A Money-Saving Skill

This is a guest post by Dave, who is also looking to retire no later than 45, but unlike Tim has no kids and doesn’t want any. Dave is from Ontario and is working towards his CGA certification.

I like some kinds of junk food.  I try to limit how much of it I eat, but I have a weakness for pad thai.  I have searched around at the 5 – 7 thai restauarants  by my house and the average cost to buy it is around $11 an order, which I gladly paid up until about a year ago when I found out that pad thai really isn’t all that difficult to make.  The thing that really makes this recipe is the sauce, which includes 4 ingredients (fish sauce, palm sugar, tamarind paste, and chili powder/sauce), and very little skill to create.

For the same $11, I can make almost 4 portions of the same junk food I love – all I do is make extra sauce when I’m cooking and after that I’m just as fast at cooking it as  a restaurant..  The added benefits to making my own is that I know exactly what is going into it, and I don’t need to leave the house or pay delivery fees to get it.  My wife does not really like Thai food at all, so it helps her as well, as her normal order at a Thai restaurant is a bowl of white rice.

My charcoal barbeque also replaces many super-expensive restaurant meals.  I can find as good or better cuts of meat as can be found in an up-scale steakhouse and have learned how to cook it very well.  For the fraction of the cost of a restaurant meal, I can cook something as good or better and not have to deal with people (hmmm, maybe it’s not so much the cost of the restaurant as the people I’m trying to get away from).

Learning to cook, and cook well doesn’t take much – I learned from having a laptop with YouTube going in the kitchen (this is also how I learn to do most of my home repairs).  There is so much information out there that there’s really no excuse to not try to learn.

I watch and care about what  I eat as much as possible.  I buy my meat locally from “green” farms who pasture-feed their animals, rather than sticking their pigs and cattle in a very unhealthy feedlot.  I like to know what goes into my meals, and the skill of cooking, and cooking well has allowed me to have more control over what I’m eating the vast majority of the time.

I will freely admit that I do go out and spend money on food that other people have cooked.  My wife and I are going to be attending our second rib-fest of the year this weekend, where we’ll probably spend somewhere between $100 and $150 on ribs;  “carnival food” such as blooming onions, butterfly fries (a personal favourite),  elephant ears; and beer.

Would you say you’re a good cook?  What’s your favourite meal to cook at home?

14 thoughts on “A Money-Saving Skill”

  1. My favorite is different types of Pastas. My girlfriend is a chef but she seems to feel I make the best pastas and can’t seem to duplicate mine… I also enjoy going out to eat, but i look for value. The ribfests you I think are reffering to to me are very overpriced. Also too crowded, not enough washrooms, places to sit, no napkins, come prepared a little.

    Sorry too go off topic, I did not see an email address to mail you other questions, maybe you can delete this part and post a replay elsewhere.

    I’m starting to notice a trend here….

    Seems a lot of finacial planners and those in similar jobs all seem to have a plan to be able to retire at 45 or very young. (seems to be at the top of all your guest posts?)

    I’m just wondering how that is possible? Can you outline the general structure of how one accomplishes that. From looking at the average salary of a financial planner on line, I don’t see this happening on savings from base salary alone. (Factoring in family and living costs)

    Do commissions from signing up clients into purchasing mutual funds continue for as long as that client is invested in the funds from the MER’s? Sort of like a permanent cash stream even when you have officially retired?

    Once again sorry to ask this question here.

  2. Where can you find “as good or better” cuts of meat than a high-end steakhouse? Beef farmers don’t sell the top-tier cuts to anyone BUT restaurants. The AAA stuff you get at the local grocery store is a cut below. Maybe you can get them from specialty butchers or directly from a farmer if you know one, but in general the restaurant-cuts aren’t available to the public. Definitely not at bargain prices.

    Unless you order flank steak or similar cheap cuts when you’re out.

    That’s not to say a great steak can’t be grilled at home, but it’s almost never the same quality cut of meat, and if it is, then you’re approaching restaurant prices already.

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  4. We grill at home A LOT – all sorts of stuff … good beef, ribs, Angus burgers (love them …) and salmon (just got 50 lbs. from a friend who was fishing in Alaska – now in our freezer). A particular favorite of ours is kabobs with meat of choice or shrimp and lots of good veggies covered with a marinate I make myself.

    I can’t begin to count the money we’ve saved over the years by grocery shopping carefully, toting lunches (healthier, too) and cooking at home. Having said that we also love the experience of eating out. We live in a very small town with few restaurant choices but it has an excellent family-owned pizza place … hand tossed crusts, great salads and good draft beer and wine. We eat there weekly for about $45 – $50, including alcohol. Fun place, good food, great friends and owners.

    We splurge on more expensive meals, too (have to drive further for these or get them when we travel), but the pizza place is our go-to for a night off.

  5. I have always cooked for the family….but since developing adult onset allergies to wheat, eggs and something else that has yet to be discovered (waiting on tests as i write this) it is really our only option–I absolutely cannot eat out..unless it’s a salad, no croutons,no dressing….

