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article: Is Eating Out Cheaper Than Cooking?

(From the Christian Science Monitor Oct. 6)

http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/...

or http://news.yahoo.com/s/csm/2006/ts_c...
-- or

Google " eating out patrik jonsson "

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    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: http://www.figopasta.com/menupage.htm

            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:

            http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/...

            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!

                    1. Interesting article. I think this rise of families eating out is linked to the rise of two income households. With two parents working, there is very little time to prepare meals from scratch. Consequently, people come to rely on processed convenience foods, which save time at a higher cost. A person interviewed for the article was appaled at the price she had to pay for frozen chicken wings. But she's buying frozen chicken wings! If she was buying a whole chicken the cost would drop substantially, especially if she was making stocks from the bones. You're also more likely to have leftovers from that whole chicken, which you can use to cover future lunches and dinners. Unfortunately, very few people have that sort of free time these days.

                      The comparison of purchasing produce at a farmers' market and eating out at a cheap Italian place is absurd. If you were to buy bulk ingredients from CostCo (which is basically what the cheap Italian place is sourcing) then the cost of cooking at home will drop substantially. If you eat out at a nice Italian restaurant that sources ingredients from the farmers' market, you'll easily spend $30-$50 per person. When ingredient quality is comparable, cooking costs about 50% of the price of eating out.

                      The argument that cooking takes time, and time is money is also absurd. Free time is just that, and if you spend that time cooking it's no more "expensive" than spending that time watching TV or sitting on the front porch. It is technically an opportunity cost, but most of us aren't about to spend every free minute of the day working.

                      In summary:

                      Is eating cheap ingredients out cheaper than cooking expensive ingredients at home? Absolutely.

                      Is eating cheap ingredients out cheaper than preparing heavily processed ingredients at home? Usually.

                      Is eating out cheaper than cooking when the ingredient quality is comparable, you cook everything from scratch, and you eat all of your leftovers? No way.

                      1. I think the key word here is VOLUME.

                        For something special or non-common ingredient driven it's almost always cheaper and less hassle to go out. Example: if I wanted to make Jamanican food I'd have to go out and buy $20 bucks worth of stuff.

                        Same goes with how many people. Rarely cooking for one makes sense unless it's very simple and you plan on leftovers. It makes no sense to prepare a Thai meal for one unless it's super simple and you have everything. Otherwise going out is easier.

                        Restaurants can and do buy in volume thus making organic and quality ingredients less expensive and being able to pass that alone.

                        19 Replies
                        1. re: ML8000

                          The key word is overhead.

                          Restaurants can save a bit on ingredients by buying in bulk wholesale, but their rent, staff salaries, insurance, and other expenses mean that they have to charge $2.50 or $3 for $1 worth of food.

                          If you cook at home, you spend maybe 25 cents on putting $1 worth of food on the table. Leftovers are part of your daily routine.

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            Whatever.

                            I was talking about volume in context to home vs. a restaurant biz and buying ingredients. Anything beyond that is just wasted brain power.

                            If you want to get into overhead then why not apply gas/electric at home, your time value per/hr and a % of your mortgage related kitchen use, etc. etc. etc.

                            1. re: ML8000

                              I was counting the utilities in that 25 cents.

                              Your rent or mortgage costs the same whether you eat out or cook at home.

                              You make the same $0 per hour sitting in a restaurant as you do in the kitchen and dining room at home.

                              1. re: ML8000

                                I totally get what ML8000 is saying. It's cheaper to eat out at a place that does something you don't usually make at home due to economies of scale (or as ML8000 said: volume). If you make Indian food everyday then the cost of a $2.99 bag of turmeric is spread out over a bunch many meals and becomes cheap whereas the same bag of turmeric is expensive if you only use it for one meal.

                                also one could consider the opportunity cost of you doing something more valuable with your time than learning how to make dumplings or whatnot, as well as buying ingredients specifically for that meal which, if you don't cook that type of food often, may actually get wasted. Also, even figuring in the costs of overhead that jack up restaurant prices, in some cases i personally think that the restaurant is still cheaper because of the aforementioned economies of scale.

                                1. re: choctastic

                                  That's not at all true in my experience. At home we cook a fairly wide variety of cuisines, including Italian, French, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Moroccan, Turkish, and pan-Middle Eastern, with occasional experiments in other cuisines. Most of the ingredients are either common to most of those cuisines, are purchased fresh for more or less immediate consumption, or keep for a long time. Over the course of a year we lose very little money throwing out perishable cuisine-specific items.

                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    Well, I'm afraid you're making ML8000's point. You happen to cook a wide variety of cuisines often so you can make up the initial cost of the supplies over a large number of meals that happen to use common ingredients. if you cook various cuisines often, that's great but that just proves the point that you have economies of scale by being able to amortize the cost of ingredients/etc over more than a few meals.

                                    This a different scenario from someone who wnats to try a cuisine for which they don't cook normally and wouldn't eat on a daily basis anyway, so the cost of the ingred/time/etc costs are higher per meal. as another example, it is actually much cheaper for me to eat dim sum at a restaurant than to make it myself, due the restaurants ability to make the dumplings on a massive scale and my relative inability to do same, not to mention the time involved in getting up to speed on the dumpling folding, making the doughs, making enough for an assortment, cooking equipment, etc.

                                    1. re: choctastic

                                      Dim sum and tapas are exceptional cases. You can get one each of a dozen items at a restaurant. Obviously that's not so practical at home.

                                      But that doesn't negate the general rule that it's generally less expensive to cook your own food.

