Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >
Oct 28, 2008 07:42 AM

Cheaper to Eat In or Out?

With the economy the way it is, I have watched the prices at the grocery store slowly creep up. I've watched my usual "go-to" meats and other products double and sometimes triple in price. As of right now, where I live, I find it to cheaper to go out to eat atleast a few times a week. Plus there's the whole bonus of not doing the dishes :) Has anyone really sat down, did the math and come to the same or opposite conclusion?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. It really depends on what kind of food you eat, both at home and out. I never eat fast food, I think it's awful in both taste and quality so the "cheapness" of that kind of meal is just not something I see.

    I also buy things and make ahead, buy 5 pounds of chicken legs instead of enough for 1 meal, make a recipe and freeze half, etc. It only takes a little while to get used to planning like this. I can get 3 dinners out of something I might make on a weekend. No way is that more expensive than going out anywhere I would eat. I mean, you can buy a bag of potatoes and have french fries, if that's what you want, at home for 2 weeks straight. Or you can spend that amount on two single orders of fries.

    1. Most of the time is cheaper for us to eat in. Simply for the fact that I like to drink some(alot) beers, and some(alot) tequila when we go out. So that inflates the dining bill a bit. When we eat at home the beer is cheap, and buying a bottle of tequila is alot cheaper than buying it by the shot.

      Some exceptions:

      We can get 1/2 a fried chcken at a local restaurant for $7 with potato, and salad. Probably less than I could do at home(peanut oil for the deep fryer alone costs $7

      Some places have specials duting the week that are cheaper than I can cook at home. Add to that what my time is worth cooking, and my wifes time for cleaning, and it is cheaper. Time is money afterall, and I have alot more money than time.

      1 Reply
      1. re: swsidejim

        Many restaurants here in Southeast Virginia are having "economy specials". Everything on the menu $5 etc. I must say, the deals have definitely piqued our interest.

      2. It can be, but there are a lot of variables involved. At home, I eat organic/free-range/grass-fed meat. So preparing a chicken at home will certainly be more expensive than ordering the chicken and rice at the Trini-Pak cart a few blocks away ($6 for an order so large I can make two meals out of it). Then again, I'm sure the Trini-Pak cart isn't using free-range chicken. But if I'm comparing the costs of my free-range roast chicken at home to those at Blue Hill, it's definitely cheaper to make it at home.

        And it also depends on how you shop at grocery stores and where you shop. If you tend to buy a lot of prepared foods at grocery stores, it may definitely be cheaper to eat out. If you buy your meat at Lobel's, it will probably be cheaper to eat out at most places. But most places don't use the quality of meat that Lobel's carries.

        And if you need to buy a whole bunch of esoteric ingredients to make a dish that you'll never use again, it's probably cheaper to eat out.

        So many factors involved. But for the way I eat, it is definitely cheaper to eat at home.

        1. I don't buy processed and/or prepared foods in tthe grocery store and cook from scratch. Because I enjoy cooking, I don't assign an opportunity cost to my time spent cooking and cleaning. I conclude that it is cheaper to eat at home. If my time were costed at the same rate as I earn working, eating at home wouldn't make sense at all.

          1. For us it's definitely cheaper to eat at home. That doesn't mean we don't eat out, but we've always limited it. Yesterday we had a lot of errands to do all around the lunch hour. It would have been impractical to come back home. So we dashed into McDonalds for a quickie! We ordered one of their meals and a second sandwich only. It was almost $7. I can certainly fix a better and cheaper lunch at home. When shopping, we head straight for the "clearance" meats, those that are marked down 30-50%, and for the specials like a big pork shoulder roast for $1.29/#. I have a well stocked pantry so can always make some kind of main dish out of it. I'm still having sticker shock over the cost of produce but am forcing myself to deal with it. I haven't bought fennel in a while for that reason but I am buying a few mushrooms. I realized that I had been buying too many mushrooms and that three or four is fine most of the time. I would guess that over 75% of the things we buy at the grocery is some type of mark down. We actually think it's a fun game to figure out ways to save. On the eating out side of the equation, we have always shared especially breakfast. A "normal" breakfast out is two eggs, a decent serving of bacon or sausage, hash browns and two pieces of toast. That's twice as much as we would have individually at home. We were in San Francisco recently and went to a sports bar to watch a football game. We shared a burger and fries and it was plenty. Either of us could have eaten a whole burger but we didn't. That lets us have that beer or wine we want for what a non-drinker pays for two entrees. My motto about life in general is "Everything in moderation including moderation!" Bon appetit.