Is Eating out Cheaper than Cooking at Home

Practically anyone will tell you that when it comes to eating, it’s far cheaper to cook at home than to dine out. But is this really true? What you are about to read just may surprise you.

According to Bank of America Merrill Lynch, the average household budget allotted to dining out has jumped to approximately 4.5% over the past 3 years. On the other hand, grocery bills now exceed this amount. Prices at the average supermarket are increasing at a rate of about 6% a year, or about 2.5 times as fast as meals served in restaurants.

Farmers are not as economically secure as they once were, and every time their labor costs rise, so does the price of the food they grow. In particular, wheat and corn prices have skyrocketed.

While it’s difficult to place a tangible value on time, there is no question that preparing meals at home indeed takes time. In a literal sense, shopping for the groceries themselves takes time, but so does dining out in a restaurant. Likewise, the fuel and wear on the car will be about the same whether one makes a trip to the supermarket or to the restaurant, so effectively, these costs more or less cancel each other out.

However, the advantage of time saved remains relevant in regard to preparing and cooking the meal itself as opposed to dining out. For instance, it may take five or six hours to bake that Thanksgiving turkey at home. In a restaurant, you may have to wait an hour at the most, and that’s only if the establishment is either extremely busy or staffed by inexperienced personnel. Thus, one could make that extra 4-5 hours more productive by earning money doing something else! As for cooking something more out of the ordinary that doesn’t take nearly as long, it’s still far more relaxing to spend that time driving to a restaurant of your choice.

One must consider other aspects as well. Not only can cooking take more time than dining out, but the ensuing mess afterwards also has to be cleaned up! In today’s fast-paced society, it is decidedly easier to go to a restaurant, order food, eat it when it arrives, and then not have to worry about washing dishes, scrubbing pots and pans, and wiping the table down.

If everyone ate out most of the time, there would be no need to have a gas or electric stove, a large refrigerator, cupboards to hold cooking utensils and packaged food, dishwashing soap, or for that matter, dishes. A person could probably get away with paper plates, plastic eating utensils and cups, a small microwave oven and a tiny cube-style refrigerator like those found in college dorm rooms. Just imagine the savings in utility bills or for that matter, living space. A full-sized stove, refrigerator, and a dishwasher could easily cost over $2000. A small cube-style refrigerator and a microwave? About $250.

It should be noted that in the scenario described above, ready-made meals, such as TV dinners or frozen pizzas should count as being the same as take-out Chinese food or a quarter pounder with cheese meal from McDonald’s. The only difference is that the former items have to be nuked in the microwave. Come to think of it, that quarter-pounder might, too, if you get stuck in traffic.

The bottom line is this: Provided you don’t order New York Strip or Maine lobster every night, eating out can definitely be cheaper than cooking at home when taking the true, hidden costs into consideration. With grocery prices going through the roof and the hassles of buying several ingredients that could very likely go to waste after putting yourself through the hassles of cooking and cleaning up after a meal in the first place, an increasing number of people are opting for eating out, even in these tough economic times.

Many will not agree with this assessment, but as that supermarket receipt’s numbers continue to climb, a change of heart will likely follow.