Cook in bulk and give the chef a night off!

In an earlier post, Tracy Coenen noted the incredible savings that she reaped by cooking at home. Her specific example was a pot of chili. Tracy pointed out that, were she to eat chili at her favorite restaurant, she would pay $8 a bowl. However, by cooking it herself, she reduced the cost to $2.94 per meal. Thus, by preparing her own food, she saved over $5 per serving and probably ate far better.

Although she didn't directly address it, Tracy also highlighted another key money-saving tip: you can save a lot of time and money by cooking in bulk. Although we don't usually count labor among our food expenses, the cost of cooking a meal can be considerable. While it's not as if you have to pay someone to cook your food, after coming home from a long day of work, the last thing that most of us want to do is spend time in the kitchen. If you have to do it night after night, there's a pretty good chance that you'll find yourself falling back on expensive convenience foods, TV dinners, and carry-out food. Sure, you'll start off with cooking every night, but before you know it, you'll fall off the wagon and find yourself settling down to a pizza or Stouffer's and wondering where the money went.

What if, instead of slaving over a stove, you merely had to defrost a meal that you had previously cooked? Many foods will keep for a considerable period of time in the refrigerator or freezer, and will reheat almost perfectly. For that matter, increasing the yield of a recipe is usually just a matter of doubling (or tripling, or quadrupling) the ingredients. Most importantly, by cooking in larger batches, you can spread your time investment out over a lot of meals, vastly increasing your efficiency and leaving you with more time to relax.