How Learning To Cook Can Make You A Millionaire

Learning to cook can make you a millionaire

If you follow me on social media, you likely already know that I love to cook and bake. But did you ever think that it could make you a millionaire? Believe it or not, it can. Let’s talk about how eating out adds money to corporate pockets by taking it from yours. And how learning to prepare good food at home can generate enough savings to become a millionaire.

What It Costs To Eat Out

First a word on the costs of eating out. As a family of five, including a teenager who no longer qualifies for kids meals, eating out is expensive. It was always more expensive than eating out than it was to eat at home, but feeding a family makes it even worse. It seems like we can’t get out of even an inexpensive restaurant for less than fifty bucks – and that’s at a chain restaurant with relatively inexpensive food.

At work, people will routinely drop a few dollars on breakfast, $4-$7 on one or two coffees, and $7-$10 on lunch.  That’s somewhere between $15-$20 per day on food. And this isn’t once in a while – I’m talking about people doing this every single day. Those same folks routinely go out to eat, and take their families out to eat, multiple times each month.

Processed Food

Lots of the food people buy is processed in some way. By processed I don’t mean canned or frozen – I mean transformed into something that it wasn’t originally. Oats become oatmeal packets; strawberries become jam; and wheat becomes bread.

Processed food not only usually tastes inferior to homemade, but is also much more expensive, and full of stuff you might not want to be eating. Having someone else process your food for you also doesn’t allow you to tweak recipes to your liking. For example, when making food at home you can add wheat flour to a traditionally white flour recipe, replace fats with applesauce, or put in less sugar or salt. When you instead buy a processed food, you’re stuck with whatever recipe the manufacturer wants to use.

And don’t even get me started on food allergies. My oldest son had dairy, egg, and nut allergies from the time he was an infant to when he outgrew them by the age of five, and processed foods were the worst things for his allergies. Back then, I frankly couldn’t afford to buy “allergy free” versions of most foods – they were too expensive. Instead I learned to make them all dairy/egg/nut free, and kept up the habit after he outgrew his allergies.

Dairy free birthday cake
My oldest son enjoying his dairy-free birthday cake – an old “war cake” recipe

Value Add – Profit Add

When you’re thinking about buying thing, one thing to keep in mind is that every time a company “adds value”, they add profit to their pockets and take money from yours.

What’s “added value”? It’s whenever a company transforms a product from its natural state into something else. So when apples are made into applesauce, the company has “added value” to the apples by boiling them for a while. Possibly also adding some cinnamon, or sugar. They then add those expenses to the cost of the base product, the apples, add their profit and sell it to a distributor. That distributor then transports that applesauce to the grocery store, adding their own profit. At the grocery store they again add their own value (profit), then sell it to you.

By that time, compared with buying some apples from a farm near you and boiling them for twenty minutes, you’ve contributed to the profit of at least three entities.

The same is true of restaurants, but on steroids. Lets say you want to buy a kids meal at a typical restaurant. It might come with a juice box, mac n’ cheese, applesauce, and some ice cream for dessert. Now not only has each individual product maker already “added value” by:

  • Transforming apples into juice, then boxing it, and shipping it
  • Making wheat into pasta, milk into cheese, and that cheese into powder
  • Boiling apples into applesauce, packaging it, and shipping it
  • Turning milk, eggs, vanilla, and other ingredients into ice cream
  • Likely also including coloring, artificial flavors, and preservatives along the way

So not only are you incurring the cost to have each item prepared for you, but you’re also then incurring the costs of the restaurant. The cost of food is actually only between 28-35% or so of a typical profitable restaurant. On top of that, you have to add labor costs for the cooks, wait staff, managers, etc., as well as the overhead of the restaurant building.

It’s no wonder that the cost to prepare food at home is dropping, while the cost of eating out is increasing.

Let’s say you eat at a different kind of restaurant – less boxed juice and mac n’ cheese cheese for the kids. Instead, you have more more upscale, local, farm to table style food. The plus on this is likely less processing, and less artificial stuff in your food. The downside would be that these places are much more expensive than a chain-style restaurant, at least where I live (Connecticut). You couldn’t get out of those places as a family of five for under a hundred dollars.

