Is Eating Out or Cooking Less Expensive?

Pin It

According to a 2011 report by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, now more than ever consumers are devoting more and more of their paycheck to eating out — almost 4.5 percent. And while a larger percentage of these paychecks still go to grocery spending, the percentage spent on dining out has grown increasingly since 2009.

So what does this mean exactly? Well while Americans have always been led to believe that cooking one’s own meals is the less-expensive option, certain economic factors actually make it more complicated than that.

Between work and raising a family, very few Americans have the spare time to shop and prepare meals each night. These things take time, which is not a luxury that many of us have. That, on top of the growing price of grocery food items, could mean that eating out may be becoming cheaper for the average consumer. Grocery store prices are increasing at a whopping 6 percent per year — almost two and a half times as fast as the cost of restaurant meals.

That made us wonder: Is it eating out really cheaper than cooking? So we decided to do a little self-analysis and compare various meals from well-known restaurant chains to their homemade counterparts. This is what we found.


1. Breakfast

Blueberry Banana Nut Oatmeal from Major Fast Food Chain: $2.49

Fresh blueberries, two full servings of natural whole grain oats, a satisfying crunch of premium walnuts, and a hint of banana

Homemade Blueberry Banana Nut Oatmeal: $2.00

Grocery Store Items:

  • Blueberries: $0.85
  • Bananas & cream instant oatmeal: $0.75
  • Walnuts: $0.40

Winner: About even


2. Lunch

Cobb Salad from Major Restaurant Chain: $7.99

Chargrilled chicken, crisp bacon, avocado, cheddar cheese, hard-boiled egg, black olives, tomatoes and bleu cheese on salad greens. Choice of dressing.

Homemade Cobb Salad: $10.40

Grocery Store Items:

  • Chicken breast: $2.25
  • Bacon: $1.50
  • Avocado: $0.50
  • Cheddar cheese: $1
  • Egg: $0.50
  • Black olives: $0.65
  • Tomatoes: $1
  • Bleu cheese: $1.50
  • Salad greens: $1
  • Dressing: $0.50

Winner: Eating Out


3. Dinner

Shrimp Primavera from Major Restaurant Chain: $14.75

Shrimp, bell peppers, onions and mushrooms in a bold arrabbiata sauce over penne.

Homemade Shrimp Primavera: $9.45

Grocery Store Items:

  • Shrimp: $5
  • Bell peppers: $1
  • Onion: $0.50
  • Mushrooms: $1
  • Spicy marinara sauce: $1
  • Penne pasta: $0.95

Winner: Cooking

So there you have it, there is really no clear answer for whether eating out or cooking is easier on your budget. Instead, you should learn to make educated decisions and maintain the right balance to be able to save on food costs regardless of whether you’re eating out or cooking for yourself.

Grocery store items calculated using prices at and adjusted to typical restaurant serving size. Poultry price based on 6-ounce portion of chicken. Seafood estimates based on one-third pound of shrimp. Eating out prices are calculated based on review of national food chain website price listings as of August 2012.

Enhanced by Zemanta
Pin It


Nivene obtained her Bachelors of Communication from Loyola University Chicago. She loves to discuss fashion, finance, TV and cupcakes. Rumor has it she loves owls and drinks too much coffee – that is yet to be determined. Find about more about her on Google +.


Recommended Posts