In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God. Then God said let there be light, which created photosynthesis and gave us apples, Neanderthals, dinosaurs…and fire? Then cave men became humans as we know them today…Praise Jesus!…or something like that.
Either way, somewhere along the way, we developed the remarkable ability to use our brains and thumbs to develop tools. Today, these tools have evolved and still serve the same core purpose. One in particular, not only makes life easier but can help in saving you A LOT of money and it’s called—a knife.
Yes, as much as we are fans of our high-tech tools like our Nest thermostat, Amazon Echo, iPhones and Apple TVs. we are also fans of good old fashioned low tech like paper and knives. Given Mr. r&R’s culinary background, he is a huge fan of knives since it is the must-have tool for Chef’s. In culinary school, knife skills is one of the very first lessons taught because it is so critical to cooking. But even if you’re not a chef, improving your knife skills can make cooking at home easier and save you a boat load of money. It’s impossible to truly calculate the “return” on owning a good knife but here are a few reasons to consider investing in a good one and learning how to use it.
According to a 2016 study by the National Priorities Project, behind housing and transportation, food is the 3rd highest expense the typical American family has. As a result, most people try to strike a balance between eating at home and dining out to save money in this category. However, even if you’re eating in more, the cost of groceries can be very expensive. Factor in the hassle of cooking [especially if you’re not great at it] and it’s super-tempting to pickup food or order in which can blow your budget quick.
But groceries don’t always have to be expensive. In general, prepared products, pre-cut products or anything that has been “handled” to be more convenient will be more expensive than a product in it’s raw or natural state.
Supermarkets know this and take full advantage of your desire for convenience by charging you a premium. THIS is where owning a good knife and knowing how to use it can save you money assuming you’re willing to overcome your fear of cutting yourself and a learning curve. Take everybody’s favorite summertime fruit for example; a watermelon.
Using some quick screenshots of our neighborhood grocery store on Instacart [which we love], you can see the price difference between the various forms of watermelon available. However, it’s not always clear how much more [or less] expensive one form of melon is versus another. Consider that a 1/4 watermelon is just 4 quarters of a whole melon. You might assume then, that a quartered melon is a fourth of the cost; and you’d be dead a$$ wrong. The quartered watermelon is 79% more expensive because someone had to go through the “hassle” of cutting it and wrapping it in plastic.
Now consider watermelon wedges are really just half of a quartered watermelon sliced into hand-held pieces, placed on a piece of styrofoam and wrapped in plastic. Well, those little wedges are actually 19% more expensive per lb. than the quartered. But if you’re really balling out of control, you can go ahead and get the large watermelon chunks which are a ridiculous 339% more expensive than the quartered watermelon. All because we want someone to cut our fruit for us or because wedges might be…messy.
The same is true for other products that grocers know most people don’t want to deal with like pineapple, cantaloupe, green beans, carrots, greens, meats etc. The mark-up is for the convenience of not having to cut something. But if you knew how to use a knife, you might reconsider buying into these markups all the time and save money every time you go the grocery store.
Assuming you’re one of those Average American families that spend $7,203 annually [12% of total spending] on food, it’s possible to shave off a cool thousand dollars by investing in a good chef’s knife, a cutting board and maybe a quick cooking class so you learn how to use it without losing a finger.
In our house, not a day goes by where we don’t use our knife to prepare food at home. Whether we’re chopping fruit for baby r&R, smashing a clove of garlic or slicing tomatoes from Grandma r&R’s garden. A good knife is always within reach and saves us A LOT of money. Eventually, as you get better, it will also save you time and you’ll be able to slice through a prickly pineapple in seconds. Plus, when you know how to use a knife, you don’t need all the other super fancy- electric chopping tools like food processors and accessories that essentially do the same thing.
Here are a few quick tips on purchasing a good knife and a video on basic knife skills
Tips from Mr. r&R:
- You don’t need a full knife set. In general, a chefs knife, a serated bread knife, a paring knife and a blade steel is all you need. Skip the block set with the matching shears and steak knives. You’ll NEVER use them.
- Invest in a good sized wood and/or plastic cutting board. You should have one for everyday products and another for raw products (e.g. meat, fish etc.). Be sure to clean and sanitize them regularly.
- The key to a good knife is how comfortable it feels in your hand. If it’s too big, you’ll feel clumsy and likely cut yourself. Feel it out for weight, balance and grip.
- Believe it or not, dull knives are more dangerous than sharp knives. If you’ve ever tried to cut through a sweet potato and had a dull knife bounce off it headed towards your palm then you know what I mean. A sharp knife is more likely to go through the object your cutting…instead of you
Photo Credit: Vicky Wasik