Cooking Your Way to FIRE

Cooking is what separates us from the animals. Think about it? Humans are literally the only species that cook food.

But this seems to be changing with the millennial generation. We don’t have time to cook food. We’re too busy or whatever. So we eat at restaurants, order delivery, take-out, drive-thru, etc. However, I believe cooking is amazing, efficient and vital in your quest to reach financial independence.

I really enjoy cooking and to be honest, I’m a little tired of eating out. The food usually disappoints and the prices are typically more than I want to pay. $12.99 plus tax and tip for burger is almost $17! And that’s without any drinks.

In fear of sounding like miser, let it be known that I still eat out every now and then. But I never eat out simply because I’m hungry. I believe you should only eat out for social reasons such as a date or to meet with friends.

I’ll eat out with coworkers for lunch or take my wife to dinner on occasion. In fact, yesterday and today I’m meeting friends for lunch! But I’m not stopping by Chipotle after the gym simple because I’m really hungry.

The wife and I cook most of our meals and we’ve learned to make our favorite dishes better than most restaurants. This of course saves us tons of money but it also never leaves us disappointed with a $17 burger that was just ok. 

Over the past couple of years I’ve learned how to cook most of my favorite meals. And I’d argue that a majority of the meals I make better than any restaurant I can find. However there are a few I haven’t perfected. I still prefer In-N-Out burger over Steve’s Burger and there are a couple hole-in-the-wall Mexican joints that make a better $7 burrito than I could make on an unlimited budget. 

Below are some of my favorite meals with recipes on how to make them. A few are so basic that I encourage you to simply do a web search. However others I’ll link to a good recipe or write my own.

After reviewing our budget, we spend about $500 per month on food. Is that a lot or a little? I guess it depends on who you ask.This is about 20% of our overall budget. $400 is on groceries and $100 on eating out.  However, would spend much more if we didn’t know how to create the basic meals you see below.

Steve’s Favorite Meals:

  • Rib-eye steak (medium rare)
  • Cheeseburger with onion rings
    • Burger recipe: Form into a patty. Add salt and pepper. Cook on a medium in a frying pan for 4-5 minutes on one side, flip it for another 4-5 minutes on the other side. Eat with or without bread/bun, veggies and condiments.
    • Onion Ring recipe
  • Eggs, bacon and waffles
    • Fry and flip bacon until done. Put aside. Put waffle mix in a metal bowl with a tablesoon of oil and water until smooth but not watery. Put in waffle iron. Cook eggs in bacon-greased pan. Eggs and waffles should be ready at about the same time.
  • Sweet and sour chicken
    • This is a family recipe my mom worked on for awhile to make my brother and I happy as picky-eater kids. I find it very amusing that our favorite Chinese food is made by our Portuguese mother.
    • Chicken
      • 1 lb of chicken – cut into 1″ of larger chunks
      • 2 tbs cornstarch
      • 1 egg
      • 2 tbs soy sauce
      • Saltine cracker crumbs, breadcrumbs or Panko.
      • Cut chicken and marinate for a few minutes or longer in egg, cornstarch and soy sauce.
      • Roll in Panko.
      • Let stand for a while so it dries a bit.
      • Fry chicken in heavily-oiled pan or deep-fryer until cooked.
    • Sweet and sour sauce
      • 3/4 cup pineapple chucks
      • 1/8 cup white vinegar or cider
      • 1/4 cup ketchup
      • 1/4 cut water
      • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce if you have it (I never use it)
      • 2 dashes of Tabasco (or sriracha)
      • 1 tbs cornstarch to small amount of water and mix
      • 1/2-1 whole bell pepper, cut
      • 6 tbs of sugar
      • Combine vinegar, ketchup, water, sugar Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco into a saucepan or wok. Bring to a slow boil and simmer for 30 seconds. Add bell pepper and cook for 30 seconds. Add cornstarch/water mix, pineapple chunks, a little pineapple juice to let it thicken. It the consistency is off, feel free to add a bit more ketchup. Add cooked chicken and stir until sauce is evenly mixed. I prefer to serve with rice.

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Steve’s Favorite Desserts:

  • New York Cheesecake
    • Cheesecake is my favorite dessert and this recipe is the best I’ve had – yes that includes restaurants and bakeries. I mix everything in my Blendtec blender but the crust can be done in a food processor and the filling and topping can be mixed with a hand mixer or Kitchenaid. The recipe is done in three parts. First the crust, then the filling and then the topping. It will take 1-2 hours to make everything. The cheesecake should then be covered and put in the refrigerator overnight before being served.
    •  Crust
      • 1 pack of graham crackers to make about 1.5 cups of crumbs
      • 2 tbs sugar
      • 1/2 cube of melted butter
      • Mix together in Blendtec or food processor and pressed into a springform pan.
      • Bake for 10 minutes at 350 F.
    • Filling
      • 24 oz of cream cheese (3 packs of Philadelphia).
      • 2 tsp vanilla
      • 4 eggs
      • 3/4 cup sugar
      • Mix until smooth and pour on top of crust and bake for 40-45 minutes at 350 F. Take it out once the middle stops wiggling and let it sit for 10-20 minutes before adding topping. While sitting, bump oven to 500 F.
    • Topping
      • 4 oz of cream cheese
      • 3 tbs sugar
      • 2 tsp vanilla
      • 8oz sour cream
      • Mix until smooth and pour on top of filling and bake for 5-6 minutes at 500 F.
      • Let it cool and then put it in the refrigerator overnight.

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  • Chocolate chip cookies
    • Wet ingredients
      • 1 cup melted butter
      • 2 eggs
      • 1 tsp vanilla
    • Dry ingredients
      • 1/2 cup sugar
      • 1 cup brown sugar
      • 2 cups flour
      • 2.5 cups oatmeal
      • 1/2 tsp salt
      • 1 tsp baking powder
      • 1 tsp baking soda
      • 8oz chocolate chips
    • Mix wet ingredients together in a small bowl. Mix dry ingredients in a larger bowl. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Add more chocolate chips, nuts, etc as desired. Preheat oven to 350 F. Take tablespoon-sized scoops of dough and place on ungreased pan(s). Cook for 8-12 minutes. I prefer my cookies soft.

This article has 4 comments

  1. Larry Green Reply

    As I’ve started to cook more over the past few years out of school, I’ve become more and more dissatisfied with eating out. It’s amazing how we go out to dinner and I look at the menu and say, I could make that better at home for less money and usually faster! People tend not to take into account the amount of time it takes to go to the restaurant, to wait to be seated, to look over the menu, to wait for your order to be taken, and so on. It is also a huge bonding experience for my wife and me.

    I do still eat out on occasion as well, but only for the social nature. Typically we will just have people over to our apartment, but from time to time we will meet friends somewhere in the middle.

  2. Fervent Finance Reply

    Nice man. I’ll have to come out West so you can cook for me. I try to cook more but sometimes work gets in the way, and the gym is more of a priority for me. But I’m getting better month by month.

  3. Frank Facts Reply

    I also cook almost all my own food. But, like most millennials, I’m stretched for time. My solution is to do all of my week’s cooking on Sunday and then eat those items throughout the week. Makes for a hectic Sunday, but much more relaxing weeknights!

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