24 February 2011 by Published in: Lifehacking No comments yet

There’s been a lot of discussion lately in the hacker community about cooking.  There are plenty of reasons why cooking is important:

I don’t buy into any of these arguments 100% (or even 50%, some of them), but I think it’s enough right, enough of the time, that I should really learn how to cook.

I started off inspired by these guys and many others.  But what I discovered was, things start out good, but eventually you get tired of beans and burritos day after day.  I don’t mind 3-4 rice-and-beans meals a week, eating a salad every day, etc., but I don’t want to eat all salads or all legume-based meals.  I wanted some fresh meat (more on this in another post), and I was also really missing bread.

I knew that whatever I wanted to cook also needed to meet these goals:

  • Easy.  I do not have hours to spend learning a new skill.
  • Cheap.  I was shooting for under $3 per meal, about half what a prepackaged meal costs.
  • Tastes good
  • It didn’t have to be absolutely the healthiest food ever, but much healthier than the food I was replacing.

Surprisingly enough, bread is the answer.

If you are like me, “cooking bread” brings up visions of kneading dough for eight hours.  Not so.  The veritable bread machine, basically a combination of a mixer and a loaf-sized oven, makes bread this easy:

  1. Put flour, water, salt, sugar, yeast in a pan
  2. Turn on bread machine
  3. Wait three hours
  4. Eat delicious bread

Revisiting my original criteria:

  • Easy.  This is barely above the “hurr durr” level of cooking skill.  Can you measure out two cups of flour?  You can bake bread in a bread machine.
  • Cheap.  Depending on what kind of bread I make, between $0.75-$1.25 a loaf.  Nut or fruit breads might be $2.50.  Incredibly cheap.
  • OMG fresh bread tastes wonderful.  Cannot overstate how bad supermarket bread is in comparison.
  • Pretty healthy, actually.  Whatever objection you have to bread–too much sugar, white flour is processed, whatever–just put in less sugar, or use whole wheat flour, or whatever.  Humans have been eating bread baked identically to this for thousands of years, and although it’s not quite paleo, it’s good enough for me.

As an added bonus, most bread machines can also make homemade jams that are absolutely wonderful (today I made strawberry jam, it was delicious) and also cakes.

Making fresh-baked bread a staple food has really been a smashing success, and that simple change has me eating better and cheaper than ever before.  A couple of caveats you should know about though:

  • Initial investment in a machine and the ingredients.  Sunbeam has a perfect entry-level machine for $56 on Amazon.
  • You have to wait three hours for the bread to actually be made, which means you have to plan ahead.

You also have the fact that without preservatives the bread goes bad after a day or two.  However, I’ve discovered that this gives me an excuse to get out of the building and spend more time talking and interacting with customers and clients.  Anyone will give you feedback for your startup over coffee and a loaf of delicious bread!


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