Teach Your Children This One Skill to Help Them Financially for the Rest of Their Lives

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The following post is by MPFJ staff writer, Melissa Batai. Melissa is a freelance writer who covers topics ranging from personal finance to business to organics to food. She blogs at Mom’s Plans where she shares her family’s journey to healthier living and paying down debt.

If you read many personal finance blogs, chances are that you’ve seen bloggers with children talk about what they’d like to teach their kids about money.  Many of us would like to teach our children what we didn’t learn at a young age. 

My parents, who were wonderful at teaching me about budgeting and stretching a dollar, taught me nothing about saving for retirement because they didn’t know much about it themselves.  As a result, I want to teach my son the importance of opening a Roth IRA at a young age.

However, just as important as teaching children about managing their finances is teaching them practical life skills that will save them money over their lifetimes.  Teaching them how to pay less for every major purchase is important.  However, another one that is often overlooked can save them tens of thousands of dollars over their lifetime.  This skill seemingly has nothing to do with personal finance. 

What skill am I talking about?


Teach your child to cook and, better yet, to enjoy cooking, and you will help him save thousands of dollars over his lifetime.

Why Is Learning to Cook Important?

Some may argue that there’s really no need to learn to cook because there are so many easy ways to get food.  I know people who don’t know how or who hate to cook.  They buy boxed mixes at the grocery store for the majority of their meals.  These are supplemented by frozen meals, meals on the grill prepared at home, and restaurant meals several times a week. 

Each of these items costs more than meals cooked at home from scratch.  Depending on how often they go out to eat, my guess is that they could save 30 to 50% off their weekly food expenditures by buying basics and cooking at home.

Don’t forget that eating huge quantities of processed food and unhealthy restaurant food can take a toll on your physical health.  You may gain weight, and with the weight gain, you expose yourself to a host of medical issues including diabetes, heart attack and stroke.  Sure, these things won’t happen overnight, but after a few decades of this type of food, you’ll likely face medical interventions that can also be expensive.

How to Teach Your Children to Cook

Ideally, you can bring your children into the kitchen to begin preparing meals as early as 2 years old.  Here are some tasks they can help you with based on age:

  • 2 to 4 year olds:  Help add ingredients, stir, and pour batter in a pan.  Set the timer.
  • 5 to 7 year olds:  Now is a great time to buy a kids’ cookbook and let your child pick a recipe he would like to make.  He can work with you one-on-one reading the instructions and measuring out the ingredients.  Older kids can also practice their math by learning how to double or triple recipes as needed.
  • 8 to 9 years olds:  Kids this age take even more interest in cooking, especially if they’ve been exposed to the process since they were little.  They can peruse Pinterest with you to choose possible recipes.  They can stir things on the stove with supervision and begin to become more independent in the kitchen.
  • 10 to 12 year olds:  Determine a basic list of recipes that you would like your child to master.  They may be simple breakfast items like scrambled eggs and fruit salad.  You’ll also want to teach them how to make some staple dinner meals that aren’t too complicated.
  • 13 year olds:  Now is the perfect time to teach them independence in the kitchen.  You can put them in charge of making dinner one night a week.  As they get older, you may also consider letting them plan the meals for the week.  A great financial lesson is to give them a weekly grocery shopping budget and have them plan the meals around what you already have on hand and what is on sale.

Many of us want to teach our children the important tenets of personal finance such as saving for retirement, investing, and saving.  However, teaching our children basic life skills can also go a long way to helping them preserve both their money and their health.
How about you all? Have you been teaching your kids to cook?  If so, how do you do so?

Share your experiences by commenting below!

***Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/11921146@N03/4004900258/sizes/l/in/photolist-76Uajs-76UWkw-7ge


  1. I learned to love to cook in college, and I'm so glad. I find cooking relaxing, and luckily my husband does, too. Right now it might feel like a chore to you, but if you do it for several months, you'll likely come to enjoy it. The key in the beginning is to make meals you really enjoy to make it worth your time in the kitchen.

  2. Shannon-ReadyForZero says:

    GREAT tip! This is a totally unique view on a way to teach your kids about finances but so appropriate. I just got married and now that my husband and I are combining our finances, I'm realizing how much we could save if he started packing lunches and I broke my love for Indian food delivered to our home for dinner. Cooking is a chore to both of us but if we had been raised to enjoy it and see it as more of a hobby than a necessity, then we wouldn't be struggling with reducing our food budget now.
    My recent post How to Deal with Unexpected Debt

  3. I was never really taught how to cook, but I can when it comes down to it. I don't really have the patience for cooking, but some of my siblings love to cook. I realized how much money it saves, because I had to pack all of my own lunches for school this year. Rather than paying 2.15 per meal, I got off with a way cheaper meal. Home cooking is definitely frugal.
    My recent post When Are Taxes Due Again?

    • Even if you don't have the patience for cooking, you can find grab and go things to pack and eat that will save you money over eating out like sandwiches, cheese and crackers, simple pasta dishes, etc.
      My recent post My Food Intolerances Are Decreasing! I’m Healing!

  4. Canadianbudgetbinder says:

    Yes my mum taught me how to cook and likely why I really enjoy it today. I have always enjoyed buying cook books in my travels around the world and to check out what the locals were preparing and what ingredients they were using. Cooking has allowed me to lower my grocery budget and get creative in the kitchen and to try new things rather than only eat the same things over and over. A great tip.
    My recent post May 2013 Net Worth Update: Up And Down The Ladder (+1.77%)

    • How fun! And when people are skilled enough cooks, they often prefer their own food to eating out
      My recent post I’m Still Here – A Movie Review

  5. Greg @ Thriftgenuity says:

    Sadly, I am a casualty of not really learning to cook. When I lived on my own, though, I was still too cheap to eat out, so I basically ate the same thing for every meal – grilled chicken, boiled vegetables, and brown rice. Now, my wife does pretty much all of the cooking.

    You're spot on about the savings and health benefits of preparing meals rather than buying processed food or eating out.
    My recent post Health Insurance – Do You Know What You’re Looking At?

    • It's good that you were eating at home, but did you get bored eating the same thing every day? There are so many different foods to make. 🙂
      My recent post I’m Still Here – A Movie Review

  6. Never mind the savings. Cooking from scratch TASTES better! Educate your taste buds and your wallet will get fatter. Locavore, fresh cooked: you can't top it. Guess what: I'm quoting our local award winning chefs.

  7. True true. Although I'm not a true cook, only BBQ and the scrambled eggs, lol my wife is an excellent one. And I see them bonding over baking or any cooking session and it's good to watch.

    My recent post How to Kick Your Bad Money Habits

  8. My mother never taught me to cook as a particular skill, but I didn’t need it. Cooking just isn’t that hard. By my sophomore year of college, I’d taken over Thanksgiving and Christmas cooking. My oldest son is kind of oblivious to daily life, so I think I’ll have to actually TEACH him, but my daughter won’t require anything formal.
    Jenny @ Frugal Guru Guide recently posted…Chronic Illness, Chronic Pain and Time ManagementMy Profile

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