                                      Where I work, thousands people spend $5 or more a day for a deli sandwich or bowl of soup for lunch. I can make lunches for a week on that! Over the course of a year, that's $1000 in my pocket, and it doesn't require any fancy equipment or sophisticated cooking skills.

                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                        I know that deli sandwiches can be crazy expensive but five dollars for a whole week of lunches? Do you only eat peanut butter?

                                        1. re: wombat

                                          There are many different kinds of sandwiches you can make for under a dollar.

                                        2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                          If you eat sandwiches all the time then it makes sense to buy the ingredients to make them since you're eating a large VOLUME of them. You're still making ML8000's point.

                                          I drink coffee once every two years when I really need a pick me up. It's cheaper to buy that cup at some coffeehouse than to buy the grinder, coffee maker, and filters needed to make a cup at home.

                                          1. re: choctastic

                                            One sandwich a day isn't a large volume. I'm just buying stuff at the grocery store, not gettting any discounts.

                                            1. re: choctastic

                                              The coffee analogy makes lots of sense.

                                              Also to be frank, I don't consider making a sandwich cooking and given it's simple and the supplies are easy to get. As I mentioned, simple processes sort of negate the argument. Anything that takes time, energy and special ingredients changes the equation of home vs. restro.

                                              1. re: ML8000

                                                Call it cooking or not, I can still save 80% by making my own sandwich rather than buying one.

                                                If you only eat something every two years, and it requires a lot of special equipment, sure, it's cheaper to get it in a restaurant.

                                                But most of the dishes served in most restaurants can be made at home with the basic set of kitchen tools most people already have.

                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                  I very much agree with your sandwich analogy, Robert. Especially that in midtown NYC, decent sandwiches are 7-8 bucks. And most of the time, the bread is subpar. They're also genormous (sometimes not big enough to make 2 lunches though, but who wants a day-old sandwich?), so you either end throwing away some (there goes 10-25%cost) or eating it all and then working your ass off trying to burn those extra calories (there goes your time!).

                                                  Speaking of saving time, many days during week my SO and I end up on the train late at night, famished. Debating between a local cheap ethnic dive and going home, going home always wins. Even the closest take-out, the sum of time you spend ordering, waiting for your food, and getting home adds up to 30 min. The same 30 min I can cook up something tasty and quick in the comfort of my home and in the meantime get some things done like (getting into comfy clothes, have tea and heck even watching TV).

                                                  1. re: welle

                                                    It's clear from this thread that there are two kinds of people in the world - the ones who can in 30 minutes produce dinner, change clothes, drink tea and watch TV, and those of us who would pay good money to watch this as some kind of magic act, because we can't imagine doing it ourselves. Those two types of people are going to assign very different levels of importance to the cost savings of doing it yourself.

                                      2. re: choctastic

                                        I had a job ordering food for an organization that feed 1,000 people a day. Economies of scale are nice, but you don't save *that* much money. Bulk buyers save 25-50% off of what the savvy, thrifty shopper will pay. For rare or luxury items, the savings are much smaller.

                                        Ingredients cost represents about 20-25% of a restaurant's expenses. Far more significant are rent, payroll, equipment, maintenance, food waste, property insurance, liability insurance, workers compensation insurance, utitlities, licensing, permitting, theft, taxes the list goes on and on... Not to mention the enormous startup costs for construction and remodeling. In a word, overhead.

                                        The home cook's overhead is minimal, no more than 20% of the cost of a meal. There are some minor equipment and utility costs and that's about it. Food waste is easier to minimize at home than in a restaurant (grocery stores with bulk spices help this immensely). Rent/mortgage and salary have zero relationship to the amount of time you spend cooking.

                                        To illustrate:

                                        You spend $20 on ingredients for a meal, the restaurant pays $10 for the same ingredients. You have an "overhead" of $4, the restaurant's overhead is $30. So, in terms of cost, you've spent $24 preparing a meal that the restaurant spent $40 on. Add in tax, tip and the restaurant's profit and the price jumps to $60.

                                        If ingredients are equal and the home chef is not excessively wasteful, cooking at home costs less than half the price of eating out.

                                        1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                          Nobody said that restaurant cooking was always cheaper than cooking at home. Just trying to illustrate the situation where you don't cook a certain things more than a few times, there are times where it could very well be cheaper just to eat out that one time.

                                          For instance, I can't think of any uses for idli rice other than for idlis. I could buy the bag of idli rice for about $10 or so and make them a couple of times which would actually be cheaper than going out for them if I do that enough. However, I don't eat idlis all that often so it's actually cheaper to go to a restaurnat and get a couple for $2.50 a plate than make it myself when 2 pieces is all I want.

                                          1. re: choctastic

                                            You just need a grocer with a good bulk section. If I wanted two idlis, I'd buy 30 cents worth of idli rice. If I needed a few spices fot that, I'd spend another 20 cents on bulk spices.

                                            Also, keep in mind that the article that began this discussion is primarily about family eating habits. Two idlis is not going to feed a family.

                                            1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                              uh, you can't buy idli rice generally lke that. they come by the 10 pound sack. I've never seen a bulk food section that has idli rice, and dont bother to say berkeley bowl because i've checked and they didn't have it. Also, there is a knack to making idlis and not to mention the fact that you need a grinder which I don't have. Maybe that wasn't a good example since apparently you don't know what idlis are. I do have a sack of idli rice not being used though which when I do the math ends up being a stupid purchase.

                                2. Eating good food in a restaurant is way more expensive than cooking comparable food at home. But I shop carefully, have a well-supplied kitchen and plenty of cooking experience. My husband often says that we should eat out more so I don't have to cook, but given his choice he always wants to eat at home because the food is better.

