Eating Out Versus Cooking at Home

Eating Out Versus Cooking at Home

It is common sense that cooking your own food will save you money.  But how much can you save? And, what about some of the other benefits of cooking for yourself?  Can a case be made for eating out? I’m going to look at some of the details of eating out versus cooking at home.

Eating Out, a Cost Comparison 

Eating out or ordering premade food can be expensive or it can be on the cheaper side.  It really depends on what you are eating and where you get it from. I went out to dinner this past Valentine’s Day, and the bill was north of $100.  Conversely, I swung by Burger King a week or so ago for a quick snack, and the bill came to $4. Obviously, the quality of the $100 meal blew Burger King out of the water, but the point is that you can spend as much or as little as you want eating out.

A Case for Eating Out

So, is eating out okay?  Simply put, yes. There is nothing wrong with eating out, but you need to keep it within your budget, and you should watch your choice of venue and your menu choice.  

It is nearly impossible to know exactly all the ingredients that are in an ordered dish, so try to pick things that are as close to natural as possible.  Salads, lean cuts of meat, steamed vegetables.

You can control costs by choosing which restaurant or take out the establishment you order from and how often you frequent them.  Taking the family or a significant other out once a month won’t break the bank but going out multiple times a week can quickly start to cost a small fortune.

Personally, I enjoy eating out and trying new foods and different places.  But, it isn’t something that I do often. I’ll also stop and grab something quick if I’m pressed for time and didn’t have a chance to meal prep (see earlier where I stopped at Burger King.)  Eating out can have its merits:

  • It is a nice evening away from home in a romantic or social setting.
  • It can be fun and enjoyable to experience an atmosphere and food choices that you can’t get at home.
  • Going out with others can be a good bonding and relationship-building experience, either socially or professionally.
  • It is possible to eat healthily and quickly if in a pinch for time or if traveling for business or pleasure.

A Case for Cooking at Home

We love cooking.  The grill and the smoker are my personal favorites.  I love trying new dishes and experimenting in the kitchen.  Cooking at home gives you full control over the ingredients and to an extent the costs associated with a particular meal.  Home-cooked meals are often healthier, and portions can be better controlled.

Here are some reasons to cook for yourself:

  • You control the ingredients, the costs, and the portions.  This makes home cooking much healthier than eating out in most cases.
  • Cooking in bulk allows you to make multiple meals from a single cooking session.  This allows you to meal prep and has food ready to go for a week or more.
  • Cooking can be a fun family activity or can turn into a romantic setting that is more personal than being out in a public place.

Some Math to Digest

So, how much can you save by cooking versus eating out?  It is roughly 5 times more expensive to eat out than to cook the same meal at home according to Forbes.  You’ll save the most by preparing your own high-protein meals and a substantial amount of carb-based meals. Why so much?  Remember, when you go to a restaurant there are a lot of labor-intensive activities happening to prepare a meal. There are all the costs of running the business, plus taxes, and tips.  At home, all that you have sunk into a meal is the cost of the food from the grocery store. A $4 meal made at home would cost you roughly $20 at a restaurant.

The Takeaways

As I said earlier, I do enjoy eating out.  We have our favorite restaurants and our favorite dishes.  But, we may go out a couple of times a month at most. Usually, we are doing home cooking in larger quantities, so we can enjoy a nice dinner and have enough leftovers to meal prep for several more days.  

If you want to eat out for a special occasion, for a social gathering, or if you’re pressed for time, then just keep a few things in mind.  Try to pick healthy choices more often than not and limit the number of times that you eat out based on your budget. A few budget-friendly dining options can be found here.

It is clearly cheaper to eat at home, but there are cases that can be made for eating out as well.  A healthy mix of both will keep your wallet and your stomach full. Happy eating!

Readers, how much have you saved cooking at home?

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