Get Rich Without Recipes

Would you like to hear something shocking and sacrilegious?

Okay…today I am going to make the case against the much loved institutions of recipes, cookbooks and celebrity chefs.

Yes, I realise how popular celebrity cookbooks are.

And yes, maybe Nigella Lawson was hot in her day? Maybe Jamie Oliver really is a diamond geezer? Maybe Ainsley Harriot’s Christmas cook book is a worthy addition to the canon of English literature?

But there are two sides to every story. And today, at great personal risk to my follower count, I am going to make the case against recipes.

As with many things, I started out along this line of thought from an efficiency / cost reduction basis.  I noticed that every time I followed a recipe, it included some obscure ingredients that I didn’t have in the cupboard (e.g. oregano, thyme, frankincense, myrrh etc). That meant a trip to the supermarket…spending time, money and hassle.

You would then add your sprig of parsley (or whatever) to the recipe and be left with the rest of the packet sitting in the cupboard as excess inventory, tying up capital.

That is not the way to get rich. You need to sweat your assets. Money sat idle on your shelves is money that is not working for you. Get that money into your compounding machine where it can grow and one day support you.

A much better approach for people that are not yet millionaires is to start with the ingredients that you already have and use those up.

As I wrote in The CFO’s guide to Fridge Management, I think of surplus food as taunting me when I open the fridge door and look in:

Hey, you paid good money for me and in a few days time, if you don’t eat me, I’ll be gone along with your money. Ha-ha-ha-ha!

So, when deciding what to eat, I make it a priority to use the fresh foods that are already sat in the fridge before buying or defrosting other stuff.

Use what you have first. Make the best of the resources available to you. Buying more stuff is plan B.

As a one-off, this is trivial. As a habit over a lifetime, this will save you a fortune. It’s one of those meta-habits that adds up and compounds over a lifetime to make a big difference to your outcomes. Remember The Aggregation of Marginal Gains.

How do you think of yourself? If you have an identity that says “I am the sort of person who doesn’t waste food / time / money”, your everyday actions will support and reinforce that. Over time, these everyday actions turn into habits. Eventually your money outcomes will reflect those habits. You will get rich(er).

This diagram is from the must-read book Atomic Habits by James Clear:

As I got older, I realised that there were other subtle benefits of ditching the “start with a recipe” approach. 

One such benefit is simplicity (headspace is a scarce resource). Another is speed (time is money).

But perhaps the greatest is health. By ditching complicated recipes you focus on simple, natural food and eliminate industrial additives.

And then there’s the calories. To get that extra flavour hit, recipes are loaded up with salt (okay in moderation) industrial oils (not ok) and – worst of all – sugar. Sugar nukes your fat-burning and screws your metabolism as well as your taste buds.

With that comes an amount of calories that may be fine if you’re walking or cycling to work and hitting the gym regularly but otherwise not so good. The results are disastrous, as we can see all around us.

I love alternative approach (which I stole from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall) of “3 Good Things”.  You just take 3 natural ingredients that complement each other and serve ’em up. An example would be eggs & smoked salmon & spinach. This combo is perfect as it is. It needs no addition, no elaboration, no added complication.

Then there’s the compliance angle. Recipes are yet another way that people are subtly trained to follow orders and take instructions from authorities rather than think for themselves. It’s like a continuation of the school system.

Recipe books are part of the cult of celebrity which is a gigantic scam.

Been on Love Island? Short of cash? Christmas coming up? No problem…simply release your own cookbook…the publisher and ghostwriters will do all the work…Kerching!

As ever, I can’t resist linking this back to financial independence. There is no one recipe to follow. There are many paths and you must be the head chef in your own kitchen. Celebrity chefs can inspire and spark ideas but only you can do the work and bake the cake.

Love to everyone…even celebrities.

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  1. Lauren Headley · · Reply

    If I could comment with a gif I’d use the one of Captain barvosa saying ‘they’re more like guidelines’.

    Buying recipe books is odd to me when there are so many freely available online. But I do enjoy using recipes as a guideline with ingredients I want to use in a different way, or newer ingredients that might not have been available to me in the past. Injera anyone?

    It also means instead of paying triple the price going out to a restaurant I can try making something at home. Saves a ton. While it might not be truly authentic, but then half of what we get at restaurants is anglicised, it has brought joy to my frugality. I can also control how much salt is added during cooking, how much and what type of sugars are in my baked goods, and that the quality of meat and oils and fats is as good value and quality as meet my needs both gustatory and fiscal.

    You are sounding like a FI enthusiast though. Living on gruel and other feudal basics *wink*. But I don’t think you *love* food. I say this as Oregano in one’s pantry is the food equivalent of understanding the 4% ‘guideline’, to me at least. But I looove food, and cooking and sharing said food with friends and family.

    Or is this your way of getting out of holding dinner parties in retirement?

  2. Brendan · · Reply

    I completely agree that food waste is a massive problem and we waste so much money on food that’s chucked in the bin. However I disagree about the cookbooks. Most people I know were never taught how to cook so a simple cookbook with the calories on the recipe can be very helpful especially for weight loss. For myself the best book i have bought in the last year was a meal prepping cookbook as it allows me to prep on a Sunday for a full week based on whats in the fridge and freezer and i can then supplement anything missing with a trip to the shop. It reduces waste and the less trips to the supermarket, the less you spend. Most fresh veg and fruit can also be chopped up and frozen for use in stews, soups, smoothies etc but it’s all about being intentional! But I can definitely agree that there are too many “celebrity chefs”!

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