                                  If you eat at the average American restaurant where quantity is valued over quality, and cost is more important than freshness, taste or nutrition, then it's cheaper to eat out. For me, there's no comparison.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: cheryl_h

                                    Awww...what a thoughtful husband. I would prefer to eat out so I don't have to cook/clean (I'm a meticulous cleaner) after a long day. However, my husband, like yours, prefers home-cooked meals b/c to him it's better than expensive restaurant fare.

                                    So in general, I'd say that it's often cheaper to eat in. However, in certain circumstances (like the $1 tacos), I think it's cheaper to eat out.

                                  2. I know for certain that I can eat cheaper by eating already prepared foods if I limit myself to some very inexpensive choices. Tacos, banh mi, chaat, saltenas, noodle soups, tofu, pizza, are all so cheap... And MOST IMPORTANTLY everyone can get what they like! At home, nobody is going to cook four different kinds of fillings for the tacos (goat, chorizo, al pastor, cabeza) at one meal, but that's what we can get eating out. Our family of four can share two giant bowls of pho for about ten dollars, and STILL get a choice. This is especially handy if you don't know whether or not your 8 year old daughter is going to be a vegetarian that day.

                                    1. What I find interesting is that throughout this whole thread, only one or two people bring up the fact of nutrition. Yeah, it's great if you save money by eating out or cooking in, but the fact remains (and I believe the article briefly mentions this) that food cooked at home can be made healthier. It is difficult to walk into a restaurant and request that they make your batch of fries or fried quail using a healthier oil, and when one of the biggest issues our nation is facing today is an obesity problem, being able to control your family's health IS worth a few extra bucks, at least to me. Indian food is great and hard to prepare, cheap and convenient, but they also use practically a pound of butter to start off ANY recipe. There is a reason why kids as young as 16 are having heart surgery, and it’s not genetics (check out Eric Schlosser’s new book if you don’t believe me). Personally, I was raised to believe that convenience beats out health, and once I was on my own, I didn’t even know how to eat healthy. I don’t think my parents were purposely trying to hurt me either, they just didn’t know better. Now, we have every opportunity to know better.
                                      Something that really bothers me is how obsessed everyone seems to be with convenience. It seems like the more technology and convenience products we get, the lazier we are! Home cooking versus eating out is like another annoying issue—stairs vs. escalators. You have a set of perfectly good stairs next to a set of moving escalators, and I guarantee you everyone from parents to perfectly healthy and able young kids are taking the escalator. It’s like stairs are a dirty word or something, and I have found that the same principal applies to home cooking. Cooking does not take long with a little planning. If people did something as small as chopping up vegetables for a soup the night before they want to make it, or even gathering all the ingredients into one place in their fridge, it would shave a lot of time out of cooking from scratch. I agree that if you only eat a certain kind of food every once in a while, eating out is the way to go. But heck, even just planning what order you need to cook things in can make a meal go smoothly. It’s not going to be super easy, and it is not always going to cheaper than eating out, but then again, nothing good ever comes easy. At the end of the day, its not about who is wrong or who is right. It’s about what is a priority for you and your family.

                                      1. I found this thread immensely interesting...if eating out is so damn economical, why do the poorest americans still routinely cook at home? The comparison doesn't hold up if you really dig down and examine the low costs of foods traditionally eaten by people on the bottom end of the american economy....things like grits, eggs, powdered milk, dried beans, rice, 5-lb bags of masa, etc.

                                        On the other hand, fast-food calories are incredibly cheap, when you count the cost-per-calorie. BUT, I've never met ANYONE who divided a fast-food meal into appropriate calorie counts for each household member, regardless of the volume of the food in question--nope, everyone wants their own burger, not a section of a shared burger. So I'm betting that fast-food ends up more expensive because of the individual portioning & packaging...

                                        8 Replies
                                        1. re: Hungry Celeste

                                          In fact, I think that what muckrakers like Eric Schlosser are saying is that the poorest people are increasingly tempted by the cheapness of food at McDonald's--a meal that will really fill you up for $5.

                                          Just as people here are discussing factoring in the cost of assembling the ingredients for a large gourmet/organic meal where not everything will be used up, I think the same applies to the lowest end: are you really going to be able to buy ingredients for a meal as tasty and filling as the big mac combo for $5? If you work a couple of jobs, it it worth setting aside xx amount of time and creativity? An interesting issue..

                                          1. re: Mandymac

                                            If you're working 16 hours a day and don't have time to cook, $5 will get you more ready-to-eat food at the supermarket than it will at McDonald's.

                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                              You know, my S/O and his family are from Guatamala and have worked 16 hour plus days sometimes in strawberry fields ... the stories of which are horrendous. If you are lucky, you have a wife at home who is only working one job and can shop at Food4Less or the mercados and put toghter a cheap meal. If not, you don't have enough income yet to bring your family over and it is just back breaking work and sleep. And if your family is not here you are probably sharing a house with a lot of people so whatever you buy is going to get 'shared' by other people in the house. So in that sense, you ain't saving money if someone else is eating your food.

                                              Even so after a day in the fields probably followed by another job, buying a meal at a taco truck or a panaderia is far cheaper than anything you can put together yourself. And yes, at that economic level, the $5 you could earn working is offset by the time at home putting the meal together.

                                              Often we do eat out at Thanksgiving because they are working that day and seven days a week so taking time off to do the shopping and cooking impacts their bottom line.

                                              It is not like no one hears that buying raw groceries isn't cheaper for a single item, however the point is that there are other factors that make eating out cheaper.

                                              1. re: rworange

                                                Grocery stores sell a lot of stuff that doesn't require cooking.

                                                Though if your roommates steal your food, you can't save money by buying it.

