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A recipe for saving money

At-home meals will save you a bundle. No more excuses: If you can read, you can cook.

By Donna_Freedman Mar 5, 2012 1:32PM
Last fall the Bosch appliances company surveyed nearly 1,100 men and women aged 25 and older. About 28% said they don't cook because they don't know how.

Anyone else but me wonder how these folks made it to adulthood?

Seriously. At some point they didn't know how to walk, read or tie their shoes. They weren't born knowing Facebook either. But they learned. (Post continues after video.)
"I don't know how" sure sounds like a handy defense against anything you don't want to do. Wonder if it would work in other situations:

I don't know how to budget, so I don't do it.

I don't know how to pay my taxes, so I don't do it.

I don't know how to be courteous to others, so I don't do it.

Hey, it really does work!

The adventurous cook

If you can read, you can cook. You figured out how to put together that bookcase/download music/set up a Twitter account by reading the instructions, didn't you?

You don't have to become Julia Child overnight. Start with "speed scratch," a mix of prepared and fresh ingredients. For example, buy a supermarket rotisserie chicken but throw a couple of spuds in the microwave and put together a salad. Leftover bird becomes lunch the next day or a chicken Caesar salad the next night.

Online cooking sites are a tremendous resource for beginners. You can even do an Internet search to find ideas that use whatever's already in your cupboard.

Just for fun I searched "recipes with ramen and peanut butter." Up popped instructions for Easy Peanut Sauce Ramen. Those extra packets of soy sauce from your last takeout order will come in handy for this recipe.
Don't have the lemon juice it needs? Squeeze what's left of that lime you enjoyed with a Corona. (Substitutions are the mark of an adventurous cook.) No garlic powder? Skip it this time; it'll probably still taste OK.

Your wallet will thank you
Now: Take some of the money you saved and buy garlic powder. Some rice, too, plus some cans of tuna, black beans, tomatoes and fruit. The more ingredients you have, the more fun those recipe searches will be. In time, you'll graduate to fresher fare.

Aim for making dinner at home two or three nights a week at first. Extra frugal points if you pack leftovers for the next day's lunch.

The impact on your finances will be noticeable. Your carbon footprint will get smaller, too, since you won't be tossing burger wrappers, fry bags, takeout boxes, chopsticks or little cups of duck sauce every night.

Can't cook? Learn how. Otherwise you're likely to hear me say, "I don't know how to stop smacking you for being clueless, so I don't do it."

Those of you who already cook
: Got any easy, frugal recipes to share?

More on MSN Money:

Mar 5, 2012 3:17PM
I like cooking. I'm glad my parents taught me the basics. Here's what I'm having for dinner tonight, vegetarian baked ziti. It's relatively easy.

baked ziti

2-3 servings

4 oz penne pasta

1 cup tomato sauce

½ cup onion

½ cup broccoli

1 zucchini (optional)

1 carrot, chopped

 ½ cup frozen spinach

2 ounce cottage cheese

Olive oil






Cook noodles in a pot of water to package directions. Add all other ingredients except tomato sauce and cheese to a pan, and warm for about 10 minutes, while noodles are cooking. In a baking pan, layer in half the noodles, with a bit of water from cooking to keep from sticking. Layer on the vegetables, and half the tomato sauce, and cheese. Layer the rest of the noodles. Add the remaining tomato sauce. Bake for 35 minutes at 350.

Mar 13, 2012 12:35PM

It took some time to get used to cooking for one after my husband passed. He was a Kansas Boy, with steak and potatoes "on the brain" every day. No disrespect to his memory intended, but I haven't been able to eat a steak, let alone cook one since May of 2010. 


Fast forward to 2012. I have always loved to cook, and once I got the major part of grieving, I discovered that I love cooking more than ever, and it gave me a wonderful sense of gratification, being able to make meals on a budget that are good for me.


One thing I have found is that breakfast for dinner is a real money saver. Here's my basic Oven Omelet recipe that is versatile because one can change the meats, cheeses and vegetables to suit your own tastes, and it can be served for breakfast, lunch or dinner.