Baby strawberries
My favorite farm to table is from a farm to our table. These strawberries became jam, and were frozen for delicious strawberries in the winter.

Learning To Cook

Many people find learning to cook intimidating – and cooking at home to be laborious and difficult. I’ve been cooking since I was small, helping my mom in the kitchen, and cooking in my own home for almost two decades now. I can now make pretty much anything at home that you could buy in a store, and the food my husband and I make at home tastes much better than almost anything we ever get at a restaurant.

I have a few favorite basic cookbooks, that helped me learn to cook. The Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, the Fannie Farmer cookbook, and the Fannie Farmer Baking Book pretty much cover all my basic cooking and baking needs. In fact I’m on my second Fannie Farmer book – my first one fell apart – and soon I’ll need a third as this one is falling apart too.

The great thing about these specific cookbooks is that they teach the basics. The Fannie Farmer book has recipes for pretty much any fruit or vegetable you might want to use. Everything from how to roast a chicken to how to bake a pie are at your fingertips. The great thing about these particular cookbooks is that they’re time-tested, and explain cooking basics in a way you don’t always find on recipe sites.

And of course, the internet can find any recipe for you in seconds flat. The one caution I always have is that internet recipes are hit or miss. Sometimes they’re great, but other times they just don’t work – or they’re written poorly. So I combine my basics cookbooks with internet recipes to get a perfect combination.

What does it take to learn to cook? Time, patience, and an experimental mindset. For example, I’ve made bread for years and year, and I’m still perfecting how to make the best loaf. But even with my first few loaves of bread years ago, it tasted darned good, didn’t take as much time as I thought it would, and saved money.

Amount Needed To Become A Millionaire

I started out this article by promising that learning to cook can make you a millionaire. Lets see how.

In order to be a millionaire by the age of 67, starting from zero, a 30 year old would need to save $12 per day and invest those savings at 8%. Interested in seeing what you’d need to save at different investment returns? Click here.

Think about that. Saving twelve dollars a day is enough to become a millionaire by a traditional retirement age. And eating at home rather than eating out all the time, and learning to cook your own foods rather than paying someone to “transform” it for you, are two great ways to lower your expenses and put more money back in your pocket.

Now, if you’re older than 30 you’ll need to save more than this. The same is true if you want to become a millionaire before 67, and, of course, if you already don’t eat out much, this tip won’t save you much money.

A Word On Prioritization

If you love eating out, hate to cook, or just really don’t want to – that’s perfectly fine. Maybe you love going out to eat, and find it to be great entertainment. Great! You can find other ways to free up the money you need to become a millionaire.  As Paula Pant always says, you can afford anything, but you can’t afford everything. So if you’re spending more than you would like to on food, try “adding value” to it yourself instead.

I Want To Hear From You!

If you already like to cook, what’s your favorite thing to make? Or if you don’t really do a lot of cooking, what would you like to learn how to make? Let me know in the comments!

Interested in more of my food musings? Check out my four ingredient, no-knead artisan bread (you can keep it in the fridge for fresh bread all week), details on the cost of cookies, or my breakdown of the cost of homemade pizza vs. delivery (complete with recipe). Let’s not forget about my amazing homemade cakes. Or you can read about feeling ripped off at the restaurant, with a cost breakdown of a fancy at-home breakfast compared with eating it out.

Be sure to follow my blog for more great posts via e-mail or WordPress, or connect with me on Facebook or Twitter and say hello! You can also check out what I’m buying or baking on Instagram,  what I’m pinning on Pinterest, or the latest books I’m reading (or want to read) over on Goodreads.

38 thoughts on “How Learning To Cook Can Make You A Millionaire”

  1. Hey Liz… Completely agree with your point on all benefits about home cooking vs restaurant eating.

    When you talk about processed food, another concept I really like is that of food miles. The lesser your food travels to reach your table, better it is in quality and for your body. In India, off late there is a resurgence of trying to understand and cook more of the local produce.

