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  • Learning How To Cook (Efficiently) – Financial Tip of the Week (Nov. 3)

    This is the fifth and final installment in a series on saving money by cooking at home. Don’t forget to check out Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.

    Cooking Skills
    It’s hard to cook without basic skills, and even experienced cooks continue to learn in the kitchen. For a few years now, I’ve been wanting to take a knife skills class at The New School of Cooking but haven’t managed to work it into my schedule. I’m sure other cooking schools throughout the country offer similar classes, not just on knife skills but on other basic techniques as well.

    However, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to learn how to use a knife, or even to cook. I think that one of the best ways to learn these days is to watch Food Network. Several of the chefs are particularly good at teaching – for beginners, I recommend the shows Sara’s Secrets, Food 911, How to Boil Water, Everyday Italian, and 30 Minute Meals. I think Semi-Homemade won’t really teach you skills, but will give you the confidence to try a few things because they’re so easy. Additionally, there are many websites with how-to videos and articles – take a look at Epicurious, Cooking Light, and Food Network (here and here; check out their list of safety tips, too).

    But the single best way to learn how to cook is to just do it. As I discussed in Part 1 of this series, experimentation – even if it results in a failure of a meal – is still a success, because it makes eating at home fun and exciting.

    The Efficient Kitchen
    It’s much easier to cook if your kitchen facilitates cooking rather than hinders it. When we moved into our house, the first thing I did was have additional countertops installed in what was supposed to be the breakfast nook. I couldn’t understand how anyone could cook in a kitchen that didn’t have any counter space!

    Counter space is important, because you need room to do your prep work, like chopping and measuring. Give yourself plenty of room, and don’t forget to put a plastic grocery bag on the counter to toss your garbage into. Keep the tools you regularly use within easy reach. And make sure there’s some clear space next to the stove to make stove top cooking easier.

    These tips from Cooking Light are intended to assist in designing a new or remodeled kitchen but some of them can be used to reorganize any kitchen. Find more tips here and here.

    I hope you’ve enjoyed this series on how to save money by cooking at home, and that you’ve been inspired to eat a few more meals at home. Don’t forget to invest the money that you’ve saved!

    Comments

    1. Mark Sicignano says:

      You’re on the mark on everything you said above.

      I recently moved into a new place with a small kitchen. I’ve lost the little counter space there was to the Microwave, Toaster Oven and Coffee Maker.

      I get so frustrated trying to cook because I can barely put a cutting board and a bowl next to each other on the remaining space. I plan to put some kind of table/shelf next to the fridge that might hold the appliances so that I can spread out more while cooking.

      Regarding knife skills, I’m amazed by people who apparently have NONE. I’ve seen people who are afraid of a 8″ chef’s knife and would rather cut carrots and potatos with a 4″ paring knife, and they hold it in an unsafe way.

      My knife set from Henckels came with a VHS tape showing how to use the knives and how to care for them.

      But shows on the TV food network can teach you the same and you get all sorts of ideas and confidence from watching them.

      All great advice you gave.

    2. Thanks, Mark! If you have the room, you might consider a rolling cart – you could do your prep work on it and roll it right up to your stove, or, if there’s room in your kitchen near an outlet, put your appliances on the cart, which would free up your counter. IKEA has some pretty nice carts – I have one that I keep in the corner of my kitchen for appliances I don’t need daily. Good luck in your new kitchen!

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