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Saturday, October 19, 2013

Food: homemade vs. premade vs. take-out vs. restaurant

It is so tempting, at the end of a hard day of classes, labs, studying, and perhaps a part-time job, to buy dinner at a take-out place, or to eat out.  You are tired, need to eat, and can’t be bothered with cooking.  I understand, and I feel the same many times.  As well, once a while I would like to be able to eat without having to prepare the meal first and feel like eating out.  However, eating out with my 3 kids, without wine nor dessert, is close to $80! in one night, with nothing to show for it afterwards (except an urge to exercise!!).

After studying varying food prices and quality, both in grocery stores and in restaurants, I found this interesting truth:
For the SAME QUALITY, homemade is cheaper than grocery premade (frozen or not) which is cheaper than take-out which is cheaper than restaurant food.  What this means is that if you want a great pizza meal (with salad and soda), making it at home is cheaper than a frozen one which is cheaper than take out which is cheaper than eating it in a restaurant.  This makes sense considering that in a restaurant there would be a large drink and salad charge; at a take-out place, the drink would come in a bottle and would be cheaper (salad made at home), a really good pizza from a grocery (most likely frozen) would be cheaper still, but making your own with pita, English muffin, or bread dough, and canned spaghetti sauce is still cheaper (and a large soda bottle at the grocery store is about $1 if you buy no-name). 

Notice that I talk about same quality meal – this is because, in the example of a pizza, the amount of chicken, say, on a frozen pizza is so small that if you were to make a chicken pizza at home, it’s likely you would put more chicken on it, driving the price up.  Yes, frozen pizzas are practical and they taste good, but in terms of quality of food, don’t count the few morsels of sweet peppers as a serving of vegetables.  Basically, you can make a much healthier meal at home for the same price (or the same meal for much less).
So let’s say you want a meal of salmon, asparagus and rice.  In a restaurant, that’s at least $22 plus drinks, taxes, and tip (plus the drive there and back).  At home, you can buy a serving of salmon (frozen) for less than $5; rice is pennies, and asparagus is about $2 a bunch (for a person).  That’s no more than $8 plus drinks, taxes (there is some tax at the grocery store) and yes, you have to go to the grocery store to buy these, but chances are you buy groceries only once a week, not every time you want to eat.  Drinks will be cheaper at home, and so will dessert.  If you did take out, you would not purchase the drink(s) and you wouldn’t have the tip to pay either (assuming the meal is the same price; often take-out is cheaper because you aren’t taking up space in their restaurant and they do not have to pay a waitress to serve you).

Finally, there’s one thing I often ask myself before I go out to eat: I first evaluate the price of the meal (roughly) and ask myself what else I could buy with that money, something I would enjoy for longer than the duration of the meal: a book? a CD? a new shirt? it’s very seldom that a meal out seems the best value for me.  Bon app├ętit!

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