Cost of Dining Out
For decades, Americans were told dining out is more cost effective than cooking at home. Than can the Great Recession of 2008. Americans hit hard by the recession realized it was cheaper cooking at home. So many stopped eating out that many restaurants went out of business or bankrupt. Even as of 2014, the restaurant industry hasn’t recovered to the per 2008 levels.
Cost of Dining Out
According to an October 2014 issue of Time magazine, Americans, on average, spend $150 per week on food. That comes to $7,800 per year, $600 per month or about $21 per day. That is rarely enough for two restaurant meals per day.
A fast food breakfast can cost $5, fast food lunch or dinner $7 to $10. There are hundreds of promotions and discounts, but even then you are looking at $10 to $15 per day for fast food. These are prices in the metropolitan Phoenix area. Your actual cost can be higher or lower.
Cost Savings of Home Cooking
I eat mostly home cooked meals and have tracked my food costs for over 10 years.
My entire 2014 food cost for one person, excluding alcohol and occasional dinning out, was $1780 and $1676 for 2013. That averages out to less than $5 per day including sales tax. My average monthly cost was about $150. That is $150 per month versus $150 per week! A 75 percent savings. I don’t know about you, but to me that is significant.
A local news channel ran a story about a women who was struggling to get by on food assistance of $4.13 per day. The story showed a paper plate holding a sad looking peanut butter sandwich and the woman states she was always hungry.
My $5 per day food budget included, fish, chicken, steak, an occasional prime steak, frozen vegetables and more. Most were unprocessed or minimally processed foods. I still have a large jar of peanut butter I bought in 2013.
If your diet consists of primarily processed foods, you will spent considerable more on food. Not only are you paying someone else to cook your food, but you are also paying for packaging. Sometimes a lot of packaging. Think about those convent frozen entrees and how much food you get compared to the box and dish you throw out.
A one pound box of pasta and a jar of pasta sauce will make about 8 frozen pasta meals for a fraction of the cost.
Time is Money
That is the biggest argument for dining out, ordering delivery, or eating frozen entrees. The time you would spend shopping, preparing meals, and cleaning up is worth more than the cost of alternative dining.
Hmmm. If I save $5,000 per year per person. That adds up to a $50,000 savings for a signal person and up to a $200,000 savings for a family of four. Would I prefer that money in my retirement account or going towards an overpaid CEO’s salary and benefits?
The cost savings over a 30 to 40 year working career can be over $200,000 for a single person and that doesn’t taking inflation into account or compounding over 40 years. It could be the difference between retiring and working the rest of your life.
Health Cost of Dining Out
What is never considered when the agreement is made that dining out saves money is the added cost to your health.
Over 60 percent of Americans are now overweight. Although there are signs diabetes has leveled off, it still threatens millions of Americans
In addition to added weight, increased risk of of diabetes and heart disease, there are risks associated with eaten dozens of chemicals added to processed foods.
Many frozen entrees have such a long list of ingredients they are written in type sizes that are barely legible.
Here’s one example comparing homemade chicken soup with rice to canned chicken rice soup:
Homemade Chicken with Rice Soup
- Rice, any variety
Contains Less Than 2%
- Bay leave
Campbell’s Chicken with Rice Soup
- Chicken Stock
- Chicken Meat
Contains Less Than 2% (6 g or less)
- Modified food starch
- Chicken Fat
- Flavoring (Sesame seed oil)
- Potassium Chloride
- Chicken flavor
- Onions, dehydrated
- Mechanically separated chicken
- Garlic, dehydrated
- High fructose corn syrup
- Lower sodium natural sea salt
- Milk solids
- Beat carotene
- Sodium phosphate
- Soy protein isolate
- Yeast extract
- Nonfat dry milk
- Disodium Guanylate
- Disodium inosinate
- Torula chicken skins (flavor enhancer)
- Chicken, dehydrated
- Trace amounts of wheat
Not only do you get less expense mechanically separated chicken, high fructose corn syrup, nonfat dry milk, and torula chicken skins you also get a trace amount of wheat. Not good if you are on a gluten free diet.
You also get more salt than celery or onion. This is old chicken soup! Imagine the ingredients in a pasta or meatloaf meal.
The next time you hear someone defend the cost savings of dining out, keep in mind the real purpose is to separate you from your money regardless of the cost to your health and well being.