Oven Omelete


10  eggs

30 oz. shredded potatoes, or 1 package frozen shredded hash brown potatoes

1 cup milk

2 cups shredded cheese of your choice

1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt

1 tsp. dried minced onion

1/2 pound cooked diced ham, cooked and drained bulk sausage or meat of your choice

1/2 to 1 cup chopped veg of your choice


Beat the eggs and milk together in a large bowl with the seasonings. Fold in the rest of the ingredients and bake in a well buttered 13 x 9 inch baking dish for 60 minutes.




I am now diving into the realm of Indian, Middle Eastern foods, and I love it. There are so many different things to discover, experiment and enjoy on very little money. With endless choices just on the internet, as far as I'm concerned, the sky's the limit:)

I am so glad my mother gave me a choice when I was growing up, either make supper or help with the farm chores in the evenings. Well, I hated getting nearly froze to the bone, so I would stay in the nice warm kitchen and make supper. I secretly loved it also, since, my dad is a "meat and potatoes" guy, I would make pasta and veggies. I would make anything but steak and potatoes. He never complained when I would put lots of garlic powder in it or pasta again, since there was meal on the table and someone came out to help with the farm chores.

My favorite thing to make don't have specific recipes, I learned to cook with whatever was on hand or what was abundant in the garden. I do love making stir fry and there are so many different ways to make it.

Make some rice according to how many people are eating. I have used both long cooking and instant. I actually prefer the long cooking after I moved to another country. They don't have instant, or if they do, it is very expensive.

Pick your veggies and choice of meat. Cut into bit size pieces, Cook the meat first with some oil and soy sauce, then remove. Cook the veggies then add some soy sauce, or other seasonings you want. My mom always used a seasoning salt, but to each their own. Serve on the rice once everything is cooked.
Mar 5, 2012 10:56PM

How about a simple recipe for asparagus?  Hopefully I have included all of the information for newbie cooks.


1 lb asparagus

2 T olive oil

2 T butter

lemon juice, to taste

salt, to taste

pepper, to taste


Break off the ends of the asparagus by snapping them off.  They'll break at the exact spot that the soft part and woody part of the stem is.  Rinse the tops under cool water and pat dry on a clean towel.  You can discard the woody bottoms or make cream of asparagus soup from them.  ( I make soup)


 On medium heat melt the butter and warm the olive oil (together) until a drop of water sizzles when it hits the pan.  (You don't want to leave this unattended because butter and olive oil can burn rather quickly.)  Place asparagus in pan and season with salt and pepper.  Cover and cook about five minutes.  Add lemon juice (fresh or bottled) and cook another 3-5 minutes, until tender.


Yum Yum!

Learn how to roast a turkey breast, roast beef and a ham.  That's half your battle.
Jun 4, 2012 10:23PM
I always wind up with a few bites of leftover veggies at the end of dinner.  There are also the vegetable ends and shavings from prepping the veggies for dinner in the first place.  I toss them all into a large freezer bag, then toss that into the freezer.  Later, when I rotisserie a chicken, I put the bones and the leftover veggie bits into a stock pot with pressed garlic, and spices (I use herbs de Provence, onion powder, salt, and pepper) and soon I have huge amounts of chicken stock to be frozen in one quart bags that I can use in future recipes.
Mar 17, 2012 7:14PM

breakfast out on Sunday

lunch out either Saturday or Friday - depending on work schedule)

take out for dinner once a week (generally pizza, chinese or mexican)

dinner out maybe once every 6 - 8 weeks

cook at home mostly from scratch the rest of the time, except for breakfast which is usually some sort of cereal, and lunch is leftovers, sandwiches or something from the grocers freezer like burritos


Mar 8, 2012 8:11PM
I would say go to taste of home's website. they have tons of easy, inexpensive and delicious recipes.
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Donna Freedman's Frugal Nation blog is for readers who want to live cheaply -- whether due to necessity or a lifestyle choice. It explores living sustainably and making life more meaningful at the same time.


Donna Freedman

Donna Freedman, a writer based in Anchorage, Alaska, writes the Frugal Nation blog for MSN Money. She won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. Donna also writes about the frugal life for her own site, Surviving and Thriving.