Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Food Media & News >
Nov 1, 2006 05:53 PM

article: Is Eating Out Cheaper Than Cooking?

(From the Christian Science Monitor Oct. 6)

-- or

Google " eating out patrik jonsson "

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
    1. Blue Room, I was unable to access either one of your links. So w/o reading the articles, I think it has a lot to do with what you make and the quality of the ingredients your purchase (organic vs. nonorganic? Generic vs. brand name?). Also, I think you have to figure in how many meals you can get out of one dish. I recently made something and thought "Gee, I could have gone out and spent less money than buying all the ingredients myself to make this dish." But then I realized that a lot of what I make result in leftovers, so I would have it for lunch or dinner the next day, etc. So I think in the long run that I am saving $$$ by cooking. Not to mention--you control what you're putting into your meals, so assuming you're relatively health conscious, home-cooked meals should be healthier than eating out.

      2 Replies
      1. re: gloriousfood

        exactly. i got a bit irritated the other day when i realized that i'd spent $20 on ingredients for an indian meal, figuring that for that amount i should have just ordered take-out. however, i got four good-sized portions out of what i made and as you point out i was able to control things like fat content. with take-out, there would have been minimal leftovers and a lot more grease and salt. although it seemed comparable, in the end home cooking totally won out.

        1. re: wleatherette

          I have that thought sometimes as well, especially when starting to cook a new cuisine, but I figure that the ingredients will get amortized over the life of my cooking, so to speak.

      2. Interesting! I'd always assumed that by cooking at home I was saving loads of cash, but of course when you add up the fancy cookware, organic produce and Whole Foods condiments, that may not be the case. However, I wish that the article had a little more hard data. The first example compares spending $30 at the farmer's market to $17 at the pasta place, but I'd bet that his take-out ravioli ingredients were neither organic nor locally-grown.

        I'm still not going to ditch the kitchen and start eating out every night, but good to know that it's not a financial tragedy if I do...

        BTW, I'm completely horrified by this:
        "... a large percentage [of diners] would like to see table-top televisions installed at their favorite eating joints."

        3 Replies
        1. re: Raedia

          Those calculations were awfully misleading if you don't read it critically. The $30 feeds 2 people, whereas it sounds like the $17 feeds one person (and doesn't include tip). Also, I don't know how he's spending $30 on vegetables for a single meal for 2 people. Presumably, he's ending up with veggies he can use the next day, so to compare that cost with a dish that feeds him exactly once is misleading. This sounds more like an effort to justify the eating out.

          1. re: eoj

            That was my initial thought too, but after looking further, I found that Figo's - the restaurant mentioned in the article - is a some sort of 'create your own pasta dish' chain that emphasizes freshness and affordability. The menu looks yummy and super-affordable:

            1. re: welle

              That does indeed look stupidly cheap (for restaurant food), but, I still don't see how he's spending $30 on veggies for 2 portions. Even at $17 for dinner for two, that is not a bargain meal compared to what it costs to eat at home. It probably barely costs $17 a DAY for my fiance and I to eat at home. And we're eating nice food, not the cheapest hamburger helper or something.

        2. I'm so sorry, I see the links are no good. You can google :

          eating out patrik jonsson

          --that will bring you to his article.

          1. There's a typo in the URL above. This one works for me:


            The lede features a guy who estimates the cost of cooking a meal for himself and his wife with organic vegetables from the farmers market at $30, vs. $17 before tip for ravioli puttanesca at a restaurant. Apples and oranges there.

            Then there's a manager-instructor at a restaurant run by college students who says if he factors in his hourly rate it "comes out pretty even." But he's not going to get paid for the time he spends at the restaurant. If he cooked at home, he'd save money.

            It all reads like rationalization to me. For similar quality, unless you've got some out-of-control work life where every minute you devote to your private life means you earn less, it's always cheaper to cook and eat at home.

            12 Replies
              1. re: OCAnn

                Sure. Ingredient cost for one taco is less than 50 cents, and by the 30-pack beer is under 70 cents.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  but, but, but...what if all you want is one taco and one beer?

                  1. re: OCAnn

                    Then you have leftovers in the refrigerator or freezer.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Mr. Lauriston, I don't mean to be argumentative, but in my home, those tacos would succumb to freezer death before being consumed. And as much as I hate wasting good food, I couldn't bring myself to nuke them back to life. So in the end, and in this instance and in my case, it would be cheaper for me to go out for the $1 taco.

                      1. re: OCAnn

                        But, say you cooked some sort of meat for the filling - and you freeze the extra, along with the unused tortillas - both should last for months in the freezer. Surely the left overs of the other ingredients could be used in other dishes/at other meals?

                        1. re: OCAnn

                          A habitual home cook wouldn't have leftover tacos. Maybe some leftover filling (depending on what kind of tacos), and the rest of a package of tortillas. Both of which can keep for months if properly stored. Both might end up in a variety of different dishes.

                          Using up leftovers is just part of the lifestyle of a thrifty home cook. Leftover taco filling might end up in a soup or as part of a pasta sauce.

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            Uncle! You got me there; I'm not a habitual home cook. Add to that a dislike of cleaning up after fried chicken tacos and you'll find me rationalising ways to eat out.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              How do you store leftover tortillas to keep them for months? Everything I put in the freezer ends up icy no matter how many layers I wrap it in and how much air I suck out of the bags. It's just a way of avoiding putting things in the trash right away, I swear.

                              I am not sure what 'habitual' is. We cook at home a few times a week. But we often have that problem of having leftover ingredients that spoil before we get around to using them - freezer burnt meat, wilted vegetables, stuff that we're not sure how old it is and how long it keeps (will we die if we eat these olives we got at the Whole Foods olive bar last week - and what about those tortillas?)... We're just not that organized and it does often make me wonder, when you're not good at arranging to make pasta sauce out of your leftover taco filling, if it ends up being that much cheaper to cook at home.

                              1. re: wombat

                                I agree that leftover corn tortillas store poorly. Some flour tortillas, especially those made with unholy amounts of lard or shortening, may freeze just fine, but corn won't.

                                However, I hardly see why that should change the cost of a meal. Here in San Diego, 1 kg (2.2 lbs) of corn tortillas, fresh from the factory, will set you back $1.20. Trader Joe's has a pound for $0.59, I believe. I just toss them after a couple of days; 30 cents doesn't seem like much to waste.

                                1. re: Joseph

                                  Yes tortillas are cheap... but even then I think they store wonderfully. Cut them, let them get stale. When you are ready sautee them... add some cooked salsa & sauteed mushrooms or fresh greens, let it simmer for 5 minutes.... plate, garnish with queso fresco, raw onions & a fried egg... voila Chilaquiles.

                  2. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Not only does he include a non-cash opportunity cost... but then he fails to measure other opportunity costs like the entertainment & brain development excercise of creating your own meal.

                    Lets face reality... the time the average American saves by not cooking... is time spent watching TV which is usually worse for your health & corrosive for the brain... so figure in the long run increased health costs + lost employment opportunities from reduced mental stimulation + the cost of recreational drugs to overcome the sheer boredom and you have a radically different equation!