    I love to cook and my new addition is Indian food…i make a wicked curried pork meatball…served with quinoa….so good!! Garum masala is my new favourite spice.

    with the garden ripening we are looking forward to the instant spaghetti…minus the noodles (or I can eat rice noodles, but too many carbs for me..) Cook up some onion, peppers…then add garlic (careful not to overcook) and a whole pile of fresh tomatoes…basil, hot pepper..whatever spice you want…cook it down a bit til the tomatoes “melt”….then i add hormone free chicken breast or whatever….and eat it just like that….with some cheese, of course….

    I never met a restaurant that i really liked…oh, except for some great experiences in Chinatown, Vancouver…..what fun…..but that was then and it can’t happen now….

  6. Hi Paul – I love pasta too, but at least try to limit grain intake.

    I generally don’t venture out to deal with crowds and stuff, but I will go anywhere with a massive beer tent and around 10 different kinds of ribs. For the ribs themselves, I could probably make them for 1/4 to 1/2 the price but there’s live music all day and it’s kind of party-like.

    As to your question regarding being able to retire very young – the basic concept is to reduce your expenses and increase your savings. There’s really no trick to it, it’s getting your spending low enough that your savings can support your lifestyle. The lower your expenses, the less you have to save, and the earlier you can exit the workforce. For basic strategies and calculations, I can direct you to the “Popular Posts” on the sidebar where Tim goes over his retirement calculations in a 5-part series. Another good set of article that Tim (the owner of the site) wrote on the Toronto Star’s Moneyville can be found here, which I really enjoyed (there were a few articles):




    Hope this helps!


  7. Hi Astin,

    I buy beef straight from the farm by the half-animal. I can tell you that the rib-steak I had from my 16-month old grass-fed steer rivals anything I’ve had at a steakhouse. I’ve had really good luck buying straight from the farm – lots of farmers in the area have websites and I like to try out the different kinds of meet available.

    Hi Kaye,

    I’m jealous of your 50 lbs of salmon – I wish!

    I tend to look for family-owned restaurants when I’m on the road with my wife. In the last little while we’ve found the best “homemade” food at a few truck stops, which was a lucky find.

    Hi Layne,

    I don’t think I could deal with an allergy to eggs, my wife and I go through around 5 dozen free-run eggs per week between the two of us (a breakfast staple). Eating out would be impossible, especially since you’re not sure what else you’re allergic to.

    Curried pork meatball….that sounds very intriguing.

    Thanks everyone for your comments!

  8. Wow, you guys eat 4 eggs each every day? That’s a lot.

    I would love to be able to cook steak like a restaurant or even half as good. I have spent a bit of time reading about cooking steaks, but I haven’t really gotten the hang of it yet. I think part of the problem is that I don’t cook steaks very often.

    There is no question in my mind, that cooking at home is a lot cheaper than eating out and (in theory) it can be done at the same quality.

  9. Hi Mike,

    I wrote about the stuff I eat a while ago here:


    I eat a lot of eggs, meat, fruit and vegetables, I still eat around 2000 calories a day, just more high-density stuff.

    In addition I fast intermittently, which I wrote about here:


    As for cooking steak, or cooking in general I really like to watch youtube videos of Alton Brown from the Food Network. He is a very technical chef, providing exact temperatures and times to cook. A good example is here


    Where he shows how to cook a porterhouse steak the same way a restaurant does.

  10. And being a person who grows some of her own meat (lamb and chicken) most people have no idea just how expensive pasture-raised food really is. It costs feed, medical care, housing, and the most expensive, time. It’s becomes a dear resource to us, but we committed to this, to know exactly what we’re eating.
    Thank your green farmer who’s committed their career to providing us quality food.

  11. Grass fed animals not only taste better but are more nutritious, but as always, the tradeoff is they are more expensive. I am trying to cook less meat for my family – healthier to our body and to the earth as a whole:-)

    Paul, I would say saving for early retirement is an attitude beside some calculations. I earn average income too so I think everybody can do it. Good Luck!

  12. Hi Retiredat44,

    Looks like you even beat Tim’s goal by a year if your name has meaning. Good for you. I’m a little older, not by much.

    If you have a dividend portfolio that averages 4% payout, you need $750K of stocks to generate $30 K in dividends. You have to sock away 30K a year for 25 years to do that. (Ballpark)

    Even having a paid off house as I have, I would find it very difficult to put that much away every year. When you refer to “attitude” – I’m assuming that is really cutting down on what you spend.

    That would be hard for me, I try to keep balance in my life. Spend on some fun things but at the same time save a decent amount. A lot of people are dropping off before they are 50.

    I think the point i was trying to make some young retiree’s have multiple income streams over and above a dividend portfolio. From some internet searches it seems CFP’s or other financial planners have an advantage over investors. If they keep bringing in clients for life depending on how their commission is structured. They can have 1/2% commission from the people they sign up into funds pretty well forever.

    Retiring at 45 would be pretty easy if that’s the case.

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