Updated: Dec 15, 2017
Learning how to cook is one of the most important damn things you could possibly do to becoming a Financially Independent Hero. There is simply no other lifestyle change as easy to make that will pack as big a reward as teaching yourself how to cook.
Cooking has fallen out of favour in the last 20 years or so as fast food has become more readily available and cheaper than ever in the history of the human race. No longer are your choices limited to an American burger franchise or fish and chips for tea. Take a walk down almost any high street in the UK and you can take your pick of Mexican, Japanese, Korean, Indian, Turkish, Italian...the list of Fast Food Plus options goes on and on.
This is great because it's opened the stereotypically bland UK palette up to a range of delicious spices and foods from across the globe. Unfortunately, they also made us forget how to cook our own bloody food and turned us into a nation of dangerously overweight people, wheezing between bites of our extra large chicken burritos. Not to mention the huge, insidious* damage it does to our wallets, and in turn, our plans to be finally financially free.
Looking at the easy availability of Fast Food Plus through this lens, it seems to be a mixed blessing and curse. I'm here to tell you that it's time to take all the blessing parts of the delicious foods that tempt us every day and put it to use to give you a healthier body and a happier money situation.
Lets assume you spend a fiver a day on lunch at work. Perhaps you get yourself one of those aforementioned delicious burritos one day, something from the canteen the next few days, and then a sandwich or Itsu for the final few days of the week. That's £25 a week - assuming you don't say sod it on Friday and head to the pub with everyone and ramp the spending right up to who knows what.
That's £13,000 over 10 years! On food that you will probably have absolutely minimal recollection of eating as you paw it into your mouth in front of your computer screen!
My average home cooked lunch - and I eat a LOT of expensive protein because I exercise a whole load - comes to £1.50 a day. That's £3,900 over a decade or a massive saving of £9,100 to my daily lunch out peers.
Still worth it?
But there is so much more to learning to cook than the money gains or even the health wins. Once you start putting ingredients together into delicious combinations, it will start to become something you love doing. You will find yourself thinking of new and novel ways to mash together spices because you cook for fun as well as practicalities.
Spending an hour cooking every evening could even nudge out more expensive things you do with your evenings, like go to the pub. Even if you just have three beers every few weeknights after work in the pub, heading home to cook a mouthwatering meal instead as a way to relax and blow off steam will save you more than £1,500 a year.
Wait, did Triple F just say that cooking helps him to relax and blow off steam in a way akin to going to the pub? Absolutely! And Triple F likes his drinks (mine's a strong IPA if you're headed to the bar).
This is another reason that cooking is so bloody important as it has always been an important part of mine and my now wife's relationship. I don't just mean that it's satisfying to cook a meal for a loved one that they enjoy, though that is part of it, but cooking brings you together without a TV to distract you, and gives you the time and attention from each other for you to each debrief from your days.
Cooking dinner generally happens soon after you're both back from work, so it acts as a perfect transition to get all your work stresses out before the two of you spend some quality time together in the evening.
No partner? No problem! Cooking can act as your own debrief at the end of the day. A time when you focus on something purely in the moment to get you from work mode to home mode so you can get to relaxing. It would be an over exaggeration to call cooking a Zen experience, but it helps calm the mind in a far more wholesome way than a few beers and makes you feel infinitely better when you wake up the next day with a clear head and wallet devoid of bar receipts. Fewer hangovers (no matter how mild) and a general bump to your health thanks to the fresh ingredients you're using will help you work better and longer in whatever it is you do, giving you a higher chance of scoring pay rises and better jobs.
But Triple F, I don't have time to cook!
Simply put, yes, you damn well do.
Unless you are literally coming home from your commute, opening your front door, heading straight to the bathroom while stuffing down a take away that you ordered for delivery and the driver met you outside your house, brushing the pizza out of your teeth with your right hand while ramming another slice in with your left and then collapsing in bed fully dressed, you have plenty of time to cook quick, healthy and delicious food.
That's because in around 20 minutes from start to finish, you can knock up a range of incredible meals, from my spicy chicken noodle soup to an incredible egg-based Middle Eastern shakshuka that always gets a little round of applause whenever I roll it out to people staying. I will be putting recipes up for you regularly.
As with everything, the trick is to give it a go and then keep on going. You will hit snags, you will accidentally put in a spice that makes the entire thing taste like a public toilet door handle, you will burn things. It doesn't matter, because everything you cook makes you that bit better at it, adds a little something something to your growing repertoire of dishes, and makes you richer and more healthy to boot.
I only became a cooking convert in the last five years. In that time, I have become more muscular, my skin and hair has become clearer and my finances have become better than ever. There is absolutely no down side.
* You will notice I use the word insidious a lot when I write about becoming financially independent, and that's because so many of the habits that prevent you from being the hero of your own financial life happen in this awful, creeping way that you don't notice until you have to call demonoligists to get rid of the evil curse on your house. (There's a chance I started thinking of a different insidious halfway through that sentence)
proceeding in a gradual, subtle way, but with very harmful effects.