Frugal Hobbies – Cooking

For the last few weeks, as part of my 90 Day Frugality Challenge, I’ve spent 8 hours each Sunday cooking ~30 meals. That might sound exhausting, but let me tell you, it feels amazing! I’ll break down my pros and cons below and let you in on how this hobby is creating a massive improvement in our lives.

First off, major props to my fiancee for supporting me through this. I know how she felt when I first suggested Sunday Cooking Day…

I’ve tried my hardest to put most of the cooking work on my shoulders. This is something I’ve decided to do and I want the resulting lifestyle impact to affect me and not her. She can continue doing what she does on Sunday.

At the end of the day, cooking saves us time, money, and it reinforces a positive lifestyle by eating healthier.

I’m taking advantage of the assembly line approach by cooking my meals in bulk. They might not be as fresh or gourmet by the time Friday afternoon rolls around — but I’m celebrating ease and comfort over what tastes good.

What does 8 hours of cooking look like?

The first 90 minutes involves zero cooking. Why? Because I don’t have anything to cook yet.

Step 1: Buy Groceries. I have a Mariano’s ~20 minute walk from me. It might take me a few extra minutes walking back and I love to shop for deals and browse around the store a bit. Total time spent: ~90 minutes.

My favorite part about grocery shopping is that it allows me 90 minutes to listen to an audiobook. Nothing beats finding deals on Kale while listening to the stoics.

Our entire week of meals comes down to less than $100 per week for the two of us. I wrote a full post before on the items I shop for to reduce our grocery budget.

Looking back now, I feel like I was Clark Kent and never really unleashed my Superman powers of frugality. I wasn’t being frugal with my money OR my time until I started cooking and prepping meals for the entire week.

We even prepare food to satisfy our sweet tooth, such as cookies. So, what’s not to love?

At the end of the day, cooking affords us the opportunity to accelerate our debt payments by taking one large step, every Sunday, towards financial freedom.

What are your go to frugal hobbies? Do you prefer to cook over dining out?

Master Distiller

16 comments… add one
  • Jon @ Be Net Worthy Nov 4, 2016, 5:29 am

    Matt, that is really awesome and I’m jealous that you can cook and pack a whole week’s worth of meals in one day! The frugality, convenience and healthy eating benefits are huge! For us, with two high school aged kids and myself being a big eater, we could not reasonably do it, but I may start cooking SOMETHING on Sunday’s that we could dish out during the week. We’ll see.

    As for frugal hobbies, I started playing guitar a few years ago. Why frugal? Well, because once you buy the guitar, there are no more costs really. You can get free lessons online or books are really cheap. Once you know how to play a little, it’s hours of free entertainment. I highly recommend a musical instrument as a frugal hobby. Certainly as compared to golf or anything like that.

    • Distilled Dollar Nov 4, 2016, 8:57 am

      Start small! Definitely!

      My family had three boys and so we ate a lot. We basically had a large amount of food cooked over the week so we preferred fresh meals. I’m not sure how my family would have been growing up if the meals were multi-day leftovers – so this type of cooking plan might just work for some people.

      You make some great points about the instrument! I have an old keyboard from ~15 years ago that still works. I definitely do not play enough to consider it a hobby but you’re right – once you make the purchase up front – it can be years of free/frugal training!

  • I think the health benefits are huge for what you are doing too. We just made homemade chicken soup in the slow-cooker yesterday with low-salt chicken broth. It’s amazing the difference in taste from canned soup. When I look at a list of ingredients now on products, it is kind of scary. This actually falls right into preventing “decision fatigue” too. Meals are made – one less thing to think about!

