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Menu Plan Monday – The 5 Best How-to Web Sites for the Rookie Cook

by Shawanda Greene

Beef Stew from Menu Plan Monday ~ Jan 25, 2010

Beef Stew from Menu Plan Monday ~ Jan 25, 2010

Some may wonder why I’ve been talking about food so much at You Have More Than You Think. Besides the fact that I like it – I mean really, really like it. Food is an area in my finances where I’ve always struggled.

When you yearn to savor the delicious flavors of all things edible, you’re probably prone to spending a great deal of money on food. But there are other things I want to do with my money. As a result, food is where I’m focusing on cutting back.

I’m sure my mother isn’t the only one who’s said, “If you really like to eat, learn how to cook.” Well, I do, and I’m learning.

This month, I spent about $320 on food and alcohol. These past few months, my food and alcohol budget was set for $350. This is the first month I’ve been successful in sticking with that plan.

For many people, $320 is still a lot of money to spend on food and alcohol for one person. Keep in mind I didn’t acknowledge I had a problem until my budget peaked at over $750 in October 2009.

I’ve been able to reduce my food and alcohol bill, primarily, for three reasons:

1) I drank less alcohol in bars and more at home,

2) I used coupons, and

3) I learned how to cook.

Oven Fried Chicken Chimichanga from Menu Plan Monday ~ Jan 25, 2010. I know it's a burrito. Work with me.

Oven Fried Chicken Chimichanga from Menu Plan Monday ~ Jan 25, 2010. I know it's a burrito. Work with me.

Not knowing how to cook is a strong deterrent to, you know, cooking. I discovered that a bad cook can ruin a good recipe. I’m still a work in progress, but I wanted to share with you some of the best web sites I’ve found for those who are just learning how to cook.

Kraft Foods Cooking School - The kitchen basics section is my favorite. Of course Kraft shamelessly pimps their products, but that’s to be expected. From how to carve a turkey to how to pack a kid’s lunch box, they really do an excellent job providing short, easy to follow videos.

(I really wanna try the layered salad. Perhaps I could put the dressing on the bottom with some mixed greens on top. Hmm.)

Howcast - Although Howcast has so many videos about goat knows what, their Food and Drink section is filled with high quality, how-to videos from up-and-coming film makers. I’ve taken a special liking to the  How to Jazz Up Ramen Noodles and How to Make Ketchup videos.

Chowhound - Their You’re Doing It All Wrong series taught me how to cook bacon and how to make a grilled cheese sandwich. Next up, nachos!

Taste of Home - I thought garlic was the only flavoring for butter before watching the Flavored Butters Cooking Video. Now I’m even more excited about grabbing the marked down, about to go stale baked bread rolls at the supermarket.

Campbell’s Kitchen – Although I couldn’t find any video footage on this web site, there are a ton of helpful tips for the beginner cook. For instance, The Prepared Pantry is a must read for anyone who’s just getting started and who’s kitchen lacks the basic ingredients for dishes common in the United States.

Well, I hope that was useful for ya.

Here’s what I’m cooking this week.

Monday/Tuesday – Oven Crisp Chicken Wings and Broccoli

Wednesday/Thursday – Slow Cooker Lasagna

Friday/Saturday – T-Bone Steak with Mixed Vegetables

Sunday – Popeye’s spicy fried chicken and buttermilk biscuits. Yes, I will be consuming more than one.

The Rookie Cook Tip – I have a new spin on the saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” My modified version of the old adage is just as useful. “When you buy lemons for a recipe you never end up making, instead of letting them rot in your fridge, make lemonade – even if you have to prepare it by the glass.” I know it’s a little long, but I promise it’ll change your life.

I didn’t care to learn how to cook when I lived at home with my parents, so now I’m forced to teach myself with lessons learned from the interwebs. How’d you learn how to cook?

Find other menu plan options on Menu Plan Monday at I’m an Organizing Junkie.

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Trish February 1, 2010 at 4:11 AM

your menu looks …well sounds pretty good to me.I'm hungry now for soem Chicken wings .

