Dining out vs Cooking in

Do you know the national average monthly food budget?…I didn’t…and let me just say…WOW! Turns out the national average monthly food cost for 2 people on a MODERATE BUDGET is $595.70!!! with about 7.5% being used for groceries. So lets talk about that little %2.5. Dining out at restaurants is sometimes delicious, mostly fun and always easy and convenient but is it worth it?  This brings us to our topic of the day…Eating out at restaurants vs Cooking and eating at home. Heres how this is going to work…I’m going to start with my Menu for this week, give you the cost per meal (portion # included) then I am going to try and compare that to a menu of the same food (or as close as I can find) with cost per meal (portion # included) as well. This should get interesting.

Menu 6/27 – 7/05

Wednesday: Pollo Asado, Black Beans, Rice, Salsa, Tostones

Thursday: Tuna Melts (on healthy whole wheat bread), Potato and Lemon Salad, Roasted Tomatoes.

Friday: Turkey Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes, and Broccoli

Saturday: Leftovers

Sunday: Homemade Pizza with Bacon, Onions and Black olives

Monday: Chicken Quesadillas, with caramelized onions and Salsa

Tuesday: Leftovers

OK onto MY Menu Cost breakdown

Pollo Asado, Black Beans, Rice, Salsa, Tostones = $7.19 for 4 Servings

Tuna Melts, Potato and Lemon Salad, and Roasted tomatoes with Sage =  10.21 for 6 servings

Turkey Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes, Broccoli = 6.72 for 2 servings

So upon calculating the first 3 I’ve realized this really takes forever, so I’m going to stop at 3 because with these I can show you price comparisons with the 3 basic types of restaurants, Fast Food, Fast Casual, and Casual Dining. Just in case these terms confuse you heres what they mean

Fast food: Fast food restaurants emphasize speed of service. Operations range from small-scale street vendors with carts to mega-corporations like McDonald’s. Also known as a QSR or Quick Serve Restaurant.

Fast Casual:  Fast casual restaurants usually do not offer full table service, but may offer non-disposable plates and cutlery. The quality of food and prices tend to be higher than those of a conventional fast food restaurant but may be lower than casual dining

Casual: A casual dining restaurant is a restaurant that serves moderately-priced food in a casual atmosphere. Except for buffet-style restaurants, casual dining restaurants typically provide table service. Casual dining comprises a market segment between fast food establishments and fine dining restaurants. Casual dining restaurants often have a full bar with separate bar staff, a larger beer menu and a limited wine menu. They are frequently, but not necessarily, part of a wider chain, particularly in the United States.

These are the 3 most common types of Restaurants in the US.

Pollo Asado Meal
(Fast Casual Dining) Pollo Tropical: Is South Floridian Favorite. It is a fast casual type restaurant, much like chipotle where you get in line and order, then sit down and they bring you your food. It is also the restaurant upon which I base my Pollo Asado Recipe 🙂
Chicken family Meal – 10.99 for 4 servings of chicken and 4 rolls, sides are 2.50 each. So adding a side for each of mine (minus the salsa cuz that is free at pollo) = 15.99 for 4 servings

Tuna Melt Meal
(Fast Food) Subway: Now I love subway every once and a while…a chicken bacon ranch sandwich when you are craving one really hits the spot but TUNA is a WHOLE other ball game you willing to sacrifice quality and risk your health by partaking in a tuna sandwich from subway just for the convenience of not having to MIX up the 5 ingredients yourself? ..ugh just thinking about fish + mayo sitting out at just below room temp for hours grosses me out.
1 footlong Tuna sub = 6.25 with no sides. So I will wager that 1 foot long equals about 2 to 3 melts. depending on the size of bread you use. Mine will fall more toward the 3. Still you do the math, for you to purchase a complete meal from subway including chips and a drink is an extra 2.25. to purchase the same amount of sides and drink with your “3” tuna melt servings would be 6.25+6.75= $13.00 for less than half as much food.

Turkey Meatloaf Meal
(Casual Dining) Marie Callender’s: Now I have never personally eaten at this restaurant, but they are HUGE in California, and apparently they are pretty good. Here’s the thing though, I can understand paying for HIGH quality food, and amazing atmosphere. But when a restaurant is reviewed as an expensive IHOP is not really a place I can see paying $30.00  or more for 2 people.
The price of their meatloaf, mashed potatoes and Veggies = $15.29 for 1 serving.

Hopefully, you understand what I’m talking about here. I’m not against going out to eat, in fact Beth and I save a specific part of our budget to allow us to go out to eat once on the weekends. We set aside $30 a week, which we can use to either go out to get something cheap-ish like subway or In and Out 2 times, or something more expensive like marie callender’s or Jack’s Urban Eats once. Once that money is gone, we do not go out again, until we refill that part of the budget. It helps us save money by limiting ourselves. Because lets face it, it is nearly impossible to say “NO MORE EATING OUT” there are stressful days where no one feels like cooking, and days when you just simply don’t have time and THATS OK! Just try to plan ahead for them, and set modest goals for yourself. When we decided it was time to cut back on eating at restaurants we were going out to eat somewhere 4-5 nights a week. So Beth and I started out cutting it back to $60 for going out weekly, for about 3 or 4 months before we cut it down to $30 a week. Hopefully one day we will cut it back to $15 a week (or $30 every 2 weeks). I am still new to this whole concept of Budgeting food, but I believe budgeting in all senses is a learning process, so I am learning as I go!

What tips and tricks do you use to help keep your food budget low?

Thanks for reading!


3 responses

  1. Apart from a food budget, my older brother and his wife and a separate fun money account. Where they each had about $20 in it. They were allowed to use it about once a week. They used it for anything extra above the essentials that they wanted. That included going out to eat, buying video games, buying non-essential clothing and household items. It was really an interesting concept to me.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s