Need A New Year's Resolution? Save Money! Cook.

By way of saying farewell and adieu for another six months (at which time I surely will have written "The End" to my work-in-progress), allow me to get on my  high horse for a moment about one of my favorite subjects: food.

As food relates to money. Which, yes, it does. Consider this:

Several years ago, I was in Oregon visiting family and had dinner with my cousins at a "nice" restaurant: entrees in the $25.00 range. Good food. I enjoyed it. Drinks, dinner, wine, dessert. 

Expensive? Yes, it was. But my cousins ate there often. If I remember correctly, they'd already been there once that week. (This was, for them, a "neighborhood" restaurant.)

During the course of the conversation, one of the cousins complained about money, or the lack thereof. In his words, it was hard to "keep the wolf from the door," and if only he could earn about $10,000 a year more, he said, everything would be just dandy.

Being a polite midwesterner, I refrained from pointing out the obvious: He already HAD that "extra" $10,000 a year. Indeed, he was chowing down on part of it that moment.

Namely, all that money he spent (or threw away) every month going out to eat. I did a rough mental calculation and concluded that he and his family spent in the neighborhood of $800 a month going out to eat. By my math, which admittedly sucks, 800 times twelve equals $9,600 a year. Pretty damn close to ten thousand.

So. Looking for a new year's resolution? How about saving yourself some money (and time!) by doing some basic cooking?

That's the point of a lovely and practical essay by Mark Bittman in this week's New York Times Sunday opinion section.

Bittman writes about food for the Times and is the author of a number of cookbooks. His take on food is basic and practical: Cooking is not rocket science. Pretty much anyone can make a good meal.

EVEN WHEN YOU THINK YOU'RE 'TOO TIRED' TO DO SO. (In all caps because I want to make sure you get the point.)

He's dead right. When I'm tired at the end of the day, the last thing, and I mean the. last. thing. I want to do is drag my tired ass out to a restaurant. Get in the car or walk to a place, wait to be seated, wait to order, wait for the food, etc.

It's sooooooooooooooo much easier on my tired body, and so much more relaxing, to fix something at home. And, yes, it's cheaper!

What I especially appreciate about Bittman is his non-preachy approach to the matter: Keep some basics on hand. Learn a few (basic) skills. You're good to go!

(Unlike, in other words, the approach taken by the Food Scold In Chief [aka Michael Pollan], whose idea of cooking begins with a trip to the back yard to plant your garden. "It's not a meal, you fool! It's a political statement! Save the fucking planet first! And THEN you can eat.")

So. Do yourself a favor: read his essay, try one of the recipes. Please.

Here's my addition to his message: The smartest purchase I ever made (well, okay, the husband paid for it) was our small freezer. (If I remember correctly, it's ten cubic feet.) At any given moment, it's full of food I've cooked. Which means that at any given moment when I don't feel like cooking, well, hey, all I gotta do is trot down to the basement and pull something out, let it sit on the counter for a few hours, and voila! Dinner.

Whaddya waitin' for? Get cooking! Your brain, and your bank account, will thank you.