One of the number one ways to economize is to cook your own food. Whether it's breakfast ($4 for a cup of coffee is way overpriced), lunch, or dinner, preparing it in my own kitchen saves dollars. And over the course of a year, that's thousands of dollars.
It's also fun, therapeutic, and can be more healthy than eating out.
A simple pasta dish like spaghetti carbonara can cost $20 or more, but the ingredients to make four servings of it at home (even with splurging on expensive grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese) costs about $10. Why? Because it's just pasta, bacon, cheese, eggs, and pepper.
I am fortunate; I love to cook. The entire process: searching recipes (so much easier thanks to the internet, instead of flipping through heavy tomes), reading through variations on a recipe (epicurious is great for that, with its giant backlog of archives), shopping for the ingredients, and finally getting busy in the kitchen.
It doesn't need to be complicated, though it does require planning. There are certain items I always have in my kitchen, because they are the basis of any cuisine I make. These staples include onions, garlic, brown rice, pasta, some kind of leafy green, and eggs.
Don't skimp on good kitchen gear, because you want to facilitate cooking:
sharp knives (I'm still in love with my Santoku knife)
good cutting boards (I'm partial to flexible & thin plastic boards that I can easily walk over to the stovetop, but I admit I like the looks of a hefty wooden slab)
high quality pots & pans (Alton Brown has a great book on what to buy and what to eschew, and it's my go-to book when it's time to replace something)
We're in the process of converting our low quality cookware to the high quality stuff when the need arises. It's a large up-front investment, but the stuff is guaranteed for life, so it's the last saucepan or pasta pot we'll buy again.
What I also enjoy about cooking for myself is that I feel more connected to the seasons because we shop for the bulk of our vegetables at the farmers' market. We see the life cycle of the fruit or vegetable over time: when they first trickle in, just a few anemic offerings, but a fortnight later there are lush, zaftig versions in a bountiful display on every table. Then the anemic late bloomers herald the end of another season.
I'll be sharing my favorite recipes here, as well as thinking aloud about new ones I'd like to try.
Cooking is my hobby, a means of self-expression, and fuel for my body.