for a couple of years until last September. Learning how to advertise and marketing and the associated stuff is not really interesting to me which has hampered my efforts. Working on the skills that led me to open my own dojo is much more interesting. I don’t mind working hard, I do mind being bored by the necessary auxiliary stuff that goes along with running a small business. Being bored leads me to think of other things that I’d rather be doing.

    Really liked this post, Trent. Now for the rest of the afternoon I think I’ll go dig up some ideas on marketing a small business.

  26. Karen J says:

    Trent,

    I have some friends who just started a food blog as a hobby – http://tastebudsandtidbits.wordpress.com/
    They both enjoy cooking, and decided if they worked on a blog together, they could handle the work involved. Right now I believe they post a few times a week.

  27. kev says:

    Why don’t you try becoming a casual submitter to Serious Eats or something similar? Just to give it a test run. http://www.seriouseats.com/faq/#f1-4

    I know Serious Eats has previously linked to you, at least on teh bulk Breakfast Burrito story.

    It’s a bit foggy now, but I think that might be where I found your blog in the first place!

  28. BarbS says:

    Looking forward to the cooking blog! One suggestion: I noticed in your cooking posts, you rarely mention how long the recipe will take. You do sometimes suggest tasks that can be done the day before to reduce time at the end. I find it extremely helpful to have an idea, when looking at a recipe, approximately how long it will take to make.

  29. MegB says:

    Wow. It’s like you wrote this article for me. My husband and I are starting to have a very serious dialogue about making some big life and career changes. It started as an inkling–a little voice saying maybe we should do this. Now that voice is getting a little louder, and we’re talking more and more about it. Both of us value security, so the idea of making this kind of move is very scary. So, this article really spoke to me. Thanks Trent!

  30. Marsha says:

    Michael C asked above “do cooking blogs generally receive as much traffic as personal finance?” Oh my lordy, yes! There definitely is an audience for food/cooking blogs.

    Most of the more successful food blogs have outstanding photography – which is a dimension the PF blogs usually do not get into. I know you do some photography here, but you’d likely have to do more on a food blog. You probably already know this.

    Trent, I can sense your excitement over this, and I wish you well in figuring out what direction to go. Do think about whether you want to be a cook or a chef – and what (if any) business context you want to work in.

  31. Sunshine says:

    Those of you who doubt how much traffic food blogs get are most definitely not reading food blogs. Those are huge. One blog that I read (smittenkitchen.com) will get upwards of 100 comments on the same day a recipe is posted. Tastespotting.com is a great place to start.

    I like the idea of having staff writers. Perhaps you could eventually turn TSD into something of a wisebread.com site (though, not exactly, as I’m not a huge fan). You could “audition” people by having them guest post and seeing how they do by the comments they get.

    On the food aspect, Trent, I think you’ll need to work on the photography a bit – basically, getting better lighting. I am definitely looking forward to this development, particularly since you are the one who introduced me to food blogs and helped turn me into a foodie.

  32. Mark says:

    I love The Simple Dollar, but I’d prefer that you posted less frequently. Posting about once a day is enough. I doubt that would make your subscribers leave and your ad revenue plummet, but it’s at least worth the experiment. It’s not like you’re talking about stopping new posts here altogether.

    I hope you don’t go the route of hiring staff writers or regular guest posts. That would dilute your personal voice, which is a major strength of this blog.

    I’d be interested in your take on a food blog. I’m also a big fan of your posts on writing, so I hope those would still have a home in one blog or the other.

  33. Sarah says:

    That coq au vin on Wikipedia looks good. Would you mind sharing your recipe?

  34. Germaine says:

    You wouldn’t have gotten this recipe from The Pioneer Woman by chance? ;-)

    @Sarah #20: http://www.thepioneerwoman.com She has a cooking tab where she recently detailed her coq au vin recipe.

  35. Paula says:

    Trent, the experience you’ve gained from this blog should go a long way toward reducing the “start-up” time on a new food blog. You could think of it as a hobby blog for a while, an outlet for something you enjoy and are passionate about but not ready to make your main interest. Since you enjoy cooking and probably do a fair amount of it at home, you are already devoting some time to it. The additional time for your hobby might end up being less than you think. I say go for it!

  36. Trent,
    Do you think Penelope Trunk was correct when she wrote, “Almost everyone should forget about making money directly from blogging. It’s so unlikely that it’s a total waste of your time trying?”

  37. Ceecee says:

    Hurray! Go for it! I hope your third book is a cookbook!

  38. Cookie says:

    I think that a cooking blog has a better chance at long term success than a PF blog. The possibilities for food related posts are endless, with so many different types of cooking in the world to explore.

