Ok, so let me explain my situation. I’m an adult looking to learn some cooking some cooking skills. No, don’t get me wrong. I have cooked before. It’s just that I’ve never done it on a consistent regular daily basis. I’ve been going out to restaurants way too much, and while I like doing so (no dishes to clean up, no cooking required J ), and I will continue to do so (just less often) I’m seeing that it’s really draining my cash funds and now I must start cooking at home. This time regularly every day, for myself. So, what I need is some advice here. I wasn’t exactly trained by my parents how to do it. Sometimes my parents cooked. Actually, during my childhood mostly they cooked some things. But, this only lasted a few years, after which they were haphazard. A lot of the time we would go out to eat too much, Burger King, McDonalds and restaurants too much. It wasn’t as if family home cooking was the norm and going to eat was occasional. So, I didn’t exactly get the culinary home education that I’m guessing most of you had. Everyone knows how to cook something in the microwave or a pop-tart in the toaster. But, not cooking whole meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner every single day I know that some people say I should take a class/classes and if you know some that I’m looking you can certainly suggest them. But, the problem I’ve had with classes is that they are too specialized. They tell you how to cook a few different things, but really don’t get into the whole nuts and bolts of. Maybe they’ll show you how to cook a few different dishes. In our home ecomonics classes in middle school and high school, we cooked things like chocolate chip cookies, pizza, pancakes, quiche, stir fry vegetables, spaghetti (home made in high school) that’s kind of fine to teach you how to cook certain things. I’m not cooking to do this for a profession, just cook for myself. But, as you know cooking is more than just cooking. What about planning what you will buy and making a budget for yourself? A budget in which you will spend a practical amount of money on food, not an excessive, but a reasonable amount that will keep your finances in balance, and perhaps combined with your other expenses will leave you, ideally with a few left over dollars each month after other things you pay for. This is really the problem with me. Right now I’m living with my parents, but I had just lived in an apartment for over a year and ate out way too much. To summarize, here are my three goals with cooking. To plan a regular, consistent budget that will be hopefully a lot lower than what I have been spending. I live in Massachusetts and for those of you who may be in my area. The grocery stores around here are Hannaford, Market Basket, Shaws, Donelans, Roche Brothers and at the Wal-Mart supercenters (I live near the New Hampshire Border) which also have grocery stores. I plan to make a food budget, an excel spreadsheet and or use quicken to track my expenses. It seems Wal-Mart has the lowest prices. Though, there are some other concerns such as what they carry. I don’t plan to totally sacrifice everything for cost. It would help to get some advice from people who go to these stores. One of my biggest health concerns is my triglyceride levels/fats in my blood. My doctor has been telling me that they have been too high. I visit him twice a year. And last time they were rising again from what they had been the time before that (in which I they had greatly improved. What I’d like to do is a plan a menu plan which leaves out the foods which he says to avoid. He says to eat mainly foods in their natural state such as fruits, nuts, meat, milk and vegetables and to avoid processed foods such as spaghetti, rice and other simple carbs like sugars (I don’t quite understand this though, fruits have sugar in them too) and breads, But, he says potatoes are other complex carbohydrates are ok. Though, I’m not sure why. They are a complex carbohydrate which becomes a simple carbohydrate. I wonder what the difference is. I am also overweight and want to lose some weight. I plan to get a an elliptical machine that my old gym used to have and use that to exercise, as well as eating foods that are healthier and have less calories. Sound good? I can really burn them on this machine for sure. I can do a 600 calorie workout in a hour without much exertion at all. Though, ideally I’d like to do it twice a day burning 1200 calories. This definitely should be more than what I take in. So, here’s the kind of meal plan I’d like to make for myself. I have the weekdays planned out. I’m not sure about the weekends, however. For lunches at work, I plan to have some kind of salad with good seasons cruet dressing, which I can put in a Tupperware/plasticware container, and probably a turkey sandwich with it (problem is the bread) and a bottle of Aquafina flavorsplash wild berry. For dinner, I have this sort of plan. Monday- Steak with Marinade with mashed potatoes, broccoli and turnip with either Diet Pepsi (no calories or Aquafina wild berry (also no calories) Tuesday- Fried chicken with Marinade. Au Gautin potates baked in the over, brussel sprouts, corn on the cob. Baked Haddock breaded with a good amount of lemon juice on it, broccoli, mashed potatoes Turkey Breast with mashed potatoes (avoiding stuffing because it is a bread) broccoli/mashed potatoes. Friday- Pork chops, broccoli, mashed potatoes, corn. Not sure about the corn though, as that has sugar in it too. Could anyone suggest any other vegetables. And, preferably something to “spice them up,” If you would. It seems whatever I eat must have something to make it tasty. Sauce with spaghetti, ketchup with French fries. Oil and Vinegar or some kind of dressing on my salad, marinade or some kind of sauce on my meats. But, I’m also looking to stay healthy, too. I’ve found a few things, like I’ve mentioned that are good and tasty, such as that aquafina water, and has no calories. And, if you could suggest some other vegetables I might like. I’m planning to use a pan to cook the meats in. Right now ,I’m living my with parents and we do have a gas grill, but I’m not going to use because I want to practice using a frying pan as when I move into my next place by myself, I probably won’t have a yard or porch to put a grill on (even though I love flame cooked meats. So, I did have a few questions, however. I’ve had some problems trying to cook at my previous apartment and wondered if someone could help me out. What can I do to stop the chicken from burning when I’m cooking it in the pan? I buy boneless/skinless chicken which I would marinade since the night before in a plastic bag but when I tried to cook it, it would start burning and filling the kitchen with smoke before it was fully cooked. I’ve heard you should use cooking oil, but is this ok to use if your also using marinade? When cooking hamburger in the frying pan what can do with the grease? I know you can’t dump it down the drain because it can really screw up the pipes. How do you get rid of it? When making a salad, how do you know much to make just for yourself? I figure if I cut up the whole head of lettuce and put it into the bowl with the other vegetables, I probably wouldn’t be able to the eat the whole thing, and probably wouldn’t want to. I’d want that before the dinner, not as the main course. Something useful for me to have wood be a “food-vise” if it exists. It would come in handy if I was cutting some kind of vegetable like an onion, which gets harder to cut the smaller it gets, if you were cutting it lengthwise so you had concentric rings inside each other. So, that’s it. I realize this a very long post and has a lot of information. I suppose you don’t have to answer it all, if you don’t want to. But, if there’s a book I can read, or course you know of that will help me meet my culinary goals I’d appreciate it if you could tell me. Now, that you know my level of culinary expertise an experienced chef or home cook can probably help me now.