    Personally, for me it’s about finding the right balance. I batch cook food for the weekdays on Sundays. My weekdays take up most of my time and leave me exhausted, which means cooking on weekdays is impossible.

    By the weekend, my body seems to be in complete recoil mood and I can’t seem to do much apart from cooking for the coming week. So weekends we mostly end up eating out.

    1. chiefmomofficer

      Here in the US, especially where I live, it’s hard to find local ingredients unless you shop at a farm or spend a ton of money. Luckily I live near a few great farms

  2. Argh! We’ve had takeaway 3 nights in a row!
    I’m packing to go overseas, so cooking is the LAST thing I want to do.
    I guess I can kiss that millionaire lifestyle goodbye…

  3. I do what I call “lazy cooking”. Lots of vegetables and brown rice or quinoa meals. Lots of fruits and nuts to snack on (they don’t need to be cooked!!). So in the end I barely cook anything but eat pretty much all raw, single ingredient foods.

  4. I’m the worst at buying food out and grabbing lattes out. It doesn’t feel like a lot every time, but man, it adds up!
    Thanks for these tips on cooking at home! I like to make easy things like tacos and polenta haha. I need to get more adventurous.

  5. I’ve never read someone break it down that way. Usually it’s straight talking about the price difference of eating out vs making at home. This is good insight!

  6. I agree, and cooking yourself is so much better for fussy eaters like me.

    I could live off curry, pizza and chilli….so I’m not the most exciting cook, but I love tailoring it exactly to my tastes.

    1. chiefmomofficer

      Luckily the article I linked has amounts for other interest rates, if you want to use a different number

  7. I ♡ Alton Brown’s book because he breaks it down by cooking techniques vs food type. So searing & grilling vs eggs. Because the science behind the technique can apply to meat or veg etc.
    A lot of learning to cook is practice, and just trying it.
    Yesterday I followed (kind of) a recipe that my grocery store app had. It automatically populated the shopping list, except the red bell pepper. The curry sauce wasn’t in stock, so I found a substitute. The recipe called for chicken thighs but I had breast in the freezer. I did get a pre-cut pack of green & red peppers (for tacos) & used that for the missing pepper. Because I’ve done other recipes with that type of curry, I felt comfortable. I knew diced chicken breast would cook different than whole thighs and checked frequently. The recipe didn’t have a starch so I made rice on the side.
    I always have a can of soup or figure I can call the local pizza place if things go -that- badly. I haven’t had to yet!
    Of course there are time when I go to a restaurant (usually coupon or gift card) but I try to limit it for my waistline and wallet. 🙂 This week is my coworkers and I 1x a month lunch out. It makes it special because it’s not an all the time thing. Well, 1x for me, I know they go out other times. My friends and I will probably end up at Red Robin on Sunday, but I have a free burger on my rewards card. 🙂
    I don’t calculate how much I save cooking at home, I just enjoy tasty food. 🙂

    1. chiefmomofficer

      I love how you mention that eating out less often makes it a more special treat. I’ve noticed that too-when you eat out all the time it becomes less special. And I agree that eating food at home is much more tasty (most of the time) than eating out.

  8. When I saw your headline, I just had to click and read it:)

    I cook at home for my 2 year old son and husband most of the time. It not only saves a lot of money, but it’s also way healthier than restaurant food & fast food.

    Right now, my favourite recipe is all one pot recipe for pasta. It really saves a lot of time and easy to prepare as well.

  9. I cannot agree with you strongly enough here! Cooking is definitely a skill that takes practice, but you get better and better. We are to the point now that almost every time we go out to eat, we are like “I can make that better at home, and way cheaper too” so we rarely go out unless its something we really can’t make well at home (mass quantities of sushi, epic pizzas, ethnic cuisines) or a failure to plan/moment of weakness. I’ll have to see if my library has those cookbooks.

