Apr 24, 2008

No surprise: Cooking at home is cheaper than eating out

An LA Times editor did the kind of food experiment I would do if I had the time (and no kids): eat at mid-range restaurants and compare the cost to cooking at home.

He started out with quite a few rules, but most of them made sense to me: dinners only (because breakfast and lunch are so cheap to make), no $1 burgers from fast food joints, no alcohol. And he seems to have made the kind of meals I would make if I had the time: "seared, sesame-crusted wild albacore accompanied by haricot verts with shiitake mushrooms and toasted almonds and a side of organic yams" sounds delicious, although I probably wouldn't pair tuna with yams.

Here's the pertinent number-crunching:
The total for a week's worth of restaurant dinners for two was $257.08; home cooking: $148.14. Removing the outliers, a mid-range L.A. dinner was $40 for two, while shopping for insanely high-end ingredients at a snotty supermarket ran $18.
Sure, you might be able to eat out for less than you spend on groceries if you eat only the most inexpensive fast food. But if you want a healthy, well-rounded diet, cooking at home will always save you the most money. (And probably be healthier too!)


Anonymous said...

I think most people assume that eating at home is cheaper but it is great to see the figures. I do sometimes feel the need to eat out as I do not want to cook but I am often disappointed by the poor quality of food and the fact that my children will never eat it!

Kris said...

Word! Great article.

Grace. said...

Am I your only reader who HATES to cook? I cannot imagine personally preparing "sesame-encrusted" wild albacore, nor do I think my kid would eat it if I did. And aren't haricorts verte pretty much those green beans we used to feed to the dog under the table?

I've never doubted that it is cheaper to eat at home, and that includes gourmet meals. I'm practicing frugality, so I'm cooking. But I am NOT likeing it!

Chief Family Officer said...

@Rachel - I agree, it was nice to see someone actually do the math. And I too find that particularly when I go to a nice restaurant, I almost always think the price wasn't worth it compared to what I could have made myself!

@Kris - Right up your alley :)

@Grace - My kids wouldn't eat the tuna either. I myself love green beans, and I've gotten Tyler to eat it a few times (Alex is a hopeless cause, alas). I'll try to write a post for you in the next week or so on how to eat frugally at home if you don't like cooking! :)