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My friend never cooks, and it costs her almost $5,000 a year

A husband cooking on the stove while his wife looks on, both smiling.
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The cost of dining out and ordering at home can really add up.


Key points

  • Some people don’t have the time or desire to cook.
  • Not cooking can cost so much money that it ends up impeding your other financial goals.
  • Simple recipes and meal kits can help you get started cooking, as can inviting family members into the kitchen with you.

I really like to cook. And I’m actually pretty decent at it. The reason I don’t do it more often comes down to time, or lack thereof.

Not only do I have children and a home to support, but I also work full time, and often beyond full time, which means 40+ hours a week. Between that and some volunteer work I do, there are weeks when I just don’t have time to spend hours in the kitchen preparing meals. And those are the weeks I turn to takeout, despite the higher credit card bill it leads to.

But a friend of mine hardly ever cooks. And the reason has nothing to do with lack of time. Rather, it is a lack of desire.

Going out to dinner can be a significant expense

My friend says she’s a terrible cook. She wouldn’t know, because I’ve never tasted anything that comes out of her kitchen. But it’s not just that she doesn’t like to cook. She also feels that because it’s just her and her husband, it’s more profitable to dine in restaurants and order than to cook for themselves.

Last year, I challenged that line of thinking and asked her to count her restaurant and takeout expenses. We then compare that cost to the cost of increasing her current grocery spending by $200 per week (taking into account that she and her husband typically eat breakfast and lunch at home and prepare it themselves). All told, we found that even if cooking cost her an extra $200 in groceries, she would save about $5,000 a year compared to the cost of dining out and ordering takeout as often as she does.

That was a revelation, to say the least. And this year, one of my friend’s New Year’s resolutions is to try to be involved in the kitchen a little more.

If you tend to avoid cooking because you don’t like it or don’t know how to cook, the reality is that it could save you a lot of money. So here are some options to consider.

1. Sign up for a meal kit service

Meal kits are often more expensive than buying groceries at the supermarket. But they can be a source of savings compared to dining out and ordering at home. And they make the cooking process simple by getting all the ingredients you need delivered to your doorstep with easy-to-follow recipes.

2. Stick to very simple recipes

You don’t have to go from cooking nothing to preparing complicated three-course meals in your kitchen. Instead, keep things simple. Stick to basic recipes like chicken and rice or pasta and vegetables until you feel more comfortable experimenting with different ingredients and techniques.

3. Make it a family affair

There is no rule that you have to suffer alone in the kitchen while preparing meals. If cooking really isn’t in your wheelhouse, enlist the help of your family members to help you improve. Cook meals together with your spouse, and if your children are old enough, ask for their help.

Never cooking at all could cost you a lot of money. Although I don’t see my friend becoming a regular cook, I do think she will try to do better in that regard this year. And if you’re tired of spending a fortune on restaurants and takeout, it’s worth doing what she can to get involved in the kitchen.

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