An experienced cook will learn which seasonings to add for a particular flavor and how and in what order to cook ingredients in a dish so they're all ready at the same time. Foods that take longer to cook, like onions and meat, are typically added first, with faster-cooking ingredients like shrimp and spinach added near the end. The best way to learn is to practice.
If you shop for fruits and vegetables that are in season, you'll end up with the freshest and often least expensive ingredients. Since canned foods last a long time, it's a good idea to stock up on items you use often when they go on sale. Frozen foods are often relatively inexpensive, too, so if you have room in your freezer, you can buy those. Then, when you don't have fresh ingredients available, you can quickly cook the next-best thing straight from your freezer.
Remember when cooking to include foods that provide balanced nutrition, whenever possible in the same meal. This means a combination of protein, healthy carbohydrates, and healthy fats. If you pick a good cross-section of colorful fruits and vegetables, you'll be getting plenty of fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants, too.
Taking advantage of leftovers is another way to save time and money. If you make a generous batch of something ahead of time, you won't have to cook on a busy day and can still reward yourself with a home cooked meal. Some leftovers can simply be rewarmed, others combined into a tasty new combination.
Many wonderful cookbooks and online recipes are available to provide step-by-step directions on cooking specific dishes. They can be used as inspiration to prepare related dishes. If a recipe calls for turkey, parsnips and allspice but you have chicken, carrots and cinnamon, try substituting the ingredients you have available, and you'll have invented your own recipe.
For a few places to start, check out the recipes available on this site and The Joy of Cooking Cookbook.
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