Learn to Cook Starting with the Basics

Everyone needs to learn to cook easy recipes. Even if it is just very simple recipes, everyone needs to know the basics. There are many easy recipes that beginner cooks can whip up in no time and with very little effort. I have put a lot of these in my (book), How to Survive Inflation With the Rising Cost of Food.

From time to time all will be happy to know how to fix something to eat. Through my conversations with people, I have found many problems existing with those who want to learn to cook. I am going to try to help find solutions to those problems.

Being the youngest of fifteen children, I heard many horror stories of the depression. Mom would send the older children off to school not knowing what they would have for lunch. Through the morning she would scavenge something up like cooked dandelions or who knows what. At lunch time, she walked to the school and set the children down to feed them. This time period had a great impact on the lives of my older siblings and even me from the stories. It was a time never forgotten. All of us keep plenty of food on hand, learn to cook when young and never waste anything.

We have a group of people who already have cooked in the past. They have gotten so busy in their lives with children, activities and jobs. There are retired people who are now finding their budgets too tight to eat out any longer and are trying for a cheap retirement living. It has just been easier to eat at a restaurant or pick up at fast food places. They have gotten out of the habit of cooking and now want to learn to cook and reclaim their kitchens. They are interested in cutting expenses and fixing healthier foods for their families. Besides having no basic supplies in their kitchens, they don’t even know where to begin.

Next we have a group of beginner cooks who seriously want to learn to cook easy recipes. Included in this group are college students, newlyweds, children and even mothers and dads that have never cooked at home. People are realizing that they control both their money and the quality of their food by preparing it at home.

The first problem is probably the easiest to solve and that is time. I say this is the easiest because it can be scheduled. Allow one day a week for your menu planning. There are so many meals that can be prepared with one half an hour. When you prepare more involved meals like roast beef, beef stew, meatballs or roasted chickens cook enough for two or three meals. They can be eaten the next day or frozen for the next week. This problem is solved by planning ahead.

One of the problems beginner cooks have with cooking is that they have no pots, pans, bowls, baking pans or utensils to cook with. My first suggestion to this problem is to ask friends or family if they have extra items that they would share some with you so you can learn to cook. Every older person that I talked to admitted to having too many of all the items for their kitchens. Many would be happy to share if someone would pick them up and take them away.

muffin pan

My muffin pan for $.25 I bought at yardsale

I spent time this week checking out the flea markets and yard sales. The flea markets are about as expensive as Wal-Mart so I wouldn’t waste my time and money traveling to those. The yard sales and estate sales are great. I bought a small muffin pan for twenty five cents. It is just like new and in a store it would be over three dollars. I also bought some small dishes for fifty cents each and in the store they would be a lot more. I saw many sets of dishes and bowls. The large utensils like big stirring spoons and spatulas were fifteen to twenty cents; in the stores they run about $1.50 to $2.00. This is the way to go! Often you can offer less and the people will take it, especially if you buy several items. You can find at yard sales everything for the kitchen even dish towels, so start looking so you can learn to cook.

pretty serving plate

My plate I bought for $.50

The next problem we have is that many people have no food supplies in their kitchen and some have very little money to buy any even for cheap recipes. Before you can learn to cook, you must have ingredients. This is where you need a plan. With a pencil and note pad start a list of basic ingredients. This is how I started out when I got married: flour, sugar, eggs, butter, milk, solid shortening, loaf of bread, vegetable oil, garlic powder, oregano, salt, pepper, potatoes, canned vegetables, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cocoa powder, vinegar, macaroni, cheese and enough meat for 1 week allowing between 3 to 4 ounces for each of us. If you notice, I only started with a few spices and I only bought vegetable oil. Since spices stay good for a long period, I was able to add to them each time I shopped. The vegetable oil is an all round oil useful in cooking. I added a good quality olive oil to my list later in life.

Learn to Cook the Basics

NOTE: Even as you learn to cook easy recipes, you will see that flour is something you will never want to be without. Even though there are many types of flour in the markets a bag of all purpose flour is more than enough to get you started. When you can afford it, add another bag for (emergency food storage.)One bag of flour can make many quick and cheap recipes so look through the following list to see the different types of flour and how they are used they are important to learn to cook.

WHAT IS ALL PURPOSE FLOUR? As the name implies, it is generally useful in bread baking and all other cooking and baking. It contains a blend of hard and soft wheat and is milled medium to fit into most recipes. This flour can easily be converted to use in place of some other flours.

WHAT IS BREAD FLOUR? Bread flour is made from hard wheat and is principally used by commercial bakers. Occasionally I do buy this flour for a specific recipe then I will use what is left for others; I never can tell any difference from all purpose flour.