                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                  Hmmm ... sometimes one needs to feed one's soul ... and a hot cooked meal or taco does more for the spirit than some uncooked item.

                                                  Again, different strokes for different folks. For your particular circumtances eating at home is cheaper than eating out. That isn't so no matter how it is rationalized for other people.

                                                  Taking time out to shop and cook that might be used for sleep or work can be lots more costly if you are losing wages ... in this type of work you can't decide to work 7 instead of 8 hours. If you are so tired that you oversleep and don't get to the job on time you lose the job.

                                                  My grandparents were Polish immigrants with similar work schedules but at the time eating out wasn't an option because stores didn't cater to that. I remember my grandmother telling me about waking up at 4 am to make meals and being so crazy-tired that she would sometimes have to hold onto the table because she was dizzy. Both grandparents wound up with lots of health problems that were due a large part to sheer overwork. What did that cheap food cost them in medical bills ... not to mention at that time the work was factory work and a mistake because you were exhausted could result in injury.

                                                  Sometimes you have to count the outside costs in that dinner.

                                                  1. re: rworange

                                                    do you think that your grandparents would have been better off health-wise, then, if they had been able to eat cheap restaurant meals? both sets of my grandparents were in a similar position, and i would imagine that a diet of fast food coupled with heavy physical labor wouldn't have been an improvement.

                                                2. re: rworange

                                                  there was an article in NYTimes about migrant workers (Mexicans in this case) in NYC area and how they split the cost of buying groceries and hire a Mexican woman from the same area to come everyday and cook. They bought all the groceries in bulk (family size), and I'm sure they didn't splurge on organic. There must've been some significant savings in homecooked meal if they had a luxury to hire a cook. $5 would buy me 2.5 tacos here in NYC, it may well be a satisfying meal for most of us, but if you perform physical labor, it's nothing. I've seen Mexicans here down at least 5 tacos at once - it's $10, which until Jan 2006 was something like 2hr worth of minimum wage.

                                              2. re: Mandymac

                                                Most certainly you can cook a wholesome, tasty meal for lots less than $5 per person! You simply have to become less meat-centric, and plan your meals and shop wisely. Once you have your pantry stocked with basics, you can put fine meals on the table for $2 -$3 per head.

                                            2. It depends on your reality. Only each person can answer that question based on their circumstances and how diversely they eat.

                                              I have always had a small family and for me eating out is cheaper than cooking if honestly doing a comparison of the exact same restaurant food to the food I make myself.

                                              Being generous, I’m not even going to factor in my time which would definitely make eating at home cost-prohibitive. The time I would spend shopping, cooking, cleaning as opposed to using that time studying to increase my knowledge of my profession ... which increases my earning power ... couldn’t afford eating at home. But I’m not even going to factor that in.

                                              Is the heirloom tomato I buy at the market cheaper than the restaurant heirloom tomato? Absolutely. If I bought a package of seeds and grew my own heirloom tomato would it be cheaper than buying it at the farmers market? Absolutely.

                                              But there are no absolutes.

                                              Based only for a single tomato and not factoring in anything else, sure, home is cheaper.

                                              I wish there was an actual breakdown of costs instead of inaccurate quess-timates.

                                              Can I make pizza at home cheaper than pizza in a restaurant using the EXACT same ingredients if I had access to them? Sure. Will it be the same pizza? Nope.

                                              Of course I could go out and buy a wood-fired oven ... and wood ... and in some cases trot over to Italy and study pizza-making so that I could make the exact same pizza ... and if I made enough pizzas over my lifetime I could amortize all those costs including having a home that is large enough to support all that equipment (not to mention how that would raise my taxes) ... and ... it would still cost me more than buying a pizza at Nizza la Bella.

                                              Multiply that by the conservatively 15 different cuisines that I’ve eaten over the past year ... to duplicate my restaurant experience would send me to bankruptcy.

                                              No matter how cleverly I recycled my leftovers in terms spices, oils, equipment needed, for my two person household, I’d still be throwing out tons of unused items.

                                              Not to mention all those cooking magazines / books I buy and rarely use. And how about the food I ruin while getting to the perfect product. I just sold my $200 food processor that I used twice for $40. How much did those two meals I used it for cost me? That is my reality and not that of another person.

                                              How about the gas I spend running around collecting the food, cooking utensils and everything else I would need to duplicate a number of cuisines.

                                              I couldn't so much as duplicate the same loaf of artisan bread cheaper ... or even the Krispy Kreme donut.

                                              For me, eating the same food I eat in restaurants is WAY cheaper than eating at home.

                                              13 Replies
                                              1. re: rworange

                                                The economic benefits of cooking at home kick in when you do it regularly enough to have established a repertoire of dishes and accumulated the necessary equipment and staple ingredients.

                                                If you mostly eat out and every time you cook at home you buy a cookbook, some equipment, and a bunch of ingredients you'll only use a small portion of, then cooking is a relatively expensive hobby.

                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                  Even if its an expensive hobby.... it has hobby value which needs to be measured. I find cooking extremely entertaining, challenging & creative. Since my work most stimulates the left side of my brain... cooking is an invaluable addition to my human experience.

                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                    Yep. That's why I said it depends on the person and their circumstances.

                                                    I get what some people say about cooking stimulating thinking and most of my work is left brain ... but eating out is also stimulating and wakes up lots of right brain activity if exploring lots of different cuisines ... and because I'm at a computer most of the day it is a chance to easily interact with people from all different cultures that I'd be unlikly to otherwise meet ... and I'm learning foreign languages just from eating out ... so figure free lanugage lessons into my costs ... almost as good as a ticket overseas and definately an addition to my own human experience.

