The Provident Professor

Literary Finance and Personal References

Category: Tips from the Provident Kitchen

Meal Planning for Fun and Profit

You know how come families ate home-cooked, (more or less) healthy meals together at the dining table every evening in the fifties? Because (middle class) women didn’t work, and middle-class women often had domestic help. Cooking dinner every night is hard work, and don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.

Cooking dinner is just as much hard work now as it ever was, but now women have jobs and no one can afford domestic help anymore (which is actually a good thing—domestic help was so available in the twentieth century only because the labor of women and people of color was grossly undervalued). Apparently lots of people have determined that cooking dinner on the regular is simply more trouble than it’s worth: this year, Americans spent more money on eating out than they did on groceries.

Eating out is expensive and unhealthy and did I mention expensive? But it’s also fun and tasty and you don’t have to cook or do dishes. Plus, you don’t buy a bunch of expensive fennel for a recipe, use a third of it making something that doesn’t even taste that good, and then have to throw the rest of it out.

The key to eating at home more and wasting less food is meal planning (it’s also the key to making lunches for work that aren’t sad desk sandwiches, but that’s a post for another time). A meal plan keeps you from buying food you don’t need, from throwing away food you don’t eat, and from coming home to an empty refrigerator on a Thursday night.

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How to Save More and Eat Out Less When You Don’t Like to Cook


We actually love to cook in the Provident household. Prof. de Cuisine makes the best Mexican food in town (admittedly, it’s a pretty small town), and I bake bread and make a mean roast chicken. Eating well is important to us.

But though we like to cook in general, we often really don’t like to cook on a Wednesday afternoon after a long day of teaching and grading and meetings. And we really, really don’t like to cook on Thursday evenings when it seems like the week has taken twice as long as they should. Those are the nights we order pizza or convince ourselves that we deserve to go out.

Not only is that reaction expensive and unhealthy, but we’re often too tired to really enjoy eating out. So we’ve developed some strategies to cut down on those mid-week calls to Pizza Hut and keep us cooking dinner, even when we don’t want to.
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