    On the other hand, PF is pretty limited. Once you get your debt under control and set up a plan for savings/retirement and/or other goals there’s not a lot to talk about. At least that has been my personal experience. And I notice that the PF blogs that were started a few years ago seem to be reaching for content. They are even starting to sound the same and I have to look at the web addy to se who I’m reading, whereas before I could easily tell by the writing style. Also, given the recession, PF is a popular topic. Once we recover, I just don’t think people will focus on PF with the same intensity.

    Bring on the food blog!

  39. Trent it seems as if you’re already wading into the waters with the regular food posts you do. Maybe you can put them together into a cookbook that you can offer throught Simple Dollar.

    You may be passionate about food, but it’s obvious you’re very passionate about this website as well, so it looks as if your passions are being well watered.

    One good thing about food is that you don’t ever have to worry about missing the bull market in food, it’ll be here waiting for you to take up in five, ten or twenty years if you feel like waiting it out.

  40. Laura in Seattle says:

    Trent, I can’t believe no one has said this already, but maybe you should see Julie and Julia? It’s a great story about a famous cook, but it’s also a great story about a food blog writer. It might give you an idea of the day-to-day involved in food blogging. Plus it’s really funny. :-)

  41. Ashia says:

    can’t wait to read the Trent food blog and try the recipes…

    Just wanted to add to the pot- that cooking for a living and being immersed in that world to any degree means invariably giving up nights, weekends and holidays.

    With very small kids thats just fine bc they dont have the weekday.weekend schedule thing and you can have time with them whenever but with school-aged kids weekends are your time together.

    the blog world is 24/7 but if it expands beyond that realm for you, the timing may be a big factor bc the time you use to write or play video games etc may not be during the hours you’d need to be cooking if done professionally. But the cooking school part would fit in nicely.

    whatever happens im sure you will continue to feel successful.

  42. savannahK says:

    Yep, agree with the above posters that you should read “Kitchen Confidential.” My FIL is a retired chef; my BIL is a maitre d’. They work evenings and weekends, most holidays, and have some wild stories.
    I’d love a blog on home cooking, making use of cheap ingredients or whatever you have on hand, to make something tasty and healthy. While my FIL can create an exquisite petit filet with browned butter, or a goat cheese, arugula and poached pear salad, his cooking style involves a trip to the grocery store or stores just about every day!He has trouble figuring out a week’s worth of quick cooking family meals based on the staples in the closet, what’s ripe at the farmer’s market and in the garden, and/or what’s on sale at the grocery store. That’s the niche you could VERY effectively fill.

  43. ephraim says:

    The thing i worry about with my inklings is start up cost. I got into the idea of making my own clothes recently, and was able to get a sturdy used sewing maching from craigslist pretty cheap and barter baked goods with friends for sewing lessons. Then, i thought ‘hmmm, if making/altering my own clothes is so awesome, why don’t i try to make my own shoes too!’ and got totally obsessed with the idea, reading about shoemaking, looking up shoe styles, trying to find shoemaking classes. But, as it turns out, making shoes requires a lot of specialized equipment, space, and knowledge that’s hard and expensive to come by. It’s not the kind of thing you can just ‘test out’ in small increments, because even being a hobbyist has large (relative to most of my other hobbies, anyhow) start up costs. Not saying that i’m giving up, but it’s definitely going to have to wait until all my health care debt is paid off and i’m in a more secure situation.

  44. Alan says:

    I just had a fleeting thought that you could combine your desire for a cooking blog with your PF blog. What if you centered your cooking blog around the fiscal responsibility of cooking at home? Forgo the shaved truffles and stick with frugal ways of cooking hamburger. Do reviews of good quality wine that you can purchase for 10 bucks a bottle or less. Do gourmet on a budget. Now THAT is a cooking blog that I would read. Otherwise I can get cooking advice from Julia Child and Ina Garten. Just my 2 cents.

  45. Maureen says:

    I think you should ask yourself if you would enjoy blogging about cooking as much as you enjoy the process of cooking? Would the pressure of having to produce a post each day ruin the fun for you?
    Are you sure you realize the effort and time cost in terms of research (of recipes, ingredients, nutrition, techniques), shopping, cooking, documenting of enough dishes to make a new meal every day? Are you confident in your expertise or would it be best to invest in education in the field before you set up your blog.

    What would your niche be? Ethnic, vegetarian, frugal, low-fat, low-carb, allergy conscious, quick fix, etc.? How would you distinguish your blog from others?

