Spending $5,000 on Eating Out
I recently exported all of my Credit Card spending using Mint.com and discovered that I spent $5598.32 at restaurants over the past 3 years.
Ouch – seeing that number was the initial spark that made me want to learn how to cook my own food. I love eating out but I was doing it mainly because I didn’t even have skills to make my own meals, and had yet to give a serious effort to learn.
I want to at least have the option of cooking, so that I can save my restaurant-eating for special occasions and less for everyday meals.
The second reason I want to learn is so I can have a life-long skill that I can use everyday if I want.
The third reason is that I have some concerns about my health, and I want to have more control over what I put into my body.
Microwave Only (until age 19)
When I was growing up, my stepmom did most of the cooking in our house. She was a great cook who made lots of Filipino food. Some of her specialties were Tocino1, Nilaga2, Sinigang3, Pancit4, Lumpia5, Beef Steak (Bistek)6, and Filipino Spaghetti7.
The first things I ever “cooked” were in the microwave. When I turned 10, I started staying at home by myself after school. That’s when I learned how to make snacks like Hot Pockets, Pizza Rolls, and Cup O’Noodles 8
That’s all I ever “cooked” until I was 19.
Even in college, I barely cooked..
My freshman year, I had access to the dorm cafeteria, so I that’s where I mostly ate.
My sophomore year, my roommate Marilyn tried teaching me how to make Beef Stroganoff9. This was the first time I ever used a stove. All I remember is that I burned the pasta because I didn’t scrape the bottom of the pot like I was supposed to. To this day I haven’t met anyone else who has burned pasta.
My junior year, my roommate Larry did a good amount of cooking. He made some Chinese dishes like Black Bean Chicken with Gai Lan10, but instead of taking advantage of his knowledge and asking him to teach me… I ate lots of Blondie’s Pizza because it was cheap and convenient. Sometimes I made the occasional hamburger using a George Foreman Grill that I got as a gift.11.
Living On My Own
In my 20’s I moved into my own apartment and made a few attempts to cook more, using recipes I found online. My problem was that my efforts weren’t focused enough.
I would try making a different dish each time I cooked, and this really slowed down my progress. Since I wasn’t repeating dishes, I would forget the steps. It became a constant cycle: me trying to cook something > not being good at it (always slow, always having to reference a recipe) > giving up for awhile.
Plus, I wasn’t cooking often enough to use my groceries before they went bad. I would waste food by not using it, so cooking was actually costing me more than eating out.
The only thing that I actually memorized at this time was how to cook eggs. They weren’t intimidating to me like other proteins (chicken/beef/fish), so I felt comfortable working with them. I made a lot of eggs in my 20’s — to me there was no wrong time of day to eat them: breakfast, lunch, or dinner. To this day all I can make from memory are boiled eggs, fried eggs, scrambled eggs, and omelettes12
Dishes I would like to learn
I would love to memorize some versatile dishes where I can mix and match ingredients & flavors. In addition, I want to finally get comfortable working with proteins like Chicken, Fish, and Beef.
I also read this article in the New York Times about making meals on autopilot, and here are a few more things I want to get good at:
- Being able to measure ingredients by eye or by hand without having to use measuring tools
- Being able to taste what’s missing in a dish while cooking it.
- Meal planning & cooking more efficiently. I’ve read stories of people who swear by cooking a whole week’s worth of meals (or more), which makes their lives easier.
I’m going to document this process so that I can keep myself accountable, and also so I can look back and analyze what went right/wrong.
I work full-time Monday through Friday, so I’ll probably have about 1-2 hours per day to cook, film, edit and write. I’m guessing I’ll be cooking about 3 times per week.
UPDATE [December 2015]: I ended up cooking once a week, but it worked out really well! 😆
Resources I’ll be using:
I mainly want to learn from first-hand experience and doing things in my own kitchen. So, I’ll primarily be using Google to find the information I need.
Eventually I’d also like to explore other mediums — blogs, YouTube, TV Shows, classes (both in-person and online)..
As far as timing goes, today is Day 4 out of 100, so I think I’ll start cooking on Day 10. That will give me 90 days to memorize 3 dishes (30 days each). If I make each dish once every 2-3 days, I’ll make each dish about 10-15 times. Hopefully that will be enough to burn the steps into my brain.
That’s it for now… til next time!
OTHER POSTS IN THE 100-DAY CHALLENGE SERIES
Day 1: Intro to Me & My Goal
Day 4: “Why Learn?” and My Cooking Background
Day 7: What Should I Learn to Cook FIRST?
Day 10: Pasta + Meat Sauce (Tomato Bolognese)
Day 21: Pasta + Meat Sauce (less Tomato)
Day 28: Pasta + Meat Sauce (Beef Stroganoff)
Day 35: Oven Roasted Chicken Thighs
Day 42: Pan Roasted Chicken Thighs
Day 49: Pan Roasted Chicken Thighs (coated with flour)
Day 56: Pan Roasted Chicken Breasts
Day 63: Miso Glazed Baked Salmon
Day 70: Miso Glazed Baked Salmon II
Day 77: Miso Glazed Baked Salmon III
Day 84: Final Exam
Day 95: What’s Next?
Day 100: Final Thoughts