[30 Day Challenge] Cooking Challenge Impressions

Random Observation/Comment #391: Start your cooking challenge with the full realization that you will probably gain weight.

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The purpose of this cooking challenge was to simply cook more things and host more parties. I wanted to take my cooking hobby to the next level, and I think I successfully did just that. Challenge completed! I didn’t cook every night, but when I did, I had leftovers that fed me for lunch. It was lovely.

Analysis:

  • Weekly spending for groceries was approximately $80, which on average, cooked 6 dishes. This fed at least 8 meals for the week (1-2 lunch servings of leftovers for the next day).
  • The whole challenge cost around $325 with groceries.
  • Only went out to lunch 10 times the entire month (which is better than my normal 20 times (I never bring my own lunch)).
  • Only went out to dinner 5 times the entire month (which is much better than my usual 15 times with weekends).
  • Overall decreased spending by $30/day. I still spent a consistent amount on table tennis and happy hour beers.
  • Saved approximately $800 on food in the month of November (even including the $100 for Thanksgiving). My normal dinner dates for 2-3 nights a week were around $80/night since I usually pay the full bill.
  • Contributed food to 6 dinner parties in the month, which only evened out on normal spending because of alcohol purchases (but fed more people)

Lessons Learned:

  • When planning the challenge, account for cooking dishes for larger groups. I needed to move around a lot of challenge orders to accommodate parties.
  • Plan cooking meals with more variety of appetizers, main courses, alcohol, and brunches.
  • The initial costs are high if you don’t have the right fresh herbs (e.g. parsley, thyme, rosemary) and basics. I recommend cooking dishes with similar herbs closer together so you don’t waste these herbs. They dry out quickly. You can also invest in your own potted plants.
  • Only pick dishes that you’re really jazzed to cook. Don’t bother with any fill-ins for health reasons because those are the ones that you’ll just push aside. I pushed 6 dishes aside and replaced them because they just seemed way too difficult at the time. Most of these included hand-made ravioli, making my own sushi, baking na’an, or buying Ahi tuna.
  • Make your cooking challenge a series of parties instead of individual meals. Cook 3-4 dishes for 8 dinner parties and you’re basically there! It’s also much more fun when you feed more people. I’d host these parties on Tuesday and Thursday nights if possible.
  • Cook with someone – it’s a real bonding experience. I loved cooking with my gf because she got the chance to learn how to photograph food. It was something I looked forward to each day because we could dance and have mini food fights.

Conclusion:

This was an immensely fun challenge and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I think my next one will have a larger community involved. I mentioned this to my coworkers and they all said “Why don’t you ever bring in leftovers?”  You know what? Challenge accepted. Sometime next year, I’ll cook a series of bite-sized things for my co-workers.

What I’ve truly learned from cooking is that challenges are much more fun when shared. This is the main reason why I took the last week to focus on the 3 dinner parties around Thanksgiving. It doesn’t make sense to do things without a community. Your actions seem almost selfish if you’re not in someway including someone else.

Moving forward, I plan to have my challenges be more social in its roots.  It’s not just sharing the results of these goals, but rather setting community goals and working towards them as a team.

~See Lemons Love Eating and Cooking

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