    I read somewhere that most North American families tend to eat dinners from a repertoire of 10-15 main dishes. I would fall into that group. After 25 years of cooking for my family I know the dishes that they enjoy and that they will eat. (eg. my dh despises fish and many dishes would aggravate his acid reflux). I would not be interested in recipes that had costly or difficult-to-find ingredients. If they took a long time to prepare (as in your coc au vin) they wouldn’t be feasible with our schedules. As a stay-at-home parent you can, perhaps, spend more time for meal preparation than could a person who arrives home hungry at 6pm (with other hungry, increasingly cranky mouths to feed). My family couldn’t be considered epicureans.

    Why don’t you read a lot of cooking blogs to get a feel for the typical content? Ease into it by gradually compiling a collection of blog entries, before you go ‘live’. Save money now to shield yourselves from the possible reduction in income while your new endeavor is in its infancy. It may take time to build a following.

  46. ChrisD says:

    Re volume on a cooking blog. Julie and Julia, was not only a successful blog, getting a major book contract, but also a Hollywood film! (as I’m sure everyone knows).
    #11 Jon You should move to Berlin, there are all kinds of restaurant models here including one guy who cooks a single (large scale) meal every Thursday and Friday and then serves it with a film screening for a few EUR out of his living room (probably not entirely legally).
    Re people not having time to cook when they come in hungry at 6pm. That would be a great topic: really quickly prepared snacks to tide you over until dinner is ready. E.g. cut up a tomato, mix it with cottage cheese, salt and pepper, spoon it into chicory leaves and you’re done. Delicious and healthy.

  47. Andy says:

    Have/had a cooking blog – think I’m finished with it. I love cooking, and I wanted to share what I was learning, but I ran into two issues.

    First, I didn’t really enjoy the writing. If somebody could write the posts from my thoughts while I was cooking, that would have been perfect.

    My second problem was offering unique content. Many things I found interesting (the science behind cooking, learning about new ingredients, and the basics) were not particularly popular. But at the same time, do we need another coq au vin recipe? I’m not saying this as a criticism, but simply that there is so much information out there, in books and on the internet, I often felt like I wasn’t offering anything new. Most of what I wrote about was found in other books or websites, with the occasional revelation I had while cooking.

    Could I have made it work, offering unique content? Maybe over time – but the first issue took the fun out of it for me. Of course, that part of it is not a problem for you.

  48. Holly says:

    I believe other commenters touched on this but many food blogs rely heavily on good food photography to entice and interest readers. I haven’t seen that photography is a passion of yours – perhaps that would be a great way to involve your wife if it happens to be something she wants to learn about. As a photographer myself, I can say that food photography is definitely a specialty – but luckily for us all there are great blogs devoted to the art.

  49. Amy says:

    Just wanted to share this – it’s about “how cooking became a spectator sport”. The writer makes an interesting comment about how Food Network plans its programming to attract viewers and it’s not by being educational because Americans just want to watch other people cook.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/02/magazine/02cooking-t.html

  50. Johanna says:

    Not to rain on your parade, but to me, the fact that you’d never heard of tahini until a few days ago suggests that you have a lot to learn about food before you can create a “truly great food site.”

  51. Suzanne says:

    Congrats on pursuing this new adventure! Very wise of you to keep the balance by limiting your time elsewhere.

  52. I didn’t read this whole thing, Trent, but I was charmed by how you guys felt that the meal was worth 3 hours of time. That’s so far off from the way most of us approach meal preparation these days.

    You should go see “Julie and Julia.” Take your wife if you’re embarrassed to see a chick flick. I haven’t seen it yet, but I just read Julia Child’s “My Life In France,” and her attitude toward food is exactly what you describe–you have to take the time to work on a recipe, but if you do, the finished product will be divine.

  53. Chris says:

    What ever you decide, I suggest Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain of Travel Channel fame. He was a writer long before a TV personality. Gives a jaded yet entertaining look at the restaurant business. As for blogs, my favorite is foodwishes.com . A professional chef (blog ownder) does 5 minute cooking videos that are both well done and entertaining. I think I check his website more then yours even.

  54. SP says:

    I think food blogs have a much wider audience than pf blogs — more people are interested in food than budgets and frugality. But you can’t just sit down and write a post and be done — you have to cook something too!

    Anyway, good luck. I know you have not had good experience with outsourcing parts of your blog, but it really might be worth getting past the bumps and getting someone trained on the more mundane stuff.

