50% of Americans hate to cook, according to a Harvard study.
People are eating out more than ever compared to shopping for groceries. It doesn’t help that it’s easier than ever to order delivery from apps like DoorDash.
Even if most people know they can save money by cooking, they’re held back by the myth that cooking takes too much time and effort, or that cooking always has to be some fancy gourmet activity.
What if we reframed cooking as a fancy skill to a financial skill? And how much money can you save with this reframe?
This is how much eating out costs you
I’ll just start with data from BLS on how much people spend on groceries per month vs their total food spend. You can also read this article for average food costs per city—this illustration is using Los Angeles.
- Average total food spend: $747/month
- Average grocery spend: $378/month
- The difference is about $369/month spent on eating out
Even if you ate out half the time, an extra $185 month translates to $2,200 extra every year.
Think of cooking as becoming a restaurant of one.
- Business model: convert raw materials (ingredients) to meals at a lower cost than eating out.
- Buying raw materials scales much better than buying single meals.
Pro tip: Mint.com and a lot of banks will give you a spending breakdown, helping you understand how much you spend on groceries, restaurants, etc.
Still not convinced? Here are 3 other mindset shifts that further unlocked the financial skill of cooking:
Mindset Shift #1: You don’t have to be a great cook.
Twice a day, I stir fry veggies and protein. I get all diced, pre-cut veggies so I can just lazily toss them into the pan with oil.
Here are the common ingredients I use and cook:
- Stir fried beef / chicken / lamb / literally any protein
- Pre cut mushrooms, onions, bell peppers, carrots
- Roasted veggies like broccoli, cauliflower and brussel sprouts when I’m feeling fancier
- Spices: ginger, pepper, turmeric, salt, cinnamon. I literally toss it all in.
Not impressive at all, but it’s delicious, healthy and takes me 15 minutes.
When the time it takes you to go from ingredients to meal takes less time than a DoorDash order, you’ll be incentivized to cook more.
Mindset Shift #2: Variety of meals matter less than you think
When I was eating out more I looked at my monthly statements and saw the same places pop up over and over again: Chipotle and In-and-Out.
I realized my palette wasn’t fancy (read: basic). I only needed to how to cook a few meals I like to eat repeatedly.
Consider that you probably don’t need a huge variety of meals either. This might take some adjustment at first for those who are used to ordering from a variety of places, but there’s no power like discovering the 2-3 meals you love to eat – and cook on your own.
Mindset Shift #3: Cooking saves you on healthcare costs
The more frequently you cook, the more likely your body fat and BMI will be in a healthy range. Don’t take it from me, that’s from a 2017 study.
Other research from Johns Hopkins also showed evidence that “people who cook at home eat a more healthy diet.”
Health is wealth. When you’re closer to the actual foods and ingredients that go into your body, you’re more likely to shop and eat healthier.
I once took a home economics class as a rising junior in high school. I made cheese cake from scratch and was shocked that the recipe involved entire sticks of butter and tons of sugar. I thought “all that is going into a cheesecake? Then my body?”
Have your cake and eat it too
Cooking has had a surprising dual effect: the psychological satisfaction of making my food (ownership bias); and dining out now feels more special.
Cooking 90% of my meals makes me feel less guilty the 10% of the time I eat out. If anything, dining out is more special now that I cook so often.
What’s one low-cost dish you love to cook? Hit me up with ideas 👇🏽
Extra pro tip: investing in high quality non-stick pans will require less oil. Not only do you pans last longer, but you save money by using less oil and save your health by not having to douse a sticky pan with oil.
In general, investing in quality cookware will put positive pressure to cook more, just like buying a nice pair of running shoes makes running easier to look forward to.