                                                    It's a different thing for everyone ... just a different perspective on my experience with the cost/eating out thing.

                                                  2. re: rworange

                                                    A few thoughts:

                                                    Given that you have bought and sold expensive kitchen equipment, gone through oils and spices, and accumulated cooking mags and books, is it fair to say that you do have an interest in home cooking, but are perhaps frustrated? Maybe the experience is not the same at your table versus the restaurants you like, but both home cooking and restaurant dining have their merits. Don't give up because you haven't made the spot-on perfect copy of your favorite bistro haunt. Explore a little. And remember - it can take years to build up a cooking arsenal; after awhile, however, you won't need to run all over chasing pots and knives and sieves.

                                                    Running around? Doesn't it take time and gas and money to hunt down restaurants experiences? Not being snarky, but it seems that unless you have a veritable UN in your backyard, you're going to have to spend the aforementioned in order to eat 15 or more cuisines in a year.

                                                    Okay - small household. I have been a household of one, of two, of four, now down to three. One suggestion: a freezer. I had one even as a singleton (they make them small, too). One weekend afternoon of home cooking various basic recipes can leave you with a multitude of options for further embellishment at a later date, or lunches for a few days. That sort of planning can leave you plenty of time for further study on your career path, extra money for a fabulously decadent artisanal bread, or an extra chunka change at the end of the month for exploring another cuisine.

                                                    A friend of mine was a chef who made sublime meals at a very popular and well regarded restaurant. At work, he had all the bells and whistles and equipment and mise. Still, he could work the same magic in his tiny apartment kitchen for us on odd times off. It's not the CARGO that we have for cooking (although it can help), it's the enthusiasm. You seem to have enthusiasm for food and a broad knowledge of cuisines. You might try dabbling a little more and see what comes of it.

                                                    1. re: rworange

                                                      You obviously enjoy eating out. And I'm glad you do, because I enjoy reading about it. However, you often go to interesting ethnic places. It seems to me that the type of food you write about would be difficult to recreate at home--complex and with unusual ingredients. What about people (my MIL comes to mind) who often eat at mid- or high-range restaurants and always get a piece of fish or chicken that has been marked WAY up? Anyone can cook a piece of salmon and some rice. Anyone can roast a chicken and mash some potatoes. I guess if people enjoy it and can afford it... why not. But it ISN'T cheaper.

                                                      1. re: Glencora

                                                        I think no matter what is ordered it depends.

                                                        I conceded in my first post that if an identical tomato is purchased in a restaurant or in a market for that tomato eating at home wins.

                                                        Raw material-wise for a single serving with no other consideration, sure it is cheaper to eat at home. Either end of the scale though ... lowbrow or highbrow ... is where if a real breakdown was done, eating out can be cheaper.

                                                        One week of eating out and one week of eating in ... grocery bill ... much less, proabably at least half.

                                                        Will identical food be eaten. No.

                                                        The big objection at the beginning of this topic was comparing the cost of the organic dinner at home to the cheap-o Italian joint. A lot of the comparisons here are just as invalid.

                                                        Here's tonight's Chez Panisse menu at the top of the eating chain ...

                                                        Friday, November 3 $85
                                                        An apéritif
                                                        Louisiana white shrimp salad with saffron and savoy cabbage
                                                        Wild mushroom risotto with Parmesan
                                                        Grilled Sonoma County Liberty duck breast with quince, butternut squash blinis, and Beaujolais sauce
                                                        Meyer lemon, huckleberry, and vanilla ice cream bombe

                                                        If trying to put that exact menu together at home matching ingrediant by ingrediant ... we're not talking about going out and buying a pint of Ben & Jerry's vanilla ... but making that exact menu with the fancy $$ vanilla and, I'm guessing Strauss cream etc., the outlay in bucks and time would be stratospheric.

                                                        We are not even talking the equipment or education needed to produce that meal.

                                                        Yeah, I'd have a lot of reusable items and leftovers, but then I'm stuck eating the same wild mushroom risotto day after day. I see myself reaching into the freezer night after night and thinking "What? Meyer lemon, huckleberry, and vanilla ice cream bombe... again?"

                                                        And the waste, at least for me would be like throwing money away. I hate the pricy bottle of apéritif I bought and toss it ... the savoy cabbage wilts in the fridge ... what the heck am I going to do with this leftover half-quince ... and so it goes.

                                                        And as I said in the original post, it depends on your reality ... some people are clever and would be whipping up savoy cabbage and quince salad with vanilla vinagrette the next night and packing duck sandwiches. In my situation, a loss ... not to mention the nervous breakdown I'd have putting the meal together ... all those mental health bills and valium which I'd probably be downing with the extra Beaujelais from the sauce ... causing additional health problems.

                                                        As to the healthiness of eating out, for me it is the reason I often eat out at Thanksgiving. I don't want to be scarfing down leftover gravy, stuffing, pumpkin pie etc for the next few weeks.

                                                        1. re: rworange

                                                          That's not a wildly complicated menu, any accomplished home cook could pull it off. The ingredient cost would be roughly $35 a person. Since you can purchase just the amount of shrimp and duck you need, I wouldn't expect any leftovers except part of a cabbage and a few blinis.

                                                          CP's aperetif is usually a homemade vin d'orange or d'pamplemousse. Cheap and easy to make, though you have to make it a month or two ahead.

                                                          1. re: rworange

                                                            I have some friends & relatives in the restaurant business. You will be surprised how often high-end restaurants use fairly generic ingredients from big plastic tubs. I think home cooks that cook upscale typically way overdue it on special ingredients... the expensive bourbon vanilla in the artisan bottle etc., (restaurants rarely go to that level).

