Category Archives: Cooking

Financial Lessons From My Father

financial lessons

These people look nothing like my father or me, but we did spend a lot of time at the beach!

Yesterday I talked about all the great financial lessons I learned from my mother. I’ve got to give my father some love too, since a big part of my financial belief system comes from him. If my mother keeps me balanced and reminds me to live a little every now and then, it’s because I’ve been heavily influenced by my father’s hyper frugal ways.

My father is the kind of frugal that you really don’t appreciate when you’re a kid.  The kind who, if you ask him for some money so you can go to the mall with your friends, will hand you a $10 bill. But some of my greatest childhood memories are of time spent with my father doing very primal things, like helping him plant seeds for our garden, going to the horse farm to load up the back of his car with manure for said garden (yes, we really did that), cooking and baking, and going on fishing trips. Looking back, you realize these are the kinds of things that really matter.

Here are a few great lessons I learned from my father.

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The Joy of Slow Cooking

My fiance and I both love to cook, but we’re a bit hindered by our teeny tiny kitchen. The desk I’m currently sitting at to write this has about as much “counter” space as we have in the kitchen. When we buy a house, the kitchen will be one of the most important considerations. But for now, we’re happy to live in our extremely low rent house, even if that means we have to sacrifice the kitchen. In addition to a complete lack of counter space, we’re also running low on storage space to keep our appliances while they’re not in use. So it was with much consideration that we decided to add to our fleet of appliances with a slow cooker.

A slow cooker is the best friend of someone who has little kitchen space, little time to cook, and is on a budget. Though many slow cooker recipe books will instruct you to do copious amounts of prep work, you can usually get the same great flavors, or close to them, with absolutely no prep work, meaning you have fewer dishes, and spend less time cooking. Take for instance the delicious corned beef brisket I made last week: the only utensils I used besides the slow cooker were a cutting board, a knife, and a measuring cup (which was only used to transfer tap water into the slow cooker). I prepared the ingredients in about 10 minutes prior to leaving for work. Cut an onion into 4 pieces, halve a few potatoes, chop up celery and carrots into large pieces, put them all into the slow cooker with the corned beef, pour water in, and set to cook for 8 hours while I’m off at work. It was the easiest meal I’ve ever made, and absolutely delicious. .

So it’s easy, a huge time saver, and doesn’t create a lot of dishes. But I also said a slow cooker was great for people on a budget. That’s because slow cookers allow you to turn the cheap cuts of meat into tender deliciousness. If you’re like me, you’d love to have a steak for dinner every night. But since I’ve got my sights set on financial freedom, it would be foolish of me to spend so much money on meat. If you pan sear or broil a steak, you’re cooking it so quickly that the fat doesn’t have sufficient time to melt into the meat, and the meat may remain tough. That’s why you need high quality cuts of beef if you’re going to cook them quickly. But when you leave it in a slow cooker for 8 hours, the fat has plenty of time to melt, and the cooking environment is moist, so even a tough piece of meat will come out tender and juicy. You can often purchase a 4 pound piece of chuck, shoulder, or brisket for well under $20, and make upwards of 8 meals out of it.

If you have not yet tried out a slow cooker, I highly recommend it. In fact, I’ve only found one down side to it: as someone who enjoys cooking, I don’t feel the same sense of accomplishment or pride serving food that came out of the slow cooker as I do when I slaved for hours in the kitchen.

Patience is a Virtue

I received a lesson in patience this morning. I made sourdough bread for the first time this weekend. I had a slice when it was fresh out of the oven, and it was delicious. Then I had another slice this morning. Not so delicious. It was a dense mass that is now sitting heavily in my stomach, making me feel like crap. I followed the recipe exactly, so I did a quick Google search to figure out what went wrong. Best I can tell, it’s one of two things: I either didn’t let the dough proof for long enough before baking, or I didn’t knead it for long enough. I thought I had mastered the art of patience, since this bread already took roughly 15 hours or so from start to finish, but apparently that’s not long enough!


Would it be too cliche to use this paragraph to talk about how bread making and personal finance are related? Well too bad, they are! And when I think in terms of personal finance, I realize that I haven’t mastered the art of patience at all. How many of you out there check on your investments every day? My hand’s up. There is absolutely no reason I should be checking on my investments so frequently. What do I think will have happened overnight? But I can’t help myself, I always want to look and see what they’re doing. I can at least say that I have the will power to not tinker with my investments whenever there’s the slightest change, but checking in on them constantly is a clear sign that I have not mastered the art of patience.

Financial independence doesn’t happen overnight. It will takes years of hard work, and monitoring my progress on a day-to-day basis will only make that process seem longer. So breathe, relax, think about something else, and let that damn bread proof for another couple hours!

Nothing Like Making Bread from Scratch to Make You Feel Accomplished

A couple weeks ago one of my coworkers brought in homemade sourdough bread with walnuts and blue cheese and it was pretty much the most delicious thing I’d ever tasted. I promptly ordered the book he got his recipe from, excited to try my hand at making bread.

A few days later the book arrived and I excitedly opened it up to the recipe for that delicious sourdough bread. And then I realized that this bread would take a week to make. Seriously. A week. First I needed to make starter, which is a 4-7 day process. Only then I can start making bread. Probably not the best choice for my first foray into bread making. I decided on the significantly less labor-intensive focaccia. It was still a two day process, but at least I could do it over the course of one weekend, so if I fucked up royally, I wouldn’t have wasted that much time on it.

The entire process took about 4 hours over the course of two days. And the focaccia tastes damn good. But what completely overshadows the fact that it tastes good is the mere fact that I made it. How long has it been since people regularly made bread from scratch in their homes? We take for granted the fact that we can go to the store and buy a loaf of bread. Before commercial bread-making, people had to make it themselves, and trust me, they were bad ass. And if you want to feel like a bad ass too, you should make your own bread.

Tomato Pesto Focaccia

Back when we were hunting for and growing our own food, building our own houses, making our own clothes, and dying of dysentery, making bread was just a chore that you had to do. We’ve now gotten to the point where anything we want, we can buy. It’s incredibly convenient, and pretty amazing. It allows us to do other useful things with our time, like build computers, but it also enables us to waste time sitting in front of the TV. Most people today would be completely unable to fend for themselves without modern conveniences. It’s easy to take it all for granted, which is why it’s great to step away from the TV every once in a while and do something really primal – just to remind yourself that you can. Make bread, plant a garden, build a coffee table out of wood that didn’t come from Ikea, mend your clothes instead of throwing them away. You will feel ridiculously accomplished. But don’t tell any of your relatives over the age of 80 about it, they grew up having to do all those things, so they won’t give a shit that you took some time away from your TV to build a bird house.