Reply

Shawanda February 1, 2010 at 4:22 AM

Thanks! I really want to fried them, but I don't have any vegetable oil, and I refuse to bring any into the home. One day I'm gonna break down and fry chicken wings, catfish nuggets, pickles….

Reply

Keri February 1, 2010 at 4:46 AM

What a wonderful blog!! Found you through Meal Plan Monday and I am really enjoying looking through your posts. Keep up the great blogging.

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Shawanda February 2, 2010 at 7:53 AM

Thanks! Glad you stopped by!

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Bucksome February 1, 2010 at 1:44 PM

Thanks for the resources on cooking. I found a couple of new sites. To answer your question about how I learned to cook it was because my working mother made the kids cook the family dinners.

I fought it kicking and screaming, but I guess it was a good thing because when I had my own family at least one of us knew how to cook.

Reply

Shawanda February 2, 2010 at 8:14 AM

Knowing how to cook is a big plus. I grew up as the youngest of three kids. My mother probably cooked two or three times a week. I don't recall any of us children cooking meals for the family. I guess we were spoiled. If my mother didn't cook either her or my dad would just buy something from a restaurant. That's probably why I love them so much. :)

Reply

ToyLady February 1, 2010 at 2:01 PM

Hi, Shawanda – in answer to your question – "How'd I learn to cook?" – I was the oldest of 4 kids, and while neither of my parents was much of a "teacher," when I was 14, my mother suddenly ended up in the hospital for several weeks. . . so it was up to me to do something (my father has since learned to boil eggs by himself). Lots of digging through cookbooks, phone calls to my mother's friends. . . and lots of screwups (who knew that even if you put water in the pan, green beans WILL eventually burn – badly?)

Then, when I got married at 18, I had to re-learn how to cook – for 2 people now instead of 6! Eventually worked in several restaurants, both waitressing and cooking, and, well, here I am, still learning new skills.

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Shawanda February 2, 2010 at 8:15 AM

You learned well. Your food looks amazing.

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Austin February 2, 2010 at 1:02 AM

Luckily my girlfriend knows how to cook, but I'd like to throw in there that cooking can be fun, too. Yes, going out for fancy dinners is nice, but rarely is it a fun experience.

We like to get copycat recipes from our favorite places like Olive Garden. Just Google whatever your favorite restaurant is and copycat recipes and you'll find a ton of results.

It's definitely worth the price and it's fun to see what you can create.

- Austin @ Foreigner's Finances

Reply

Shawanda February 2, 2010 at 8:20 AM

I think looking for copycat recipes is a wonderful idea. I found one for Chipotle's guacamole on ChipotleFan.com. It's absolutely phenomenal. I actually think guacamole tastes better when I make it at home.

Thanks for the tip! It never occurred to me to do a Google search for copycat recipes.

Reply

Jimmy February 2, 2010 at 7:25 AM

It is a good meal plan and i also feel that it is not right for me to spend around $300 on a single person. I am feeling like just tasting the menu it is truly amazing indeed.

Reply

Shawanda February 2, 2010 at 8:25 AM

If you're accustomed to eating out a lot or buying mostly convenience foods, it'll probably take quite a bit of effort to get those food costs down. That's been my experience anyway.

Reply

Lourinda Hempen February 3, 2010 at 5:00 PM

Shawanda,
You are an inspiration. I learned to cook because both my parents worked and I guess all of my brothers and sisters had a creative streak in them so we all traded off cooking. We also liked to listen to music while we cooked. There is a great "all about lemons" site (http://www.buy-lemons-online.com/ ) which has "music for lemon lovers" which I got a kick out of thinking about listening to lemon songs while we take your advice and make lemons out of lemonade. You can listen to clips of songs like "Lemon Tree" by Peter, Paul and Mary.

If you have extra lemons or limes on hand and want to save them before they spoil you can squeeze the juice into an ice-cube tray, then transfer the frozen juice cubes to a plastic bag so you can use them one at a time or as you need them. You can use the cubes to flavor drinks.

Love your blog.

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Shawanda February 4, 2010 at 11:32 PM

Thank you so much! That's an excellent tip! Sometimes the simplest things escape us.

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