WHAT IS CAKE FLOUR? Cake flour is made from soft wheat; it has a low and delicate gluten content. It is a finely milled flour with a smooth starchy texture and used chiefly in cakes. I almost always make my own cake flour. When you purchase it, it may have added leavening or it may not; often without being clearly labeled. I have had cakes to rise too quickly and then drop because of this; since then I prepare my own cake flour by measuring all purpose flour and sifting; then I remove 2 tablespoons per each cup and then I sift the remaining flour 10 times more. The only exception is when I am making a very light fine textured cake like a white cake recipe; in this instance I purchase a soft wheat unleavened cake flour.

WHAT IS SELF RISING FLOUR? Self rising flour is simply all purpose flour in which salt and baking powder have been added before you purchase it from the grocery. (1 cup flour, ½ teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon baking powder) It is usually used in quick breads, cakes, cookies and other baked products except the ones when yeast is added.

WHAT IS PASTRY FLOUR? Pastry flour is finer than all purpose but not as fine as cake flour. It is another soft wheat flour with a lower gluten content and usually distributed only to commercial bakers. I find no difference in the taste when using it compared to all purpose flour.

WHAT IS WHOLE GRAIN WHEAT FLOUR? When I am working on more healthy recipes, especially breads, I like to use whole grain flour. The usual milling for white flour removes some of the valuable nutrients where the whole grain wheat retains these beneficial nutrients. Newer processing for this flour allows us to use it successfully in bread without the addition of white flour because of the finer bran content.

If you have very little money to purchase ingredients, buy cheap foods that make a lot so you can learn to cook. NEVER buy prepackaged food. You will almost always pay more for prepackaged per amount. Cook from scratch; it is just as easy. Decide on a couple of low cost meals that you like and start with those. Just stick to simple cooking. One pound of hamburger can make 4 to 5 good meals. Divide it up and use ½ pound for spaghetti or with macaroni because pasta is cheap. Add a can of tomatoes or tomato sauce with a few spices. Divide the other ½ pound into 2 burgers. A small package of buns at the local day old bread store is very cheap. When my children were young, I bought a carload of products from the day old bread store several times a year and put it in my freezer. I saved a fortune!

Some who want to learn to cook easy recipes tell me they cannot afford even these basics. Don’t let that stop you. In this case, again ask family and friends if they have any extra food supplies to get you started. You might be surprised. I know of many who clean out their pantries on a regular basis . They will discard good food only because they have had it for several months and will be happy to give it to someone. Another good source is from farmers. They would love to give excess produce away if you just pick it up. One year my brother had so many apples. He picked bushels and set them by the road for free and no one would take them. Take advantage of these offers. If you cannot afford to can or freeze these freebies, maybe a friend or family will help you out to preserve them. During harvest time, there are many cheap buys if not freebies just for the taking.

Look for bargains in the local grocery store. Often they will have close out sales. When items get near expiration dates, they will be marked down tremendously. Also in the meat section, packages will be reduced to move them out. Lunch meat is often sold 2 for one price. Keep your eyes open and learn to comparison shop. Talk to the manager of your store and tell him you want to learn to cook and ask if there are any specials. Sometimes if they want to get rid of something, you will get it. My slogan is that I rarely ever pay full price for anything. There is no need to!

Be careful of coupon shopping. Most of the time the coupons are for items that are prepackaged and for things that you normally do not buy. If I find coupons for things like my cereal that I always use, then I keep them. Otherwise I believe coupons cost you more money. Another trick when grocery shopping, I always avoid the “junk isles”. That is those isles that sell cookies, candy, chips and any other prepackaged snacks. Avoid also the soda isle. These items consume your grocery budget and offer no nutrition.


Use 1 can of vegetables; I like asparagus. Blend with blender, mash with potato masher, mixer, pastry chopper or even a fork to get it as smooth as possible. Add 1 Cup of milk, salt and pepper. Heat until hot. Make 2 servings and is simple and delicious when you learn to cook!


Easy Chicken and Rice RecipeEasy Chicken and Rice Recipe

The leg and thigh portion of the chicken is one of the most economical buys when purchasing chicken. When you learn to cook the first step is knowing what to buy. It also gives a very good flavor to the broth when adding dumplings or rice. Rice is a very economical purchase and dumplings are very cheap to make. Either rice or dumplings makes a very good meal.

Boil chicken covered with water. Add chopped carrot, chopped celery, onion, parsley, garlic or just salt and pepper to season. Use whatever you have. When chicken is done, remove it to a platter and add 1 cup of rice for each 2 cups of broth. Cook until rice is tender and serve with the chicken.