Besides food blogs, I have a secret pleasure of reading personal finance blogs. I actually considered starting a finance site instead of a food site, but decided that I wouldn’t really be able to keep the content as fresh.

One of the pinnacle ideas in personal finance philosophy is the idea of compound interest.

Without getting all geeky, the idea is that the longer you have money in some sort of interest bearing account, the more money you’ll end up with.

Because of this compounding effect, the money that you put into investment accounts when you are young is way more important than money you put in later in life because it has longer to grow.

It dawned on me recently that this same concept can be applied pretty easily to cooking!

What is Compound Cooking?

The idea of compound cooking is similar to compound interest. The difference is that instead of money, it involves, skills, equipment, health, and fun!

It’s important to think about cooking in these terms because at the beginning, it can seem overwhelming. Not only do you have to buy equipment and stock a pantry, but you also have to learn how to cook! For many people, it’s just not worth it and so they skip the at-home meal and grab something to-go.

But these people are missing out on tons of compound benefits when they decide to not learn how to cook, just as the person who decides not to save money is, in a sense, giving up future money also.

Let’s take a look at a few of the ways compound cooking works.

Compound Skills

It’s pretty hard to cook something without a basic skill set. Luckily, when you are learning to cook, you can start at any level you feel comfortable with. Some recipes involve nothing more than chopping.

What’s cool about cooking though, and what I’ve learned over the years, is that the skills build on each other. Once you learn how to cook pasta, then you learn that rice is kind of like that, except more exact. Maybe then you’ll go onto beans or other grains. After that maybe you’ll start poaching foods. They are all slightly more complex, but at the end of the day, they all basically involve boiling water!

Just like compound interest, you also get to use the skills more the earlier you learn them. If I learn how to poach a perfect egg when I’m ninety, that’s fine. But if I learn how to do it when I’m 20, I have 70 additional years of benedicts that I can enjoy!

To really seal the deal, the more complicated skills (poaching for example) tend to cost more in restaurants. So as your learning more complex skills, you are saving money by not purchasing those skills (meals) at a restaurant.

Compound Equipment

Four years ago I bought a $250 pot. I kind of thought it was crazy at the time and I got a lot of grief for my very expensive pot.

I still use that pot pretty much weekly. Now, the first time I used that pot, it cost me $250. The next time I used it, it cost me $125/use. I would guess now that I’m down to a buck or two per use on that pot.

And it will probably last another 10-15 years, reducing my cost per use to pennies.

Now, of course, if I only used the pot once and then it sat on my shelves, it wouldn’t be a good investment. So when buying expensive equipment, you have to make sure that A) you’ll use it a lot and B) it’s sturdy enough to last a long time and make it worth the purchase.

Today, I have thousands of dollars of equipment in my kitchen. Some items get used more than others, but every time I go into my kitchen and make something, those items get cheaper per use for me. Eventually, I’ll be cooking on equipment that costs me almost nothing per use.

Compound Health

I think it’s generally true that cooking at home is healthier than eating out. At a minimum, you at least know what’s unhealthy about your meal. If you’re at a restaurant, it’s a lot harder to tell basic nutritional information about what your eating.

Over time, these decisions add up!

I’ve mentioned this before, but people always wonder how Betsy and I don’t weigh a million pounds. Besides being pretty active, I think the fact that we eat most of our meals at home plays a big role.

Even though the things that I cook aren’t always the healthiest things in the world (I use a lot of butter – so sue me), I still think those meals would be worse in a restaurant.

Over time, those small choices add up to real health differences between people who cook a lot and people who eat out a lot.

Compound Fun

Cooking is fun. Even though I sometimes feel like it’s a job to me (even though it doesn’t pay like a job), I still find it so much fun. And that fun compounds just like anything else would.

For example, when I was getting serious about learning how to make really good fried chicken, it eventually evolved into an annual fry party! I look forward to those parties every year now. They are a complete blast and wouldn’t be possible without a pretty solid set of cooking skills.

So while it may seem intimidating at the beginning to start learning how to cook. Just remember to start small, but definitely start.

The sooner you start, the more time you’ll have to enjoy the benefits!

Photo by davsot.