    • Distilled Dollar Nov 4, 2016, 9:00 am

      Oh wow! “Decision fatigue,” is a big one in my life and one I try to minimize all the time! My biggest obstacle in that realm is getting home and then going straight to the gym. I often feel wiped out after the day, but I’m getting better at being disciplined. Honestly, having all my meals cooked and ready to go during the week has helped with those mid-week decisions. Well said Vicki! 🙂

      • Patrick Nov 5, 2016, 3:52 am

        I’ve found that by making sure I get to the gym before I get home, at least for my cardio workouts(my weightlifting stuff is in the garage), I don’t tend to skip if it’s part of my routine. If I make to the house, my odds of making it to cardio decrease drastically.

        I don’t follow your decision on meat, but mainly it’s because of why I work out…to throw very heavy things at the Highland Games all summer. Protein is a huge thing for me.

        I am working to ‘unclutter’ my house though, as I think with a more minimalist lifestyle, I won’t ‘notice’ things that distract me from my goal of getting to the gym once I get home. It’s amazing what you notice with productive procrastination.

  • Full Time Finance Nov 4, 2016, 6:23 am

    We leverage crock pot cooking during the week as with kids it’s hard to find the time to cook otherwise. My wife loves to cook so she misses having the time to be more elaborate. I don’t enjoy it myself but I get it.

    My biggest frugal hobby would have to be financial news, man that sounds cliched coming from a blogger. I spend huge amounts of time reading about the topic when I’m not posting. That being said I have other more expensive hobbies as well, but they don’t fit into the question;)

    • Distilled Dollar Nov 4, 2016, 9:03 am

      Crock pot cooking has helped us with soups. I’m even considering buying a 2nd one because it helps on storage too.

      My close friend is in a similar boat where he cranks out a good hour or TWO everyday on financial news. He loves following the latest trends and market news.

      I might write up one day on my expensive hobbies – aka my “pick your poison/f-you money” aspects of my budget. For me it is triathlon training and the occasional whiskey. Two “hobbies,” that I’m not sure I could survive without.

  • Tawcan Nov 4, 2016, 12:06 pm

    Both Mrs. T and I love cooking, we find it a way to relax after a long & busy day. It’s a good way to spend quality time together as well.

    • Distilled Dollar Nov 6, 2016, 10:29 am

      Yes! Sometimes Mrs. DD helps out with cooking and I love spending time together that way. Other times, she might put on a show while I cook so we find each other talking about the show and what’s gonna happen next. Either way, a fun/frugal way to enjoy our Sundays! 🙂

  • Jay Nov 4, 2016, 9:00 pm

    I absolutely agree with this Matt. And I pretty much do the same thing (though maybe not QUITE as hardcore as you). I find that I save so much money this way. Plus, I generally think cooking is a great life skill and also contributes to a healthier lifestyle (which will hopefully help keep costs low over the long term).

    • Distilled Dollar Nov 6, 2016, 10:31 am

      That’s my favorite part – feeling the cooking is a life skill. I can see how much I’ve improved over the last year and it is inspiring. Some of my meals I consider to be much better than restaurant style dishes. 🙂 Of course, that might be a bit of a cognitive bias in there, but the healthy eating aspect is real. As you put it, healthier today and hopefully, less expenses down the road as well.

  • Dennis @ NestEggRx Nov 5, 2016, 9:35 am

    That is a great idea that could definitely cut out the impulse buy of fast food.

    • Distilled Dollar Nov 6, 2016, 10:32 am

      Yep! It helps to have the food ready to go. It actually becomes quicker for us to walk home and heat something up than to pick up something on our walk home.

  • Brian Nov 6, 2016, 6:46 am

    awesome ! Planning meals is one of the best things to do to save money. I often will make soup or spaghetti sauce in bulk and freeze it, but I haven’t done anything on the scale you are doing. Stick with it. Be curious to hear what the savings adds up to after 90 days.


    • Distilled Dollar Nov 6, 2016, 10:33 am

      I’ve been meaning to try out the bulk pasta sauce idea. It sounds like it would be a lot of work – but it would be well worth it as the sauce is used up over months.

      • Brian Nov 8, 2016, 6:09 am

        the great thing about sauce and soups is once it is in the pot is just cooks slow for a few hours, not much work at all. Good luck !

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