Learning to cook
Some readers want to cook their own meals but they don’t know how. I’m going to assume that you are broke, just starting to get your finances together and that you don’t know how to cook. I’m also going to assume that you have a refrigerator, a stove, and an oven. (If you have some cooking equipment, that’s fine but you won’t need any for this first lesson.)
I don’t know how Ramen noodles became the poster child of broke college students. They are loaded with trans fat, white flour and sodium. They may be cheap but they don’t have much nutrition.
We can do better! I suggest you start by learning to bake a sweet potato. They are cheap costing around a dollar a pound. They go on sale and they don’t go bad quickly (so go ahead and buy a few more if they are on sale). They are packed with nutrition and they’re filling. The reason they are showing up on more and more restaurant menus is that they taste good!
How to cook a sweet potato
So let’s start by learning to cook a sweet potato. You are going to need one sweet potato for each person and some aluminum foil. Wash them under running water, wrap each one in foil and put them in an oven set at 400. Bake for about 45 minutes (check to see if they are done by sticking with a fork – the fork will go in easily when done). Serve them piping hot with butter and salt.
This recipe can be printed (courtesy of Real Simple Magazine); there is even an option to print it on a card if you’d like to do that.
You’ve taken the first step in cooking. You can cook other things this way too like regular potatoes, carrots, turnips and even asparagus (the asparagus will cook faster though). All you need is an oven and some foil. You’ll stay healthier and avoid more doctor bills if you eat real food. Try it out and if you have questions, just ask in the comments! Some of the readers here are great cooks and I know you’ll find the help and support you need.
But how will this keep me out of restaurants?
I know what you are thinking! How is cooking a sweet potato going to keep me out of restaurants for a week? I put together a week’s worth of menus of food you can buy at a grocery store that will use only the equipment and techniques we’ve covered so far. If there’s something you don’t like, find a similar substitute. The deli at a decent grocery store will have lots of options for you.
(The deli has some of the most expensive food at the grocery store but it’s still cheaper than a restaurant. Next Thursday, I’ll post another lesson building on this that will start getting you out of deli and purchasing better, less expensive food that you can cook yourself.)
A week’s worth of menus from the grocery store
- Monday: rotisserie chicken from the supermarket, baked potatoes, pre-washed salad from the market or any other purchased salad or side from the deli
- Tuesday: shred leftover chicken from Monday and place over a large salad. Add more raw veggies of your choice to make the salad more substantial
- Wednesday: baked sweet potatoes and hot soup from the soup bar
- Thursday: broccoli/cauliflower salad from the deli (this is a heavy salad that will fill you up)
- Friday: take a break and enjoy a pizza night (use some coupons and shop for a great deal); put a smile on your mama’s face and serve up some salad as a first course
- Saturday: buy sliced turkey and other deli meats, cheese and make sandwiches. Heat them in the oven if you want warm food – just wrap in foil and heat until the cheese is gooey
- Sunday: choose food from the Greek olive bar starting with a pasta salad, some cheese, vegetables and good bread
How did it go? Did you save some money? What things would you like to learn to cook?
If you’d like to see the whole series, here’s an ordered index to all the Cooking 101 posts.
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