One of my financial new year's resolutions for 2013 was to live on half my income, and one way to make that possible is to cook at home, and save restaurants for special occasions.
One effective way to do that is to cook at home, most of the time.
My rules for eating out are to only eat with friends (so no eating out alone, ever) and to limit my eating out to once a week, at most. Or eating at home and having a drink out.
Learning to Cook Can Save You Money
This is the college investor, so you're either in college, or in your twenties, so you're going out with your friends all the time.
And it's important, for sure, to spend time with your friends, because once you all partner up, it will never be the same.
But if you know how to cook, then you can get people to bring booze over to your house, spend time “pre-gaming” and enjoy a nice meal before you go out to the bars.
That way, you can make something substantial for dinner, which will help everyone last longer, once you go out to the bars.
Things You Can't Mess Up
Spaghetti and meatballs. This is one of the easiest, cheapest things that will feed a crowd. You don't even need a recipe, really, but if you follow one, your meatballs will be much more extraordinary.
Chili. If you have a crock pot, this is extremely easy. Brown the meat (1-2 pounds of ground beef, maybe some Italian sausage?), chili powder, cumin, pepper, tomatoes, beans, if you must. Throw it in the slow cooker in the morning, let it cook on low all day, add some sides and feed a crowd!
Tacos/Nachos. Same ingredients, easy to assemble, deliciousness. Ask someone to bring guacamole. Party food at its finest.
Pizza. Make crust, or use pitas. Chop up all kinds of toppings, then let your friends build their own.
Pulled pork. Put a pork shoulder in the crock pot, then add whatever sauce you want. Chop up onions. Let it cook as long as you want, then shred. Add more sauce.
The Real Value of Feeding Your Friends
By feeding your friends, you're creating a weekend routine. More than that, you're building your family. You're saving money, because even if you have ten people over, how expensive will it be to make dinner?
But you'll find more value than just monetary. You can show your friends that you love them, that they're important to you, that you want them to be well fed.
You create a space for loving friendship in a world where people usually just give each other a hard time when they're connecting.
People Will Be Amazed
I would call myself an adept home cook. When I was 13, I decided I'd be vegetarian. My mom, bless her heart, said, “okay, whatever you want, sweetie, but I'm not cooking something special for you. In fact, if you're making yourself something for dinner, you might as well make us dinner too.”
And so, at a tender age, I cooked dinner for my family four nights a week.
And now? Several years later?
My friends think I'm a great cook.
I'm not, really, but I do have a lot of enthusiasm, and because of that, I get to have dinner with friends two or three nights a week.
In a way, I'm setting myself up for cooking for my family, when I have one of my own.
But for now?
For now, I'm more than happy to have two or three families of my own.
Family Dinner is For Everyone
If you have your own nuclear family, make sure you eat dinner together as often as possible. Nobody needs to eat fancy food, and nobody needs to be stressed. Of course, the only rule that matters is that the cook doesn't have to do the dishes.
If you don't yet have your own family, or, like me, your family is a little too far away to have dinner with every week, then expand your definition.
Family doesn't have to be related by blood.
All that matters is you get to share a meal together.
Even if it's terrible. Your real family will laugh with (and at!) your failures and celebrate your successes.
Do you cook?