Three purchases that will ultimately save you money

January 20, 2007 at 4:43 AM 15 comments

I’ve written numerous blog postings about the simplest ways to save money. In looking back over my postings one theme certainly seems to stand out against all others. In essence, if you want to save money, eat breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks at home. Buying bulk chicken, pasta, rice, and some greens, can save you ton of money compared to eating dinner out or even picking up fast food.

I used to hate cooking, actually I absolutely despised it. First of all, I really had no idea what I was doing in the kitchen. My mom’s idea of dinner, was microwaved chicken smothered with Open Pit BBQ sauce and Stove-Top stuffing on the side. My brother and I joke about this often, but I really think we ate this same meal at least two to three times a week. Microwaved chicken, for those of you who have never tasted it, has a texture similar to those pink erasers found on the end of pencils. It’s rubbery and tasteless. Oh it’s just awful.

This leads me to the first purchase that will save you money: cooking classes. Just before I got married I took an introductory cooking course. The class met every Wednesday for three weeks. As funny as it might sound on the first night we were taught basic knife skills. I learned how to chop various vegetables and even de-bone a chicken. Each night we prepared a three course meal, including meat, chicken, and seafood dishes. By the time the class was over I had not only learned a lot about cooking, I was also excited to start trying meals on my own.

I came home with grand visions of the meals I would cook for my husband and I. The only problem, my knives were an absolute disaster. It’s no fun sawing at meat instead of slicing it. I was so frustrated I simply didn’t want to cook. So I went out and bought myself a fairly expensive knife set. I think I paid a little over $200.

With the new knife set I thought all of my problems were solved, but no, of course I wasn’t so lucky, my pots and pans were a nightmare. They were a hodgepodge of mismatched items ‘donated’ by my parents and in-laws. So my third purchase: new pots and pans. Having quality pots and pans will not only guarantee more palatable meals, they are also a dream to clean. After all, even if you can muster up the energy to cook after work, odds are you don’t want to spend hours scrubbing your pots and pans after dinner.

Most people might not need my first purchase: cooking lessons. But if you are trying to eat at home more often I definitely recommend buying quality knives, pots and pans. With the right know-how and tools cooking dinner has actually become an event worth looking forward to. Believe me, my husband and I now manage to eat almost every meal at home.

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When someone asks how much you make… The New Purchase that Made an Old Lady Smile

15 Comments Add your own

  • 1. moneysmartlife  |  January 21, 2007 at 8:50 PM

    Another cooking related item that will save you money is a crock-pot. One reason my family sometimes eats out instead of at home is because we simply don’t have time to cook.

    There are many quick and easy recipes for a crock-pot and the meals will usually last for several nights.

  • 2. One Frugal Girl  |  January 23, 2007 at 2:20 AM

    Crock-pots are another great purchase, although my husband and I have yet to create an edible meal with one. :-/

  • 3. BxCapricorn  |  January 23, 2007 at 12:44 PM


    The best inexpensive chef’s knife – Forschner Victorinox Fibrox Chef’s Knife. Expect to pay $20-30.

    The best inexpensive knife sharpener – British-made Chantry (about $50 at

    The best inexpensive pot/pan set – Kirkland Signature 14-Piece Hard Anodized Cookware Set.Costs around $150, Costco.

  • 4. DM  |  January 23, 2007 at 1:47 PM

    This is good advice, but…. If you don’t want to shell out lots of dough for knife and pot sets, you can pick them up one piece at a time. I’d recommend buying a good chef’s knife first, followed by a paring knife.

    As far as pots and pans go…. A great big dutch oven works incredibly well for stews, soups and braises. Coupled with one good sized frying pan and a 2 quart sauce pan, you’ve got a great starter set. If you can find a Le Creuset dutch oven that you can afford, buy it! They’ll last virtually forever. I use mine several nights per week.

  • 5. Dean  |  January 23, 2007 at 3:52 PM

    Greetings from Des Moines, IA by way of

    I too have the Forschner Victorinox Fibrox Chef’s Knife. I’ve never experienced anything like it. The handle really is non-slip, but that’s not the selling point.

    I’ve never had a knife that will just fall through a potato. No sticking and no effort. It’s so good, I also bought the bread/slicing knife. It’s just as good.

  • 6. Alexandra  |  January 23, 2007 at 5:59 PM

    Crockpots are great, but I also seem to have problems making edible meals in them. I have had luck with veggie chili with rice. This meal is very tasty and lasts several nights, or more. It did get a bit monotonous; I think next time we’ll freeze some!

    We seem to make most meals in an extra large iron pan. I cook everything in the pan at once. Depending on the meal, I either cook it on the stove, or in the oven, or both. Our meals in a pan are meat, mixed frozen veggies, seasonings and some liquid. Sometimes I’ll add rice. It lasts about two days, depending om whether I eat some for lunch. We eat off dessert plates so we don’t super size the meals. Trying to lose some weight!

    I love your blog.

  • 7. Michael Langford  |  January 23, 2007 at 9:20 PM

    Don’t buy your pots in sets and especially don’t buy your knives in sets.

    Knives are put in sets when a couple are good and the rest are bad. Usually, you only need 2-3 of the ones in the set, but end up paying 10-15% more for knives you won’t really use. Also, don’t use a wood block, use a knife safe: They’re more sanitary and easier on the knife. (They’re little plastic snap on guards that don’t hurt the blade and are dishwashable).

