Is Eating Out a Waste of Money?


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We all know that the food is better at restaurants. The ingredients are fresher, more varied, and higher quality than what can be found in many grocery stores. But is it worth the money? Is eating out a waste of money? Some would say yes. Others might disagree. There is no one answer to this question because everyone has different tastes and financial situations. What is your opinion? There are many reasons why you should eat out sparingly or not at all. Decide for yourself whether eating out is worth the cost or not!

Percent of Meals Eaten Outside the Home

A lot of people eat out at least once a day, and it is growing in popularity. Roughly a third of the population in the US eats out daily at a fast food restaurant according to Forbes.

If you consider other restaurants in addition to fast food, the number of people eating out becomes much bigger.

What is the Cost of Eating Out vs. Cooking at Home?

Eating out is much more expensive than cooking at home. There is no way around it. Restaurants pass on overhead costs like rent, equipment, electricity, and insurance to the customer in the form of marked-up prices on food items. Not to mention the cost of food, along with the threat of inflation, is pushing food prices even higher, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

When you factor in these hidden costs and everything else listed above, dining out is very costly. Meals out were one of the 30 things I stopped buying to save money in my life. You can spend $3,000 or more per year eating out instead of cooking at home. You can save up to $2,000 per year by cutting out restaurant food and using that money for something more substantial like your children’s education or retirement.

cooking at home vs cost of eating out

Cooking at home, on the other hand, is much cheaper than eating out. You don’t have to pay for an expensive restaurant or building or pay surcharges on food at grocers. You can use the ingredients in your home pantry and fridge. There are even cheap meal ideas for large families that are gourmet dishes. Even if you regularly eat at restaurants, consider cooking at home on occasion and eating in instead.

Additionally, if you end up grocery shopping, the price you pay for food at the supermarket will be much lower than what is listed on restaurant menus. Remember, you don’t have to pay a third party for groceries. You can get your groceries yourself.

Restaurants don’t have time to shop for food, so they must mark up to earn a profit. They must pay companies to provide and deliver the food they use in their restaurant. On top of that cost, they still have to make a profit.

Average Cost of Eating Out for One Person

An average fast-food meal for one person is $4 to $6, although this would be considered selections off of a dollar menu. Sometimes Arby’s breakfast hours offer deals.

  • If you eat out at a casual restaurant, expect to pay about $12 for one person. This is according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Eating out is more expensive than cooking at home.

Eating out for one person would have a meal such as:

  • an entree (e.g. burger, sandwich, pizza)
  • side (fries or salad)
  • drink (usually soda is included in this price point)

The cost is even greater if you dine in luxury restaurants or order drinks, appetizers, or desserts with your meal. This is why many people choose to cook instead of eating out because it is cheaper for them.

Average Cost of Eating Out for 2 People

The average cost of dining out is $10 to $15 per person for a restaurant meal. Eating at a mid-range establishment is even more expensive.

  • A couple could easily spend over $50 to eat out together, even if they have water and an appetizer or dessert to share.

A typical meal for two people eating out at a restaurant would consist of:

  • an appetizer
  • two entrees
  • beverages

Average Cost of Eating Out for a Family of 4

For a family of 4, the average is $40 to $50 per meal for a restaurant or fast food. Just one meal is around your weekly grocery budget. The cost is much higher when you add in drinks and appetizers.

A typical meal at a restaurant for a family of 4 would include:

  • an appetizer
  • four entrees/entrees for the children
  • beverages
  • dessert

While many places offer kids eat free or cheap, those prices often change and are only special promotions on certain days and specific times of the season. That is why $50 is a good average for the cost of eating out for a family of 4.