                                                            1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                              I and the other upscale home cooks I know have mostly figured out by trial and error what's worth spending money on.

                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                Well, as stated, different strokes for different folks.

                                                        2. re: rworange

                                                          From tworange: For me, eating the same food I eat in restaurants is WAY cheaper than eating at home...

                                                          But do we eat the same foods at home as at restaurants?

                                                          I grew up in a large family without a lot of money in a city with few restaurants. Eating out was always a treat and we carried our lunches and ate dinner at home almost always - if we ate out it was at another relative or friend's house, where the food was also home-cooked. So I really never got into the restaurant habit, and even though I could afford to go out we eat at home most days. When I go to a restaurant I get something I don't usually make at home, often because my husband doesn't like it or I don't have the equipment or ingredients at hand. For example, I don't try to make Chinese or Thai food at home, although I use flavors from those cuisines in my home cooking.

                                                          Everyday meals for us are heavy on simply prepared meat, fish or poultry with lots of vegetables and sometimes pasta, rice or potatoes. I usually spend 30 minutes tops on a weekday dinner, because I don't usually get home and into the kitchen until around 7:00. My meals are cheaper on average than chain restaurant meals and way more nutritious than the less expensive fast food alternatives.

                                                          On the other hand, when I cook for a dinner party, I think the quality of my meals is solidly comparable to those at a good restaurant (not Thomas Keller type good) at a fraction of the cost. But they're different - home cooking as opposed to restaurant cooking.

                                                          1. re: rworange

                                                            I guess we're one of the few that believe that--under certain circumstances--it is possible to eat cheaply out than in.

                                                            I think we agree with the many, that it's GENERALLY cheaper to eat at home, but only a few of us know there's always those shades of gray that defy common held beliefs.

                                                            1. re: OCAnn

                                                              There are exceptions to every rule. Most of the ones we've identified here regard particular dishes eaten occasionally rather than daily practices.

                                                              Coffee's a great example--if you only drink it once a year, it's cheaper to go to a cafe. But if you drink several cups a day, making it at home will save you hundreds of dollars a year.

                                                          2. I agree that if you cook regularly, have a basic rep to work from and have a fairly well stocked kitchen, it is less expensive to cook at home. If you don't however have this going on and/or are cooking for one, for some items it's less expensive to go out (within reason)...and that was my original point of the comments I made.

                                                            The other thing that people sort of infer is enthusiasm and "groove". If I'm cooking for someone else when I get home it's sort of a communal thing and thus easier. If I'm cooking for myself I find myself sort of puttering around thinking of what I should cook, or should I just go out and about portions.

                                                            Anther thing is cost effectiveness against how much you earn and what is the value of your time. There was research done about "outsourcing" daily chores and what is cost-effective. It was pretty amazing to see. Stuff like if you made $40k in an average city it was cost-effective to have someone else cut your lawn, etc. etc. As people's schedule's get busier, this makes sense -- cut the yard at your hourly or spend time w/ family? (To be fair maybe you need to average your hourly w/i 24 hours...still...(

                                                            Any way on this premise, if your time is worth $20 p/h buying a $10 meal might be more cost effective. If your time is worth $40-$50 or more per/hour a $15 buck meal is cost effective. Likewise, if two people each make about $30 p/hr each, that's a combined $60 p/h. A $40 buck meal might be cost effective if you spend one hour on it...or it might not. The only caveat is if you truly enjoy cooking and you get value out of that...or if you're cooking for a large group.

                                                            6 Replies
                                                            1. re: ML8000

                                                              Oh, I really want to seem like neither an idiot nor a harpie, but I truly do not understand this time-is-money argument. I can see it being relevant if you are a freelancer (like I am) where every hour at home can be spent working, but then: where is life? I can see it in certain high-buck, high-profile jobs where the dining out is part of the, shall we say, schmooze. But for someone on a mid-level salary (salary, meaning: this is what you are paid per year, period), I don't see the argument. Even on an hourly basis, how many hours (really?) can you work? And the average hourly worker has even less money with which to go dining out. Is the hypothetical couple each making $30/hour going to finish their meal, then go back to work until the next one? I may be WAY out of touch here, but I would really love to hear the rationale behind this time:money dining.

                                                              1. re: cayjohan

                                                                If it costs you $2 to cook something at home and $5 to get the same food in a restaurant, the restaurant is more expensive, whether you make $7 or $70 an hour.

                                                                The more money you make, the less likely you are to care, but that's another topic.

                                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                  Yes, yes yes. I didn't articulate very well my basic position, and that is: it costs less, ultimately to cook.I can work while the chicken is roasting, while the stock is simmering, even make a call while making oatmeal for a kid. I guess the rationale I didn't quite see is that the time one spends making food could net you a another dime doing something else.
                                                                  You and I are on the same page, RL.

                                                                2. re: cayjohan

                                                                  I'm a freelancer, too. Many days, I walk to the market to pick out something nice to make for dinner. Usually, I drag my SO away from his work (he's a freelancer, too)and make him come with me. Sure driving would be faster and we don't both need to go, but it's often the best part of my day. I don't want to give it up to work for another hour or so. I suppose if I thought of my time as worth X amount of money I wouldn't be able to justify gardening, either. It would be way cheaper to pay someone who time is "worth" less than mine to do it for me. That seems really depressing.

                                                                  You're right, also, that for average hourly workers, that time-is-money argument makes even less sense.

