How Much Does it Cost to Eat Out?

November 5, 2013
what is the cost of eating out

Hello November. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness have kept me busy lately; I’ve been burning the midnight oil, putting in 70 hour weeks at work, dropping a few more on the blog and spending every spare minute with the darling men in my life. The load started to take its toll last week and I found myself with the chills and sniffles. Daniel confined me to bedrest.

Being sick had its perks, I watched TV and ate chocolate in bed, but it meant skipping my Sunday afternoon meal prep session. With work being the way it has been, I did not find the time to cook during the rest of the week. So we ate out instead.

Canada’s Restaurant and Food Services Association reported that people aged 18-34 were likely to eat out twice a week. A survey by Visa Canada estimates that 20% of Ontarians eat, on average, three lunches out a week. Last week we dined out three times.

Eating out gets expensive quickly. Health issues aside, let’s take a look at the cost of eating out vs. eating in.

[table]”Eating Out (3 dinners, 1 lunch*)”
“1 Bowl of congee, vegetable stir fry, General Tao’s chicken, 1 bowl of rice”, $30.49
“2 Burgers from South St. Burger (no fries, no drink)”, $14.13
2 Bowls of Kamjatang (Korean pork bone soup), $18.06
TOTAL, $62.67
Cost per meal, $12.53
*The order of Chinese food had enough for lunch the next day., “”

When I’m not a feeble incapacitated version of myself, our weekly grocery list looks something like this:

[table]”Eating In (5 dinners, 5 lunches)”
1 6-lb Chicken, $13.75
“1 Small CSA box, holding approximately one week’s worth of vegetables”, $25.00
2-lb Chinese vegetables, $4.00
2 Heads of brocolli, $1.99
1 Bag of carrots, $2.83
Herbs (parsley and thyme), $3.39
1.5-lb Sweet potatoes, $1.49
2 Salmon steaks, $9.02
3 Chorizo sausages, $3.39
TOTAL, $64.85
Cost per meal, $6.49

While quick and easy, the three meals we had out last week were unmemorable. The convenience cost us $62.67, averaging $12.50 per meal. In contrast, eating in would have cost us about the same, but the amount spent goes much further (5 dinners and 5 lunches) which comes out to be $6.50/meal- that is almost 50% less than eating out! No question about it, eating in is definitely the more budget friendly option.

Apparently, 71% of Americans agree and find themselves saving money by cooking at home. More and more people consider eating out a form of luxury and are willing to cut spending in other places to dine out. Here are a few more mouth watering tidbits from a survey based on a Harris poll taken last year:

TurboTax-Cooking-vs-Dining-OutInfographic via TurboTax

A fresh start to the new month gives us a chance to hit the reset button on a costly week of dining out. I’ve still got a hectic schedule ahead, but this week I’m armed with a meal plan that’s back on track and a fridge full of groceries. If we can get the grocery spending down, who knows, maybe Daniel will consider the luxury of a tasting menu?

Is dining out worth the convenience?

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  • Reply dojo November 5, 2013 at 10:58 AM

    Dining out is not a luxury most of the time, unless you can really afford some seriously good food (and most of the junk food and the crap restaurants sell is not good food). If you’re cooking at home, not only you’re saving money, but you have access to fresh ingredients and good quality produce. We don’t cook anything processed, we’re doing it from scratch, with excellent ingredients. Paying for such food at a restaurant wouldn’t be 20 bucks/meal, that’s clear. So, unless we’d eat in a restaurant that had the same care for freshness and excellent ingredients, the luxury is not to eat there, it’s a concession we’re making if we don’t want to spend the time cooking.

    • Reply Emily November 5, 2013 at 5:17 PM

      I agree, dining out is not a luxury when the food is not made with fresh ingredients, made by young twenty-somethings with no chef training (as in many chain restaurants), and/or simple enough to be made at home for less. I like to reserve eating out for “seriously good food”, but I spent too much of our eating out budget on “convenience” foods last week (shame on me!)

  • Reply save. spend. splurge. November 5, 2013 at 1:23 PM

    I don’t really dine out unless I eat the good stuff which runs at least $30 – $40 a meal. Otherwise, it’s better to eat at home…. although some meals are quite cheap as is — pho, ramen.. in the $12 range, the rest of it is mostly junk and crap food, as dojo points out.

    • Reply Emily November 5, 2013 at 5:19 PM

      We prefer to eat at home, not only because of its cost, but because our home cooked food is generally tastier. We do go out for pho, ramen, sushi because I don’t know how to make that at home; plus, a small pho only sets me back $7.

  • Reply Eva @ Girl Counting Pennies November 5, 2013 at 4:00 PM

    I used to eat out regularly and it’s definitely a luxury! I still enjoy enjoy eating out occasionally as to me it’s more an experience than just a plain meal. I like going to new restaurants and soak in the ambiance. I don’t think I could ever give up eating out completely, I enjoy it too much! Cooking at home definitely works out much cheaper but can be a bit of a hassle when you’re tired or simply can’t be bothered. I hope you feel better and your cold’s gone!!

    • Reply Emily November 5, 2013 at 5:11 PM

      I couldn’t give up eating out. Like you, I like trying new restaurants and enjoy the social aspect of dining out. I am trying to cut down on the “convenience eats” and spend money on good food at good restaurants for the experience.

      My cold is gone (finally), thank you!

  • Reply Well Heeled Blog November 6, 2013 at 9:22 PM

    My challenge is that I don’t like maintenance cooking – i.e. the cooking you do just to put food on the table. When I cook, I want to spend time putting together something really delicious, plating it nicely, having an experience, sharing with friends, etc., and obviously I can’t do that every day. I’m trying to strike a balance between cooking an elaborate meal vs. going out all the time.

    • Reply Emily November 7, 2013 at 9:58 AM

      Find your balance yet?

      I find more joy in trying new recipes with new ingredients than making something tried and true; but the cost of ingredients can add up, and it’s definitely more time consuming. I’m limiting myself to one to two new recipes a week and with ingredients I have on hand.

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