  10. Cooking is a great skill to have. I do a lazy cooking method too even though I do know some more intrinsic stuff. We eat multi grain rice, one steamed or stir fry veggie and….well we eat a lot of steak. The store near me has steak on permanent for $5/lb for a 3 inch rib eye and that’s my go to because 5 dollars a lb would last me 2-3 meals. No one needs to be Gordon Ramsey but a small trusty set of recipes is one of them emblems of adulthood.

    1. chiefmomofficer

      Yes! I’ve been thinking of making a collection of recipes for my boys, to give them when they move out. I just need to figure out how to make them into a book. It could be handwritten, but then I’d have to make three of them. Stir fry is delicious!

  11. Great advice! I love to cook and try to make a few different recipes each week. I used to bring canned soup to work every day, but now I cook my own soups and freeze the leftovers to bring for lunch. By keeping a few different soups in my freezer, I don’t get bored with my lunches and I’m saving money. We enjoy going out to eat, but don’t go out every week and we avoid chain restaurants. My rule is if I can make something better at home, I’d rather not spend the money.

    1. chiefmomofficer

      I’m so with you! I’m to the point now where I’d much rather eat homemade food than overpay for mediocre food.

  12. Awesome article Liz!

    I was fortunate to grow up in a household of cooks! All my sisters and my mother cooked. I developed the habit at an early age, even if it was making my own breakfast every morning. I have definitely taken cooking to the next level in my adult life. I bring my lunch practically every day for work, and it is usually either a dish of chicken/broccoli/rice, or a simple PB&J.

    The amount of money I have saved (then invested) over the years by saving on food is astonishing. I don’t think people realize how much money they through out the window when routinely buying something small here and there. Even $5/day adds up over time!

  13. Hi Liz!

    I LOVE this post. I consider myself a great cook but cutting back on my eating out budget has forced me to learn how to cook, which I have recently come to love more and more! I stick with the easy and fast recipes – pasta, stir fry’s, or any sort of bake but I’ve learned through this process that I actually enjoy cooking and it usually tastes the same (at a fraction of the price) to restaurant quality! Cooking honestly takes much less time than what most people think. And I always make sure I have super fast back-up food for the nights that I’m too lazy to cook like frozen pizzas. A frozen pizza at our local Aldi is $2.50!! Compare that to any take out restaurant food – why WOULDN’T you cook more!?

    1. chiefmomofficer

      Yes! So true. And I love Aldi’s, it’s our best friend. 😃 I’ve become a really good cook-and great baker-over the years, and it’s something I enjoy doing.

  14. About 37 years ago I went back to work full-time after our second daughter was born. My husband was 22 and I was 23. I made a list of everything I did to maintain the home. I handed the list to my husband and said “choose half”. This was in 1981 or 82. We had a huge fight and I stood my ground. Heck we were in the middle of women’s lib! So he ended up choosing grocery shopping and cooking and a few rooms in the house to clean. Over the years my husband has become a great cook. Seriously good cook. Now I am retired and am starting to cook. I absolutely HATE eating out. Every time we do, I always think we could have made this cheaper and better at home. DH is pretty good at recreating recipes, two of my favorites was a shrimp burrito with red pepper cream sauce and a pasta sauce made with chicken hunks, italian sausage and shrimp……mmmmmm I’m seeing a trend here. My annual birthday meal is shrimp pasta from Bon Appetit. We subscribed for about 10 years and many of our favorite meals or desserts are from that. My husband makes our bacon, smokes trig-tips and briskets and pork butt on his Traeger. He bought a sous vide for Christmas this year (we buy our own gifts). I was annoyed, but man it makes a chuck roast as tender as filet mignon. I admit sometimes I struggle to cook, but it it is second nature to my husband who is not terribly annoyed if I did not make dinner by the time he gets home from work. He also does housework, etc. He was raised by a mom who treated him like the little prince. But my influence/demands paid off!!

