After successfully not starving for a year, I thought I’d talk a little bit about my experience with cooking during my first year with a kitchen of my own.
Item number one: startup. I don’t have exact numbers of how much I spent or the exact items I bought, but I can give you a few ballparks. You’re probably going to spend a couple hundred dollars in “startup cost,” filling up your cupboards with staples like flour, sugar, butter, rice, pasta, salt, cooking oils (things you’ll use in a lot of recipes), and some ingredients for your first few weeks of cooking.
Item number two: maintenance cost, aka how much you’ll spend continuously throughout the year. I mean, food doesn’t last forever, so you gotta keep spending. I’ll be honest: my first term was pretty cheap for me because my parents bought me a LOT of food before they left me here. However, here are a few things I’ve noted:
- Lots of things might seem expensive when you buy them, but if they last a long time then it’s money you’ll be saving later.
- Sales are the greatest things! Save On Foods even has an app so you can hunt through their flyers. Expensive items such as cheese become a lot more affordable when sale time rolls around.
- Eating out/buying coffee or snacks is not an all-the-time thing. Sure, it’s convenient, but spending $4 on a latte every day is gonna kill you (financially). A lesson learned the hard way by many. Pack a lunch and save your dollars.
- Buying brand name is not necessary. Every little bit adds up on grocery bills, so if the no-name is cheaper and the quality is practically the same, save yourself a few bucks and get the store brand. Do this on a lot of items, and the savings add up.
Item number three: actually cooking. There are a basically four ways which I acquire food: easy/instant meal, frozen food, more involved cooking meal, and eating out. As I said before, eating out is a once-in-a-while thing, as it’s very expensive and usually not very healthy. Stuff you can put together really fast without much thought is really great, you just have to make sure you’re eating healthy as well. Quesadillas, hot dogs, scrambled eggs, frozen pizza, and pasta with tomato sauce are all yummy and fast, but it’s important to get some kind of green in there as well. (Canada’s Food Guide recommends you eat at least one dark green and one orange vegetable per day, plus two more other fruits or vegetables.) I also find that easy and fast meals can get pretty old pretty fast.
This brings me to more involved cooking and frozen food. The two go hand in hand. Pre-cooking, one of my favourite things to do, involves putting aside an hour or two on a weekend to make a bigger meal which will last all week. Usually this results in healthier meals, more variety, saves time during the week when you’re busy, and a lot of the time costs less than buying individual meals. Or if you don’t want to eat all of it in the same week (or if it won’t keep in the fridge), you freeze that bad boy and it’s ready to go.
Some of my favourite pre-cooked meals include: risotto, tacos, casseroles of many varieties, and stir fries. Next year I plan to venture into more cooking adventures; I meant to try pulled pork this year but I bought so much frozen food that I’m trying to eat it all before I leave Vancouver for the summer!
Do you have any cooking ideas? Leave a comment!