    Pots and pans should be different for a good reason: you cook different foods in them, that need different behaviors from the pan.

    For instance, you don’t want your pasta pot to match the pot you make gravy in. You want a low, heavy pot for making gravy, possibly a cast iron skillet. For making pasta, you want a HUGE aluminum pot to give room for the pasta and to dilute the starch and to quickly transfer the heat to the water.

    I cook complicated meals a lot. Pot sets are in general not worth the trouble. In my experience, you need:

    One huge aluminum pot for pasta
    One cast iron (or coated cast iron) pot for meat/searing/gravy
    One non-stick skillet for eggs and other sticky things
    One tall pot for simmering stews
    One heavy dutch oven for frying, sauces, chilis and beans. (I like the coated ones here).
    One 2-qt Nonstick saucepan
    One 3-qt Nonstick saucepan

    You don’t even need lids for all of them. Get a small and large “universal lid” and a tightly fitting lid for the 2 or 3 qt saucepan. You need that one tight fitting lid to make certain dishes, such as fudge and steamed carrots.

    This is 7 Pots and 3 Lids. You won’t ever find this assortment in a set, but you get it, and you can cook most anything. Not so if you get something like a set of T-Fal or even a set of All-Clad. You’ll be hurt by the uniform nature of all your pans, unable to get the ideal way to cook something.

    When you’ve used the above enough, I suggest a nonstick electric fryer with a thermostat (They work well for making sauces too). You can easily make a family-size portion of scrambled eggs, hashbrowns or bacon in this beauty.

    Lastly, a nice convection toaster oven

    Convection toaster ovens don’t make very good toast, at least not as good as stand up toasters. However, they cook things much faster than your oven, and don’t heat up your whole kitchen. This is very important down here in the south.

    Convection toaster ovens do well: Pizza Baking, English Muffins, Roasting Veggies, Baking Meat, Casseroles, Gratins, small batches of muffins, roasting nuts (home made snack mix!) and even heating up things like french fries and TV dinners if you still find yourself buying those.

    Make sure its a CONVECTION toaster oven. The ones that aren’t convection are worthless.

    I am currently using an Avante from T-Fal for my convection toaster oven. (Beware, there is a non-convection one that looks mighty similar). There are cheaper convection models available for < $50. –Michael

  • 8. One Frugal Girl  |  January 24, 2007 at 4:17 AM

    Thanks for all of the great comments. I bought the knife set through a few years back. At the time it was actually cheaper to purchase the entire set, but it’s a great idea to suggest buying them separately. There are one or two knives in the set that I don’t think my husband and I have ever used.

    Unlike the knives my husband and I have used all of our pots and pans. We probably have about 6 or 7 in total. If you’re in the market I would definitely suggest trying to find cookware with interchangeable lids. Lids never stack easily in drawers and cabinets, so the less you have the better.

  • 9. SF Money Musings  |  January 24, 2007 at 7:23 AM

    Thanks for the awesome tips! I like the cookware comments and ideas – less lids. I never thought less lids was a good idea. Maybe I’m just a neat freak.

    any particular brands you reccommend for nonstick?

  • 10. One Frugal Girl  |  January 24, 2007 at 11:06 PM

    If you’re thinking of purchasing cookware I definitely suggest window shopping first. Pots and pans that feel right to one person might feel too heavy for you. Similarly cutlery should feel just right in your hand. You want to make certain it has a comfortable grip. Also be weary of the size, some are definitely too large or too small to serve their purpose effectively.

    So test drive the equipment at a department store and see what feels right. I own a set of Calphalon pots and pans. I’m not certain why we choose this brand over all the others, but I must say I really love them. You can clean out sticky messes in seconds.

    Once you try out the equipment do some research to find the best prices. I often find great discounts for cookware and cutlery online.

  • 11. Maricar  |  January 25, 2007 at 2:38 AM

    Thanks for this great advice. I love the comments too. Very timely as I’ve been thinking of getting new knives.
    I agree with slow cookers being another great tool. I have one cookbook for slow cooking that I absolutely love. So far, every recipe on it that I’ve tried has turned out good. It’s the Fix It and Forget It cookbook. I wrote about it here:

  • 12. Frugal Duchess: Sharon Harvey Rosenberg  |  January 28, 2007 at 2:45 PM

    Great description of microwaved chicken!

    I like the idea of a cooking class, but if that’s not affordable (time-wise or money-wise), get a cooking maven to give you free lessons.
    My fried Leah is a professional chef. She has let me tag along in her home kitchen.
    Likewise, other good cooks have also let me hang out on their apron strings.

    I enjoy your blog!

  • 13. One Frugal Girl  |  January 30, 2007 at 2:46 AM

    Sharon — Your absolutely right, if cooking classes are too expensive, just hang around friends who like to cook. Rather than spending dinner out somewhere, gather everyone in your kitchen, and learn from those you love. I’ve picked up a ton of great recipes and tips that way.

  • 14. Jeff from LA  |  February 6, 2007 at 6:50 AM

    How is it possible that you guys eat every meal at home? Do you work from home?

    While I think eating at home every meal is a great idea, most people today including myself would probably find it difficult to learn from your good example.

  • 15. Adventures In Money Making  |  March 21, 2007 at 6:59 PM

    greetings from

    very nice post.

    can you actually recommend a set on amazon?

    actually if you put an affiliate link at the bottom of your post you might get some $$ out of it!


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