                                                                  1. re: cayjohan

                                                                    Sorry I don't have the article/link to the info. If I find it I'll post it. I can't argue one way or another on it but can say it makes sense to me. It can't be applied to everything and you're right about you can only work so hours, etc., etc. AND I did say that if you enjoy something it really doesn't matter. Certainly my example wasn't perfect but I stand by it in concept.

                                                                    Examples: fixing your own car vs. paying a mechanic. I've rebuild engines but to me it's less hassle and less expensive to bring it to mechanic. Same with complex meals I can't or won't cook at home like frying a chicken. To clean, cut and fly a whole chicken and clean up the mess would take 2.5+ hours. Say my time is worth $50 p/hr - in my mind it's cheaper to go buy a $15 buck dinner. Even if I averaged $50.00 @ 8 hrs then divided by 24 hours in a day, I get $16 bucks per/hr. 3 x $16 = $48. If I cook for more then one the price goes down. If I cook for left over the prices goes down...but for one person buying is still less expensive.

                                                                    Of course if you factor in your "pleasure and fun" you get from cooking, that would over ride the whole concept since you're getting something else from the process.

                                                                    1. re: ML8000

                                                                      By that logic, it's cheaper for me to pay someone $50 to clean my house, since if I did it myself, it would take five hours and "cost" $250 of my time.

                                                                      But my real reasoning is, I simply don't want to spend my limited free time cleaning. Even if I made the same hourly wage as the cleaner, so long as I was working full-time I'd indulge in that luxury.

                                                                3. Cooking really isn't that hard or expensive. You don't have to make the bread from scratch to make a sandwich. You don't have to clean and cut a chicken to make fried chicken. It really could not take 2 hours to fry some chicken, although I can understand that it might be a lot easier to buy it. Sometimes I cook for pleasure, sometimes I cook because it's cheaper than getting takeout or going out.

                                                                  1. I notice a common theme here: that many chowhounds want variety, which is great, obviously no one would be here if they enjoyed eating the same thing every night. But eating in when you are mainly cooking one type of cuisine - say an immigrant either married or living with other immigrants who is satisfied w/their own culture's cuisine night after night, is going to be a LOT cheaper than eating anything out. rworange mentioned this.

                                                                    Variety is clearly a luxury and is something you have to spend more on, whether in or out. i have never made pad thai at home, but would not try to knowing the costs involve. to save money (minimally ;) i buy most of what i need to eat at home. i go out to celebrate w/friends or if a craving strikes, but i'm not going to tell myself it's saving money - it's giving in to wanting a certain food or allowing money for entertainment.

                                                                    1. I think really you're going to see that meals are cheaper when you eat out where what you're getting would incur big initial costs if you tried to make it at home. Coffee was my initial example but dim sum is another one. There are probably other good examples.

                                                                      1. To show the opposite point, during those rare moments when I'm actually at a cafe, I've always been amazed at the number of people buying breakfast muffins at $2.50 a pop. Considering the intial costs of labor/mats are low, I never understood why people didn't just bring their own muffin to work. and if they were regulars at the cafe, they probably ought to have made their coffee at home too, but that's another issue.

                                                                        2.50x12=$30 for the cost of 12 cafe muffins. you could make your first batch of muffins for much less than that even if you buy every single piece of equipment and ingredient for that batch. You can freeze the rest of the muffins for later breakfasts. so you actually make back your money in the first batch of muffins!

                                                                        I find that steak dinners also have low labor/initial startup costs. this generally means that steak dinners tend to be way cheaper to make at home than to go out for the equivalent dinner, esp becuase a lot of the steakhouses charge for the sides separately from the steak.

                                                                        19 Replies
                                                                        1. re: choctastic

                                                                          Well, you win. Your logical breakdown seals it for me where no one else's did. You presented the figures. Yep, it is cheaper to eat at home than out.

                                                                          1. re: rworange

                                                                            Well, not always, because not all things have such low initial costs as muffins do. the key is determining how much it's going to cost you to set yourself up to make this food and how much of the stuff you're going to eat (cost/benefit)

                                                                            1. re: choctastic

                                                                              In a contrasting example -- one of my favorite foods are scallops. The big diver scallops. In Philadelphia (where I live) I can get a good scallop dish in a restaurant for around $25.

                                                                              The only good place near my home to buy scallops is whole foods, where to buy two servings (for my husband and I) will cost about $20. Add in all of the extras, one good quality scallop dish for the two of us will likely cost around $30-35. And we can't make it anywhere near as good as I would get in a restaurant. So while I would never get chicken or shrimp in a restaurant b/c I could easily cook at home, there are certain things that just don't cost THAT much more and are worth it.

                                                                              1. re: DanielleM

                                                                                Whole Foods' markup is exceptionally high. It's not a place to shop if you're on a budget, stuff often costs twice what it does elsewhere. And where I live, their seafood's not very good.

                                                                                1. re: DanielleM

                                                                                  yeah, too bad you don't have a better place for scallops. Trader Joes near me has these divine frozen scallops from japan (sashimi quality) that I love esp for $10 per pound bag.

                                                                                  1. re: choctastic

                                                                                    Oh i actually have a trader joe's nearby -- but frozen scallops? Maybe I've just been too timid to give them a try....are you giving me a recommendation? And how can a frozen scallop be sashimi quality? Doesn't sashimi quality indicate that it can be eaten raw? I didn't think you could eat scallops raw.

                                                                                    1. re: DanielleM

                                                                                      Sashimi's often been frozen. Kills some parasites.

                                                                                      1. re: DanielleM

                                                                                        Absolutely you can eat scallops raw - it's called hotate or hotategai. Here's a picture of hotate nigiri:

                                                                                        http://rgmjapan.tripod.com/SUSHIGALLE...

                                                                                        A lot of different shellfish are served raw as sashimi or sushi - look around the site while you're there.

