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Are you being serious?
No, but also yes. Will cooking for yourself be that one simple trick financial advisors hate for you to know? Of course not, but it is definitely a valuable skill in the toolkit of life that will pay dividends in the long run. The math is simple enough to encourage you to learn to cook and retire early.
Learning to cook is a skill the world just expects you to have without providing any real structured way to learn it. It isn’t taught in American schools outside of the rare Home Economics class and I wouldn’t be surprised to find out fewer of those are even being offered.
A valuable skill
I truly believe that learning to cook is one of the most valuable skills a person can acquire early in their life. Like Chef Gusteau from the brilliant 2007 Disney documentary of a rat who pursues his passion for french cuisine called ‘Ratatouille’, I believe that anyone can cook. I’m not delusional though. Not everyone is going to be able to master all types of cuisines and techniques, but anyone can learn enough to cook daily for themselves. I might be delusional regarding whether Remy was fiction or not… prove me wrong.
Cooking is an imminently learnable skill with enough resources on TV, in print, or online to last a lifetime. One could practically type in any combination of ingredients into a search engine and get instantly bombarded with dozens of recipes, tutorials, and advice on how exactly to cook it. There are entire sections of book stores dedicated to cook books for every skill level and type of food. If you want to learn to cook, there is no shortage of available options.
Learn to cook as you go…
The aspect of cooking I love is how customizable, scalable, and relatable the venture can be. You can practically search for a recipe these days based on specific ingredients, the amount of time you want to spend cooking, and how skilled you are at cooking in general to get a customized menu. If you truly love or hate a specific ingredient you can customize any meal you have if you know how to cook. For example, fennel is disgusting and should be auto excluded from any search obviously.
Cooking is scalable in that you can start off with the easy recipes and work your way up on your own schedule. Like any hobby, people tend to rise to the level of an activity that matches their perceived enjoyment gained by doing so. You might eventually find yourself baking french macarons or never move past one-pot meals and both of those options are equally good. You just need to know enough to cook your favorite meals at home, not end up a contestant on the Great British Baking Show.
Side note: I would love to be on the Great British Baking Show even for only one episode just to say that I did it. Of course, most of that episode would be dedicated to wondering why an American who has never heard of half of these deserts ended up on the show. The rest of the show would probably be a combination of Paul Hollywood mocking my tart’s soggy bottom and b-roll of me doing the math on converting Fahrenheit to Celsius on the oven.
Cooking is relatable
Cooking (or eating in general) is something everyone you come in contact with has in common. We may not be eating or cooking the same things, but we all enjoy good food when we stuff it in our mouths. Socially speaking, we have dates over a meal, meet friends over a meal, gather for holidays over a meal, and a solid 10% of television programming is cooking related at least. Actually more since there are entire channels dedicated to food.
If you wanted to learn a skill that you are guaranteed to use on a near daily basis and can share with anyone in your life, you’d be hard pressed to find one higher on the priority list than cooking. There is a reason most home layouts are centered around the kitchen and dining rooms. We are social beings and eating is part of our shared culture. You could learn to cook and retire early with those savings but there are other important reasons to pursue it.
I’ll start by recognizing I was lucky in my life when it comes to learning to cook. Growing up in a family that loved to cook and made me help, even at a young age, was an advantage in hindsight. I probably hated being forced to help my dad cook meals when I could be playing transformers or watching cartoons at the time though. Looking back, that family time probably helped me realize the joy possible in cooking and gave me the confidence to keep cooking when I was older.
My grandpa owned a grocery store and at least two diners in his very interesting life and loved to cook. Whenever we visited for Thanksgiving (or other events), he was usually found in the kitchen toiling away at one pot or another. He loved to cook so much I can vividly remember him tasting his creations along the way and dancing to himself at how good he thought it was. He passed that joy of cooking down to my dad because he loved to cook as well.
To cook is to share your love
I spent a lot of time as a child at the cutting board next to my dad, helping him prep the food or stir the dishes together. As I got older we even entered into several cooking competitions together either as a team or competitors. We won a chili cook-off once and placed in other events which was fun. We never entered the competitions to win since cooking and sharing was just as fun.