Benefits of Not Eating Out

There are many benefits of not eating out. If you use that money every day to buy food at the grocery store, you could save hundreds of dollars a year.

what are the benefits of not eating out
Healthier Diets, Environmental Benefits, and Cooking with Friends are Benefits of Not Eating Out

If everyone in your family is willing to make this one change, consider the following:

Less Expensive Grocery Bill

Eating out is expensive, and that is why people cook at home even if they don’t love it! You’ll automatically reduce how much money is spent on food per week by cooking nearly all of your meals from scratch. And as mentioned above, those grocery prices are lower than what is listed on restaurant menus.

Healthier Diet

Cooking at home is suitable for both your financial health and physical health. Home-cooked meals mean you have more control over what goes into your meal. You can choose fresher ingredients and skip processed foods with low nutritional value. You can cook using fresh herbs and spices instead of salty sauce packets. Cooking is also a great way to control portion sizes, which is an essential part of a healthy diet.

It is estimated that by eating at home, your health is likely to improve. You’ll have more energy, will lose weight, and feel happier because of your money savings.

You Know Ingredients in Your Food

When eating at home, you can choose the best ingredients for your family. By serving fresh vegetables and fruit instead of fries, you’ll know what is in your food. You can even opt to buy organic produce if that is something you are interested in. There are also other options such as whole and natural foods if you feel more comfortable with that.

Environmental Benefits

Restaurants are notorious for wasting food. To keep their costs down, restaurants often toss ingredients instead of cooking them into the dish. Many diners will also order more food than is necessary to fill up, which is another form of waste at the end of the day.

When you buy groceries yourself and cook everything yourself, you can avoid wasting food. By eating at home, you will have a smaller carbon footprint and help reduce unnecessary methane emissions. Additionally, you are also reducing waste in the landfill by not throwing out leftovers.

Culinary Skills

Learning to cook is a valuable skill because it is your ticket out of eating fast food every day! Once you have learned what you can make on your own without burning down the house or poisoning anyone, you can expand your skills by trying new dishes and cuisines.

There are plenty of cooking shows on television that can guide you through the cooking process. You also have the option of finding new recipes online or just experimenting with your ideas.

Don’t Have to Pay Tips

When you eat at home, you don’t have to pay for tips. Tips are paid toward the server, usually 20% or more of the restaurant bill. If you are eating out for a special occasion, your bill and tip could be higher.

Having Fun Cooking at Home with Friends and Family

Eating out is often a social activity which is why dining is so popular in America. Most families eat together at home or picnic outdoors instead of dining out every night after work. Try making your meals while working together as a family to save time and money. This is also a great way to get everyone involved in cooking lessons which can be fun!

If you ask yourself whether you should eat out or not, the answer is probably ‘no.’ Eating at home is an integral part of budgeting, but it can also. If you cook at home, the money is yours to keep.

How Much Can You Save by Not Eating Out

If you are looking to trim your budget, try not eating out for a month or two. You’ll probably notice that your grocery bill is lower than usual because you are buying food in bulk. There are proven ways how to save money on groceries that will help you reduce spending on food.

how much can you save by not eating out at a restaurant
You Can Save a Minimum of $3,000 per Year by Not Eating Out at Restaurants

Average Cost of Eating Out per Month

Going off of the example mentioned above, you can calculate savings by not eating out. The average cost to eat out per month is going to vary depending on your location and income. For example, a family is likely to spend more money eating out at a restaurant than a single person.

  • Many factors go into how much you might be spending per month on dining out, but a ballpark number for the average cost of eating out per month is $200-300.

If you can use that amount of money for groceries, you will notice the savings almost immediately.

Average Cost of Groceries per Month

If you start buying groceries and cooking at home, you will notice the difference in your monthly bills. It is usually cheaper to eat at home than it is to go out to a restaurant.

You can save even more money by stocking up when certain food items are on sale, such as meat or produce, which is already cut into serving sizes for quick meals. Buying lunch meat and cheese is also much cheaper than ordering a sandwich and chips from a restaurant.

As far as the average cost of groceries per month is concerned, this number varies depending on how many people live in your household and if you have any special dietary needs.

  • The average cost of groceries per month is between $300 and $500 in the United States, but staple items such as milk and eggs will be cheaper than that.