                                                                                        And RL is right about a lot of sashimi being frozen both for preservation and to kill parasites.

                                                                                        1. re: DanielleM

                                                                                          Most Sashimi served in Japan & the U.S. (non-fancy restaurants) is flash frozen at sea. Its very hard to get never-frozen as fresh. Texture suffers a tiny bit... but most of us would never know the difference.

                                                                                          1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                            wow, thanks for the info, i really learned something new. Maybe i'll head out to TJs and pick up some scallops.

                                                                                          2. re: DanielleM

                                                                                            actually i did try them raw but they're not as good as at the sushi place of course. when they're frozen i guess the freezing makes the outside tougher. the sushi bars near me shuck them live in front of me and there's really no comparison. However, for a cooked pasta type dish, i think these scallops are pretty good. there are some other frozen scallops they sell that are cheaper but i haven't tried those. to be honest I don't have a comprehensive scallop buying background so there could be better sources.

                                                                                  2. re: choctastic

                                                                                    And once you have the $20 worth of basic baking equipment, you can make a dozen or more muffins or cookies at home for the price of one bought in a store. And homemade are usually better!

                                                                                    Working people who buy coffee and a muffin every weekday morning and a sandwich or whatever every weekday lunchtime are spending around $2000 a year on that luxury.

                                                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                      one could even lower initial costs on those muffins by buying the pan at goodwill ($1) and getting the ingredients during december when baking goods are always on sale ($6?) So muffins are one area where it's financially irrational to continue to buy them at the cafe because a product of equal quality (or better) is easy to make and much cheaper.

                                                                                      1. re: choctastic

                                                                                        But what if you want a different flavor of muffin every day? My household is really too small to consume a dozen muffins before I get bored of the same one again and again. They end up getting thrown out.

                                                                                        Basically I think those of us who are fussy and easily bored don't care if eating out is more expensive. It is a luxury we are willing to pay for.

                                                                                        1. re: wombat

                                                                                          Muffins freeze very well. No reason to throw them out.

                                                                                          1. re: wombat

                                                                                            One word: Mini muffins. Make two different batters and bake 12 of one kind and 12 of the other at the same time. Refrigerate the unused batter. Three days later (about the lifespan of a muffin, I think), do it again (about the lifespan of the refrigerated batter). Add some nuts (you bought 'em from a bin, cheap) or another fruit (the strawberries that might be a little bit long of tooth to eat out of hand) to the two refrigerated batters = it's 4 different kinds of muffins in a week! Cheap and fast and the pride and tastiness that comes w/ homemade.

                                                                                            1. re: wombat

                                                                                              most people who buy muffins at a cafe, usually buy the same muffin everyday

                                                                                              1. re: welle

                                                                                                Really? What a waste.

                                                                                                I am impressed by the degree of planning you are all capable of but it's never going to happen at my house. I was going to ask if any of you would let me move in with you but then I realized - I don't like muffins that much. I'm holding out for someone who bakes croissants at home.

                                                                                              2. re: wombat

                                                                                                I have a basic bran muffin recipe that lasts 10-12 days in the fridge. You mix up the whole batch, then spoon out just as many as you want to bake fresh each day, flavoring the smaller batch with whatever....nuts, chips, coconut, lemon zest, poppy seeds, extracts, etc. A relatively simple process...even cleanup is easy if you use muffin tin liners.

                                                                                        2. IMO restaurants are a deal if you don't know how to cook, and wind up buying premade/expensive stuff in the store. If you like cooking there are many advantages to staying home, the therapeutic aspects, cheap alcohol, and control over the food (I often prefer my own cooking to what I'll get in a restaurant). Considering most things I cook last a few days and some supplies can last much longer (sauces, stocks) I think there's no question that the cost of cooking at home is also lower.

                                                                                          Having said that I do very much enjoy going to restaurants to learn about new ways to cook.

                                                                                          1. Good quality ingredients are expensive. We have excellent shops, but fresh fish and seafood, and top quality meat and poultry are expensive. Cheese is expensive.

                                                                                            Eating at home using good quality food and wine is expensive. Dining in good restaurants with good food and wine is more expensive.

                                                                                            Eating out can be cheap... under $15 per person, but it is rarely particularly good, the service is poor, and the ambiance leaves a lot to be desired

                                                                                            Maybe if you're single it makes sense, but is not realistic for a family.

                                                                                            1. from the link: "NRA surveys show that diners increasingly view restaurants as extensions of their own homes, and a large percent would like to see table-top TVs installed at their favorite eating joint."

                                                                                              shock. horror.

                                                                                              *********

                                                                                              btw. was this article brought to us by the American Association of Resteraunteers or sumsuchcrap?

                                                                                              1. i got a starbucks card for christmas so i checked it out. holy cow this place is selling apple cider for $2.55! you could buy a half gallon of the stuff at trader joes for 50 cents more and there's nothing about the starbucks version that is better unless you count putting whipped cream and a caramel swirl on top better. in fact i got the cider just to see and it tasted like that stuff in the packet that i remember having long ago. starbucks was packed too and a huge line.

                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                1. re: choctastic

                                                                                                  seriously? whipped cream and caramel on cider? is that legal? shouldn't be.

                                                                                                2. You can duplicate all the STARBUCK'S drinks, lattes and Frappacino at home using DA VINCI syrups, regular or sugar free. I do this myself.

                                                                                                  I also enjoy going to STARBUCK'S with a friend or by myself, and sitting down in a nice setting and having a nice drink and dessert.

                                                                                                  Eating home may be cheaper, but there is something really nice about going out for a coffee or a drink.