  55. deRuiter says:

    Food blogging for you Trent? YES! Cooking interesting meals at home? YES!!!! Cooking school for Trent? Yes!!! A career as a professional cook? As a former food service worker (my part time night job along with regular work days) suggest you consider: long hours standing on your feet in a broiling hot kitchen, you’re working nights, weekends, while the rest of the world works M-F 9/5, low pay even for chefs, the culture of alcohol which goes with the restaurant business, the instability when restaurants go under, the tension, the pressure, the importance of turning out the same meals EXACTLY THE SAME WAY) night after night, the pressure of having to get all the food out, hot food hot, cold food cold, in a brief period, the tension. Dabbling in your home kitchen and making notes for a blog is a lot different from working a line in a busy professional kitchen. Must admit that I adored my seventeen years of part time waitress work, it was more fun than any day job, and I always had cash in my pocket!

  56. Suzanne says:

    Would really support a blog on how to cook on a budget utilizing fresh items – bulk items – with the economy in such turmoil it could be a big help for those of us on a fixed income that providing less every day!
    I think you could add a lot to frugality!

  57. Sunshine says:

    I have to comment again. I totally agree with Suzanne. Perhaps you could find a way to have a luxurious but budget-friendly cooking. I know that you’ve suggested you’d like to cook more involved and less budget meals, but it might be a good niche for you. It would help some of your readers get a step into the cooking world.

    Again, I am sooo looking forward to where you go with this. Good luck!

  58. Julie says:

    You could leverage off the base of people you already have by combining food and frugality. I highly enjoyed your “how low can you go” recipes, printed out several, and cooked the dal and the burritos (great!). I would subscribe to a separate weekly email along those lines. I might even buy a hard-copy book. I always wished Amy Dacyzyn had compiled her cooking ideas separately from the other information in the Tightwad Gazette.

  59. Treva says:

    Just wanted to let you know that this article really struck home with me. I’m in a new place in my life — just moved from an area of 1.3M people to a town of 975 for a quieter & simpler life for my daughter, husband, and myself. It’s also first time I’ve not been working full-time since I was 16 and I’ve been trying to figure out my next step. I think I’ve not been doing as much as I could because it was the first real break I’ve had in 15 years and the first time I’ve been home all day with my daughter since maternity leave. I’m job searching now that school is in session and my daughter will be there all day, but I’ve got still got time in my day. The one big thing I did for myself was making time to go to an association meeting for the field I worked in previously. I made a little time for something I’m passionate about and got 3 job leads with some amazing companies. Having the school year start and then reading this article… it’s a like a message saying “Time to start anew.” Just wanted to say thanks for the reminder that it’s important to take time for the things most important to me, but also to go after those things at my own pace.

  60. Bill OBrien says:

    “The Simple Diner”??

  61. Detta says:

    Trent, take a look at my friend’s new cooking blog, http://www.stresscake.com, a blast. I also have enjoyed “How low can you go” and tried the dal recipe, enjoyed it and the leftovers! I like your “down home” writing. So what if you hadn’t heard of tahini! There are many other people in the same boat and it’s refreshing to hear someone say so.

  62. Heather says:

    I really enjoy your posts on the dinners for under ten dollars and you had mentioned that they were supposed to be healthy, but the one you had tried wasn’t. A source that I would recommend is Clean Eating Magazine. They produce every two months and have recipes with those parameters-healthy and under ten dollars. The subscription is really affordable and the way of eating that they champion incorporates lots of fresh vegetables, whole grains, and unprocessed foods.

  63. guinness416 says:

    deRuiter, I agree with all of your points and for anyone else considering kitchen work would add the hell that is split shifts, the general boozing and other debauchery that goes on with every kitchen staff I’ve worked in/with, and dealing with exec chefs who range from permanently grumpy to sociopathic! (Okay, I’m exaggerating a bit, but it sure ain’t all Julia Child at the Cordon Bleu!)

  64. Strider says:

    Trent, I can see the appeal of your “notion” in my own life. Aerospace/systems engineering is my career field and, for the most part, I’m passionate about the work that I do.

    But, a few months back I also spent 3 hours making spinach raviolis from scratch. My wife and I absolutely loved it and my wife said it was one of the best meals she’s ever eaten.

    I’d spend more time on my cooking passion but working on the MS takes up most of my free time. Pursuing this degree will enable my wife to stay home with the kids which is something I’m very passionate about. Some point down the line I hope to go to a cooking school.

  65. Karen says:

    “Tide is not a personal value in my life.” Thanks for the great morning laugh!

  66. SoCalGal says:

    Hey Trent,
    Your “How Low Can You Go” blogs are by far my favorite every week. As I read them, I can sense the enthusiasm that you felt as you prepared the meal. They are the best of the week.