    1. chiefmomofficer

      Love it! My husband does most of the weekday cooking too, and I love it. When I met him he could barely cook pasta, and now he’s better at cooking many things than I am! The meals your husband makes sound delicious 😋

  15. thefinancialjourneyman

    Great post, Liz. You are 100% right. An individual or family can save a fortune if they drastically reduce eating out at restaurants. My wife and I only go out to eat on weekends. Even eating out a casual restaurants has gotten expensive. Plus, it is healthier to eat at home.

    1. chiefmomofficer

      It’s gotten ridiculously expensive! Especially compared with eating at home. I can buy almost a weeks groceries for the cost of one meal out for the five of us.

  16. I used to live extremely close to a lot of restaurants. I now live not very close to any. We rarely eat out and even have devised various methods to avoid going out should we find ourselves low on groceries or tempted to avoid cooking. (Mostly we keep frozen pizzas, pb&j, or cereal around.)

    We save a lot of time, a lot of money, and without significant other changes we’ve all mostly lost a little weight by controlling what goes into our food. It’s worth a try. You may be surprised how little you miss it!

  17. Operation Husband Rescue

    I would say that I cook 5-6x per week, usually. It does get exhausting after a while with the twins constantly clinging to my leg as I’m trying to make up hamburger patties or stir a pot of pasta sauce so we do order in probably more than we should.
    One thing I can’t seem to figure out though is bread. Every time I try to make it, it comes out dense. I never get that airy, light texture with the crusty outside that the best bread has. All my bread just…sucks. Bread is not my strong suit.

    1. chiefmomofficer

      I love making bread but it took years to figure out how to do it well consistently. What kind of bread are you trying?

  18. Great post. We used to cook a lot at home and host many cooking parties. After doing this for many years we eventually got tired and with increasing kids activities Monday through Saturday we started eating out more and more. Slowly but surely we went from eating one time a week up to 4 times a week. The more we ate out the more we didn’t want to cook. My wife and I are foodies, eat mostly organic and gluten-free. As a result out average meal was expensive. How expensive? On the average over $60 and maybe even more? I have 7 years of data I am still processing but it clearly shows the creep and the numbers look depressing. Now I imagine what that nest egg would look like if I had taken only half and did what you suggested…

    Thanks again for the insights

    1. chiefmomofficer

      It sure can creep up if you’re not careful-especially with kids (I have three myself). Eating out certainly is expensive, especially for better quality food and as kids get older/eat more. I’ve found splurging on easy to cook or assemble food still costs less than eating out. I also will cook a lot on weekends to help free up weeknight time when the boys have lots of activities,

  19. The ROI (return on investment) on a crockpot is astounding, and can definitely help get someone to millionaire status. Spending somewhere around $20 for one will yield years of home cooked, hot and satisfying meals (which are ready the moment you and your busy family walk in the door at dinner time). Crock pots (slow cookers, Instapots, whatever kind you get) are my favorite trick for eating better at home while saving tons of money.

    A dinner main course that feeds 4 (with leftovers) can easily be made for under $10. And you can easily batch cook freezer bags full of meals (“ready to go kits”) that you take from the freezer in the morning and dump into your crock pot (a 10-second task).

  20. wishicouldsurf

    I’m not half as organized as many of y’all and don’t like to plan too much ahead on what I’m going to cook for the week (I tend to shop and see what looks good at the store that week), but I found that once I had 4-5 go to meals where I could swap out and substitute some of the ingredients, I could easily whip up a healthy and inexpensive dinner in 20-30 minutes. I’m fortunate to live somewhere that has cheap access to good produce and where I can grow some veggies all year round. I found too, that even when the kiddo doesn’t love something, I could doctor most things up by heating up a couple corn tortillas and throwing some hot sauce on it. Somehow, if I put it in a taco, my kid will eat almost anything. If I stay away from stuff in any type of packaging, my monthly grocery bill is totally reasonable. Also, I find that eating out only a couple of times a month (if that) makes the whole experience so much more satisfying! When I used to travel for work frequently and eat out more than I preferred, I didn’t tend to appreciate the experience or the food or the fact that I didn’t have to clean up. 🙂 It’s like now I appreciate the true LUXURY that eating out is.

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