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Monday Q&A | Cooking, Dishwashing, and Piano Teaching

Every Monday, I answer a few of the questions that my readers send me. If you have a question you’d like me to answer in a future Q&A post, just leave me a comment here or email me (thefrugalgirl [at] gmail [dot] com) and put Q&A in the subject line.

Don’t you ever get tired of cooking? I’ve cooked all week and though I realize I’ve only just started, I am tired of cooking already and just want to take a night off! What do you do when this happens to you?


Uh, in a word, yes! I do indeed get tired of cooking sometimes. I also get tired of doing laundry, checking math papers, packing lunches, and sweeping the floor. 😉

If there is something my parents taught me well, though, it is how to keep going when you feel like quitting. I think this was largely accomplished through physically challenging family vacations that involved bikeriding up long hills, and paddling canoes for days. (Hee-hee. I love you, dear parents!) Pushing the pedals of a bike around when you really want to just stop is a lot like cooking dinner and doing laundry when you really just want to stop. And though I was never a big fan of hiking, biking, and canoeing, those activities did help this naturally un-persevering person to develop quite a stick-to-it-and-hang-in-there attitude.

I can’t exactly recommend that you reverse time and join my family, though, so here are some practical suggestions.

1. Plan a menu
I know…I talk about this a LOT, but it really, really does make cooking a much easier task for me. When I know what I’m making for dinner, I don’t have to stress about choosing a meal, I can think ahead and take ingredients out of the freezer, and I can plan my grocery shopping so that I always have the necessary ingredients. It makes an enormous difference for me, so if you’re not already planning a menu, give it a try.

I’ve already done a fair number of posts on menu planning, so if you’d like to know why I plan my menu, how I plan it, how I come with meal ideas, and more, go take a peek at the posts in the Menu Planning category.

2. Remind yourself how much eating out costs
I know we all have this vague idea in our heads that eating out is expensive, but we don’t think about it often enough in dollars and cents. The markup on food prepared somewhere else is really insane, though. For example, it costs around $30 for my family of six to eat a meal at McDonalds. That $30 bill might not seem that bad until you remember that I can feed my family 21 meals a week for $100. That same $100 could only buy us a little over 3 meals at McDonalds.

Consider these numbers. A meal at home costs us an average of $4.76 and an inexpensive meal out costs $30.

-3 meals out per week for a year: $4,680

-3 meals at home per week for a year: $742.56

-Savings from eating at home: $3937

That’s almost $4000 over the course of a year! And if you normally eat out more often, or spend more than $30 when you dine out, the savings could be even more tremendous.

3. Cook simple meals
If you’re struggling with the motivation to keep on cooking, make something easy and fast. Not every meal has to be gourmet, after all. I make breakfast for dinner once a week to give myself a break, and we eat homemade pizza once a week too because I consider that to be fairly fuss-free.

Another idea is to use some prepared foods from the grocery store. These are generally going to be more expensive than other grocery store items, but they will almost always be cheaper than takeout. Canned soup and grilled cheese can suffice for dinner, as can frozen ravioli topped with jarred sauce.

4. Give yourself an Eating Out budget
If you’re used to eating out multiple times a week, it’s going to be really, really hard to quit that cold turkey. So, instead of giving it up altogether, talk with your husband and set up an Eating Out category in your budget. Maybe put enough in that budget to cover one meal out per week. Knowing that your night out is waiting for you just might help you to hang in there for the other 6 nights of the week.

5. Remind yourself of your goals
I don’t know your situation, but I’m guessing that you’re trying to cook at home in order to meet some financial goals. When you feel like picking up the phone and ordering Chinese, remind yourself of what you’re trying to do with your finances. For myself, I remember that I want to save up for a van replacement, save for our future and our children’s futures, and pay off our house. Though it might not seem like a big thing, faithfully cooking at home is a very helpful way to meet those goals (see the calculations on #2).

Do you use your dishwasher (do you have one?) and if so, how often do you use it? Or do you prefer to handwash dishes? Which is more frugal? For 2 of us (3 at the moment as we have a guest) we are running the dishwasher once a day. Is this a lot?


I actually answered that question in an older Q&A post, so go check that out! I personally run the dishwasher once a day, and I hand wash large items like baking sheets and my dutch oven. From what I’ve read, a dishwasher is, at the very least, as efficient and inexpensive as hand-washing, so I say to use your dishwasher without guilt. 😉

I took piano lessons growing up and would like to teach my two sons to play (they are 8 and 10). I feel like I should be able to teach them instead of paying someone else to do it. Could you give any advice? Are there any books that you would recommend?


I generally use the Alfred’s Basic Piano Series for my students. They’re easy to use, the songs in them are entertaining for kids to play, and the books are colorful and fun. Most music stores carry this line of books and you can also find them online.

There are a lot of different books that Alfred offers, but I generally use the Lesson Book, Theory Book, and then I supplement some with the Hymn Book, Fun Book, and Recital Book, depending on what each students needs.

As far as other advice goes, I’d just say to make sure that your children practice consistently. This makes such an enormous difference. I tell my students not to set a time goal for practicing but rather to set a goal based on playing each piece a number of times. Usually I assign three pieces at a time, and we have a goal to play each piece 4-5 times a day, 5 days a week.

Readers, as always, feel free to add your advice to mine in the comments!

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Thursday 18th of March 2010

I love your website!

I too taught piano. I found it very effective to expect my students to play each piece 1x for each year of their age. ex. A seven year old would play their piece 7x, a ten year old 10x etc.

Warning! This somewhat dampened their enthusiasm for birthdays... I could never figure out why? LOL!

The Prudent Homemaker

Wednesday 27th of January 2010

I love the numbers you ran! We don't eat out at all. I can fed my family of 7 for $2-$5 per meal; eatng out would be really expensive for us!

I plan for leftovers; that really helps with time.


Wednesday 27th of January 2010

Just wanted to mention that I went through the Alfred piano books, I took piano lessons from when I was 10 to 15, and I really enjoyed them all!

Mrs. Scrimp

Tuesday 26th of January 2010

Really great points on the reasons for why to keep going with cooking at home. I, too, found that planning out meals really, really helped me deal with cooking fatigue. Turns out a lot of my stress had to do with trying to come up with a creative plan on the fly every night.

Because there's just the two of us and neither of us are easily bored by food we like, I tend to make at least two meals a week that will feed us for two days in a row.

I'll be linking back to this post from my blog. :)


Tuesday 26th of January 2010

The dishwasher can be very efficient if it is properly LOADED. We are a family of four and only run it every other day (during the week, when nobody is home at lunchtime). The key is to use every slot and space. This means that you should put like objects together (large plates with large plates, bowls with similarly shaped bowls, etc.) so that the space is used efficiently. When I'm done in the kitchen, the dishwasher is well-packed, but not so much that the spray can't reach the dishes.

We handwash pots and pans because they take up too much room (and often don't fare as well in the dishwasher anyway).

My only regret is the racks in our dishwasher are kind of far apart--I could go three days if we had better racks! Of course, you have to have enough dishes and silverware for that, too.

We do not rinse (wastes water) but we scrape--I always tell my kids we have no need for dishwasher cleaned rice and lettuce!

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