There’s no doubt about it. If you’re driving from work to home, it’s going to be faster to stop and pick up some carryout dinner and bring it home. Or it’s at least comparable to the time it would take to get home and put something in the microwave.
Cook a lot. It'll save you time eventually. “The more frequently you cook, the faster you become,” says Melanie Underwood, a chef and the founder of Gather Culinary, an educational center based out of New York City that offers online and in-person cooking and baking classes.
Wing it. Obviously, follow a recipe if you aren't experienced in the kitchen, but you can wing it a little. “Saving time with cooking requires someone to be flexible in the kitchen. You don't need to measure every ingredient. You can eyeball,” Underwood says.
Look for time-saving shortcuts. “Think smarter when you are getting your ingredients together,” Underwood says. “If a recipe calls for whisking milk and eggs together, do so in your measuring cup, don't get another receptacle. That will save lots of time on dishes.”
Aside from saving money, one of the best benefits about cooking at home is that you’ll probably eat more healthy foods than you otherwise would. That’s not guaranteed, of course. Supermarkets sell items like jelly-filled doughnuts, and you can buy plenty of processed, unhealthy foods at the grocery. Likewise, at a fast food restaurant, it isn't always bacon burgers and curly fries. You can seek out low-calorie, healthy salads and wraps, especially at fast casual restaurants.
Still, as Carter says, when you cook or bake at home, you can “control the ingredients that go in – something you can't do with fast food or processed food. We decide how much oil, salt, whatever goes into what we make, so there's a huge health advantage.”
Use everything you buy. Underwood says that’s one of the best ways to save money. “What people typically throw away can usually be cooked, which is a big money saver," she says. "For instance, if you purchase a head of broccoli, you might roast the florets, but most people throw away the stalk. Don’t. Use it for broccoli slaw.”
Underwood continues: “Are you buying carrots, radishes, or beets? Use the tops for pesto or sauté with some garlic. Cauliflower stalks, cut up and sauté or make soup. Potato skins make a great crispy treat. Instead of tossing them in the trash, fry them in a little bit of oil and sprinkle them with salt. Also, if you use recipes, know you can be adaptable in what it calls for. If a recipe calls for a small amount of two types of herbs, use one and double it. Use what you have on hand before buying more. This might be an unconventional way of saving money, but it works.”