When it comes to ways of reducing the family budget there is perhaps no more flexible a category than food cost. Last week's Chicago Tribune quoted that "on average, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, we Americans spend a whopping 30 percent of our budgets on food". The article outlines 7 cost cutting steps: "Cook at home...Buy on sale...Buy what's in season...Shop smart...Use less protein...Throw nothing away...[and] Use what you have." All good food for thought, but a bit bland.
The most frivolous item on our home T account is dining out. Most of us have probably reduced the number of meals we buy out in these recessionary times but we still do it anyway -- at least occasionally. Why? Because it's fun, social, spontaneous and fulfills our basic need for a break in routine. But I contend that cooking at home can satisfy the same criteria if we take a few steps.
If you don't like to cook, you probably don't know how to. This is easily remedied by hanging out in friend's kitchens who enjoy the task and by taking a few well reviewed cooking classes. Let's face it, it's not possible to like something that you don't do well -- as with all things, experience is the best teacher. And the cost of the classes will yield a multifaceted ROI.
Once up to speed -- or if you already are -- you may find that menu planning, food shopping, and meal preparation becomes a magic potion to ameliorate your day. Applied creativity combined with a focus that involves all of our senses to produce a very cost-effective gift for those we love is not only something to look forward to, but can also be very social. Invite your family and guests to participate. Invariably each will be expert at one or many of the processes involved and enjoy the end product that much more for having helped to create it.
Be spontaneous to parody the dining out experience. Think of something you'd like to have and buy the primary ingredients on the way home from work. Text your ideas to the family and invite theirs in return. Home cook’ in can open a whole new world of fun, immense satisfaction and savings.