Some of the few items I have passed down to me from extended family is cooking related. In one of my kitchen drawers, I have a cheese grater older than I am as well as some spoons. I also have my grandmother’s rosette irons for making the traditional Scandinavian cookie. I don’t want to encourage you to leave my page but look those up when you get a chance. Seriously, its basically a crunchy funnel cake cookie you make with a branding iron in hot oil
Next generation cook
When our son was old enough to start walking around on his own and showed an interest in what I was doing in the kitchen I built him a tower to join me. Specifically, I built him this IKEA hack version of a traditional learning tower so he can be a little more stable and less likely to fall off and I cannot recommend it enough. He started out playing with his toys next to me but quickly graduated to stirring vegetables, adding spices, and kneading dough.
He is learning to cook, which is very important to him and me alike. More importantly, he is learning to see the value in learning to cook and enjoy the process. Additionally, he is learning the math of measuring ingredients, reading recipes, and following directions. Cooking is a sneaky way to teach your kids a lot of valuable lessons in life and sometimes trick them into eating foods they would normally shy away from.
Neat. Explain how I learn to cook and retire early
I won’t be first (or last) person on the internet to try to convince you that cooking your own food at home will be more cost effective than dining out. This subject is fully worn out by every personal finance expert on the internet to the point that it is mocked now. The prime example being that millennials specifically could fix their financial woes if they just cut back on the avocado toast and Starbucks.
I could write an entire article on the real cost of dining out versus cooking at home. Spoiler: I won’t but might in the future. I think we all inherently know that it costs less to cook our own meals. Let’s do an extreme example for illustrative purposes: a family of 2 people who exclusively dine out at fast food establishments three meals a day at an average of $5 a meal. This hypothetical couple would spend over $900 a month on food assuming they could keep the average meal cost that low.
Who eats like that?
Nobody. That is the point. Our family of three spends around $700 a month on groceries and dining out, a savings of $200 over our made up friends. A $2,400 annual savings goes a long way toward retiring earlier if invested properly. That difference could be much larger too if you include delivery fees, tips, and a much higher average meal cost at a restaurant. I personally know a lot of families spending more than $1,000 a month on food overall that could save money by cooking more at home.
Additionally, there are well documented indirect cost savings to cooking your meals at home. Meals cooked at home are probably healthier than the same meal at a restaurant or found in convenience foods. Not always, but usually. Home cooks tend to not include the levels of sugar, sodium, and preservatives found in pre-packaged meals or dishes found in restaurants since it wouldn’t be necessary. Knowing exactly what goes into your meals can have a measurable an lasting effect on your health.
Living a healthy life won’t guarantee you spend less on healthcare but it certainly puts you in a position to potentially save a lot by remaining healthier further into life. You learn to cook and retire early on the cost savings and potentially improved health.
The journey matters as much as the destination
Look, I’m not suggesting that we never dine out again. Maybe just increase the ratio of cooking at home to restaurants in your life to save a little money. As a proponent of the Slow FI path to financial independence, we know that the journey needs to be as enjoyable as the destination. There isn’t any fun in slashing your food budget to the bone to survive on beans, rice, and ramen in an attempt to maximize your savings if you are miserable the entire time.
Learn to cook and retire with an enjoyable, lifelong hobby I recommend to everyone. One that simultaneously allows you to save money in your budget while enjoying delicious food along the way. We host several gatherings annually revolving around food, family, and friends that are a highlight of our year. Inviting friends or family over to cook a nice meal can be more cost effective and enjoyable than dining out if done right.
I’m sold. What are your favorite recipes?
I’m glad you asked. In case it didn’t come across above I love to cook, teach things, and share my knowledge with others. Of course I created a page on this site to house my favorite recipes and plan to share one recipe a week on Fridays.
I have recipes I’ve compiled over years of trial and error that I use weekly for easy dinners. There are recipes for holidays like Thanksgiving, Oktoberfest, and Christmas that I’d love to share. They all exist in either my head or personal recipe book and need to be shared.
My collection of favorite recipes
I love to cook. You should learn to cook. It isn’t hard, should be fun, and can save you a lot of money. I will start sharing my favorite recipes on the recipes page of this site. Go cook something already. Learn to cook and retire early.
A 5 Michelin Star article 🙂
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