Is Eating at Home Less Expensive Than Eating Out?


In our fast-paced modern world, dining out has become a major part of people’s lives. Whether it’s grabbing a quick bite at a local restaurant or enjoying an elaborate meal at a fancy eatery, eating out provides convenience and a chance to indulge in various cuisines. Eating out is becoming common, with millennials eating out far more than previous generations. As the popularity of dining out grows, many are starting to question whether eating at home might be a more cost-effective option. If you’re stretching together your budget per month, you might wonder the same. 

Is eating at home less expensive than eating out? What’s better when it comes to your wallet? Read on and we’ll walk you through what you need to know. 

The Cost of Eating Out

Eating out can be a delightful experience, offering a break from cooking and a chance to explore new flavors. However, it comes with a price.

The cost of dining out includes not just the actual food but also factors like service charges, taxes, tips, and sometimes parking fees. Moreover, restaurants often have higher markups on their menu items to cover their overheads and generate profits.

Therefore, a meal that may cost $30 to prepare at home could easily translate to a $50 or more dining-out expense.

Beyond the immediate financial impact, eating out regularly can accumulate significantly over time, especially if it becomes a habit.

For those on a tight budget, this can result in substantial financial strain. It can mean a serious decrease in savings or disposable income.

Of course, these costs also vary depending on where you decide to eat. 

Generally, fast-food restaurants or casual dining establishments may offer more affordable options, with average meal prices ranging from $5 to $20 per person. On the other hand, fine dining restaurants and upscale eateries can be significantly more expensive, with prices per person ranging from $30 to several hundred dollars.

Moreover, cities and metropolitan areas often have higher restaurant prices compared to rural or suburban locations due to higher operating costs, rent, and demand.

If you’re unsure how much you’re spending while eating out, it can be helpful to start keeping track of your monthly dining expenses. This can give you a sense of how much your personal eating habits are really costing you.

The Cost of Eating at Home

Does that mean eating at home is more affordable? Generally, yes, at least according to studies by the United States Department of Agriculture. 

The USDA regularly tracks the cost of food in the United States through its reports. According to their data, the cost of preparing meals at home is typically lower than the cost of eating out.

A 2019 USDA report showed that, on average, Americans spend around 50% of their food budget on meals consumed away from home.

Eating at home provides greater control over the cost of food. By purchasing groceries and cooking your meals, you can effectively manage your expenses and tailor your meals to meet specific dietary requirements.

Buying in bulk and using leftovers creatively can further reduce costs and minimize food waste. Additionally, cooking at home allows you to take advantage of discounts, sales, and coupons to stretch your dollar even further.

Another financial benefit of eating at home is that you can control portion sizes, which can lead to healthier eating habits and potentially save on medical costs in the long run.

Home-cooked meals typically provide more nutritious options as you have control over the ingredients and cooking methods. This can result in a healthier lifestyle, which may help reduce medical expenses in the future.

Moreover, eating at home often encourages family bonding and can be a fun activity for everyone involved.

Yes, with inflation prices it can feel as if cooking at home is getting more and more expensive. But it is still the cheaper option between the two. 

Cost versus Convenience 

Of course, you don’t need to choose completely between dining out and eating at home. 

It’s important to acknowledge that dining out offers convenience. When you eat out, you save time and effort spent on meal preparation and cleanup. It also serves as a social activity, providing opportunities for networking and strengthening personal relationships.

While these intangible benefits add value to dining out, the higher financial cost should still be considered.

Finding a balance between eating at home and dining out is crucial. Limiting eating out to special occasions or as a treat can help manage expenses while still enjoying the experience.

Additionally, cooking larger batches and freezing leftovers can be a practical solution for busy individuals who desire the convenience of eating out but want to cut down on expenses.

Another smart option? Meal planning and batch cooking can be employed. Planning meals ahead of time and cooking in larger quantities can help reduce waste and save money on groceries.

Reasons To Start Cooking At Home

If you’re worried about keeping your finances in line, you’ll need to consider where you’re spending much of your money. If you are often eating out, you may find that too much of your budget is going towards these meals.

As the above information shows, it can be more cost-affordable, for a variety of reasons, to go with eating at home. 

Still looking for more ways to keep your monthly budget in line? Need a little cash infusion to help get over a rough patch? Give us a call anytime for more information about financial assistance. 

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