More and more people across the US are choosing to eat out than ever before. Sometimes it’s good just to sit back, relax, and let someone else do all the hard work. If the cost of eating out worries you, think again – sometimes eating out can be cheaper than cooking at home.
How Much is Your Time Worth?
When weighing up the benefits of home cooking over eating out, don’t forget to factor in your time. If you earn $10 an hour and shopping, prepping, cooking and clearing up after a meal takes you two hours, you could put that $20 towards a meal and let someone else worry about the dishes.
Factor In the Waste
You were organized and bought lovely fresh vegetables at the beginning of the week. You had good intentions of home cooking some tasty, wholesome meals for yourself. Only to find that by the time you get round to it (and you are not too tired to think of eating anything but grilled cheese), those lovely vegetables have got tired of waiting for you and have started to rot.
Just how much money do you think you waste each week on groceries that get thrown away? The average American family spends up to $2200 of unused food each year.
To avoid adding to the massive 35 million tons of food wasted in the USA each year, consider shopping little and often for fresh produce. You can buy what you need when you need it. This approach will cost you more in time, though, as you will be shopping more often, and you will not be able to save by buying in bulk.
Eating out means that you let the restaurant worry about the fresh grocery deliveries, and you can be certain that they know a thing or two about efficiency, so there is less chance of waste.
Are You a Good Cook?
Let’s face it – some people just aren’t very good at cooking. While we can all learn if we really try, there are times when a dish is just a little more than we can handle. You can try to rescue a dish with no flavor or something that has turned out tough or watery, but burnt food has gone forever.
In this instance, it is probably cheaper to eat out and have an expert show you how it’s done than to attempt something beyond our mere mortals’ abilities and end up paying for dinner twice.
Economies of Scale
Would you need to buy fancy ingredients for the dish you want to eat? Are you likely to use them again before they go off? Do you need any fancy equipment that you don’t have in your kitchen at home?
Your local restaurant is likely to have all the fancy ingredients and all the specialist equipment. They use that equipment many times and buy the ingredients in bulk at wholesale prices. Again, this is a time when going out for food might be more economical than cooking at home.
Holidays and Special Occasions
Meals like Christmas lunch and Thanksgiving dinner can often be cheaper at a restaurant than cooked at home. Whether you are eating in a large group, or just as a couple, businesses can buy in bulk and pass on the savings to their customers.
Plus you’ll get to spend more time with the people you care about than making sure the roast is done, and the veggies are not too soft. This time truly is valuable.
Coupons and Special Offers
Check out local publications and websites for coupons from your favorite food places. You can often make some great savings this way.
Right now, through Groupon, Papa John’s has an offer of two large pizzas and breadsticks or garlic knots for a knock-down $19.99 – a saving of over $48.50.
Discounts for Seniors or Students
Some restaurants offer deals for seniors, although they don’t often advertise the fact. Wendy’s, Taco Bell and Subway all offer ten percent off to those over 55, 65 and 60 respectively. You will need to ask to take advantage. And if you are only 54 and could pass for 55, we promise, we won’t tell!
Eat Lunch Out Instead of Dinner
Eating lunch out can save you cash in a few ways. In the middle of the day you are less likely to opt for dessert and less likely to go for alcoholic drinks which will raise the check significantly. If you order a large meal, you could also take the leftovers home with you for later.
Most restaurants will have a form of the happy hour deal, allowing diners to make savings for eating at the quieter times. Once you know where you’d like to eat, check out their website or Facebook page to find out when you can save cash.
Order an Appetizer Instead of a Main Course
If you know that you’ll never eat the whole of the main course dish, why not order an appetizer as your meal instead? Be sure to let the waiting staff know, so that they can bring out the meals at the right time.