Keep in mind that your grocery budget will also depend on whether or not you buy fresh or frozen vegetables, so the numbers are only estimates.

Related Questions

What age group spends the most money on eating out?

The age group that spends the most money on eating out is middle-aged adults between 30 and 50. Additionally, married couples are more likely to eat out than other marital statuses.

What is one way how people waste money when dining out?

People waste money when dining out by buying drinks such as alcoholic beverages or specialty coffees that can be purchased for less outside of a restaurant or coffee shop. They also might order an appetizer if they are starving, which might not be necessary if you want to grab a quick bite to eat.

How is cooking at home healthier than eating out at restaurants?

When you cook at home, you can control what goes into your meals. If someone is trying to follow a specific diet or has food allergies, it is easier to cater the meal specifically for them. Cooking is also healthier because restaurant portions are usually more significant than they should be, which means that people end up eating more calories than they need.

What countries spend the most on eating out?

Some of the countries that spend the most eating out are Brazil, Europe, and the United States. Brazil is known for its social and relaxed atmosphere. Brazilians like to take their time when they eat, while Americans like convenience and value convenience over everything else, especially in big cities such as New York City, where people are always on the go. Europeans eat out at least once per week, and this is a cultural norm.

Can a family of four eat out for $20?

A family of four is likely spending at least $20 when they eat out. If the children order off of the kid’s menu, then maybe they will get away with spending less than that. However, everyone is going to want something different on their plate, and if it is just a quick meal thrown together by someone who is not interested in cooking, then there is no telling how much you are going to end up paying for the meal.

Which country has the highest food costs?

Nobody is going to want to eat out in a country known for its high food costs. For example, Norway is one of the countries where people spend the most on dining because anything you order at a restaurant will likely not come cheap. If it does, it is probably mediocre and not worth the expense.

Can you go broke eating out every day?

Yes, you can go broke eating out every day because it is costly to eat at a restaurant all of the time.

What is one reason why is eating out is bad for the economy?

One reason why eating out is wrong for the economy is that restaurants are not required to pay their employees as much as other companies would need to pay their employees if they were doing work similar in nature. For example, waiters and waitresses only make minimum wage compared to most other jobs requiring college degrees, forcing more people out of work altogether.

Which food item is cheapest when bought at grocery stores?

Typically, buying fresh produce or vegetables at a grocery store is cheaper than finding them outside of a grocery store. They might be slightly more affordable or even cost more than produce that is not as fresh.

Conclusion

Your life can be improved with better health and more money in your pocket by cooking at home, not dining out. The benefits of eating at home vs. eating out are endless. Cooking is more affordable, healthier, fun, and you can make sure all of your guests are completely satisfied. Not cooking is wasting money on food that is not as nutritious or healthy as the food you could be making for yourself at home.

When comparing the average cost of eating out per month vs. the average cost of buying groceries and cooking at home per month, the grocery and cooking at home will be cheaper. The main reason is that you can buy in bulk which is usually a significant savings, or if you are creative with your leftovers, then those meals don’t go to waste. Cooking is also environmentally friendly because you are not creating as much food waste as eating out several times per week. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, you can save at least $3,000 eating at home vs out at a restaurant.

The main point to remember when thinking is eating out a waste of money is that eating out is a costly hobby that might seem cheap upfront but will cost more money throughout the long run. This is because restaurants charge high prices for low-quality ingredients. Rather than hitting dinner and a movie every Friday night, spend time at home enjoying your company or go out to an affordable dinner that is healthier for you and the planet.

BG Vance

For over 20 years, BG Vance has been a leader in public and personal financial management. He's developed and managed public budgets in excess of hundreds of millions of dollars. He is passionate about the FIRE movement and was featured in the Detroit News in 2001 about saving for retirement. Through the years, he's assisted families and individuals with getting their finances on track. He holds an MPA, is a licensed Realtor, and is currently working on a book about personal finance.

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