  67. Kim says:

    I am very interested in reading your (potential) food blog but please don’t delve into nutrition. Whenever you mention nutrition, you make mistakes, due to your lack of academic training in food science/nutrition. Please leave the nutrition to the professionals, or at least consult them.
    Have you ever watched “Hell’s Kitchen”? I’d never want to become a chef!

  68. Claudia says:

    I found this to be really insightful and well-written. I’m going to print it out and keep it for the next time I get a “little notion.” I get those myself from time to time. It’s nice to see a way to think those types of things through.

  69. Caroline says:

    Fantastic!

  70. Mary says:

    I don’t think you need a separate food blog, doing a once a week recipe works great, and I think your blog is evolving from personal finance to life lessons, how you interact with your family, what’s important to you etc. Keep up the good work.

  71. Mayo says:

    Trent:

    Thank you for the recipes you have shared so far, and best wishes as you gradually expand your columns to include more!

    Your “living mindfully” philosophy is the reason I am one of your faithful readers, and your recipes have been an added bonus.

    Your special culinary gift to me has been your adaptation of time-consuming and complex recipes into quicker, simpler and often-healthier meals. I believe your straightforward explanation of each original recipe, your revised version and accompanying photos are just right for a large audience.

    Even if you venture into more sophisticated fare, please continue to share your creative, simple alternatives!

  72. kristine says:

    One of the most appealing aspects of your site is the 2x a day blog. And I would hate to see the recipes go away from here, but you can’t compete with yourself successfully, so recipes would have to become more rare on TSD.

    I agree with the suggestion of getting help with TSD to keep up the pace. I’ll bet a university student would be glad to intern for little money and the experience. You could have them do the less personal pieces, such as interesting historical info such as how people made ends meet in the victorian era, global attitudes toward debt, or even let them do the past links and weekly updates.

    What would you call it? The Simple Meal?

  73. KK says:

    I agree with #30 reader, Holly, food blogs rely heavily on photographs. Here is an example of a food blog that I really enjoy: http://www.notquitenigella.com

    The photographs that go along with the daily food blogs are a work of art in and of themselves.

    That being said, you have a different style all together than that blog & I enjoy both for different reasons. The recipes you’ve covered are the practical everyday type. The recipes covered on Not Quite Nigella are something to aspire to. I’ve actually used the recipes you’ve covered & my family has devoured the food eagerly. We’ve done nothing but droll over the recipes on Not Quite Nigella because they are so lovely but much too difficult to attempt for the average household with young children. You’ve done a great job with this series & the spin with making the original recipe even more economical is terrific. Please keep up the great work.

  74. AmandaLP says:

    I started a cooking blog. It is still in its infancy stages, and I am attempting (pun intended, see blog title :) to do videos rather than photographs. I agree with Andy (29) above, in that I really wish I could record my thoughts as I was cooking for writing in the blog. So many of my meals are off the top of my head. The recipes that I follow are usually the disasters.

    But, what I have figured out is that cooking is one of the few activities I have that have an element of “flow.” I can get engrossed in the activity of planning, finding ingredients, cooking and serving. This is what makes cooking fun and valuable for me. The blog is just a small attempt at trying to convey that in words.

  75. Trent, I agree with several others that doing a separate food blog dedicated to frugal cooking would be a great addition. You can certainly learn more about food, just as you’ve no doubt read and explored areas of personal finance while writing The Simple Dollar. That will enhance your posts as you go, but is not necessary to say ‘hey, wanna make a cheap chicken meal?” You will have a built-in reader-base to advertise your blog from crossover, and you’ll attract possibly even new readers to this site who are pulled-in by the cooking aspect. I think especially since you are moving toward speaking about more philosophical angles of frugality now (as someone else said, it’s inevitable) you almost need a ‘new’ way to expose folks to your core ideas. I’m not saying a newbie reader to this blog won’t get anything. But the more simpler concepts become a bit tedious for your core readers. You could even consider, after starting the food blog, re-starting some sort of posting here about the basics, again.
    Yes, I know you have the link about ’31 days to fix your finances’. From personal experience, though, some people take longer, and need more reminders. They need to be metaphorically beaten over the head with information until it sinks in. (I looked at it about 1 week into subscribing but I was already seeking and ready for the information) I also wonder if newer folks simply can’t ‘find’ it. I understand the idea, but quite frankly I rarely look for stuff on the side. It’s a long, boring list of links that bleed together, visually, and I will admit I also don’t want to spend more time than I should on “mindless” surfing. Values and all. ;-)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>