As with all things cost-saving, the true cost of saving money is often labor. YOUR labor. This is never truer than with a meal.
There are a lot of directions I could go with this post:
- I could do a real-life, dining out meal comparison between the cost of making it as opposed to the cost of eating it in a restaurant by reproducing a recipe for the restaurant meal.
- I could compare the cost of making it with the cost of buying it with coupons, Groupons, or other discounts.
- I could share national statistics with you for both groceries and dining out.
Each of those options seems very time-consuming. I do want to do them, but they will have to wait for now. What I do want to do is merely look at the two options from a budgeting perspective. There are so many variables that one could account for in this equation that to me it seems much easier to establish the spending limit for each and add up the savings. It may seem like a shortcut – and it is! – but I do work from a budget at home and that is how I actually manage my money, so it seems like a good idea.
For my average home meal, I try to keep the cost at $15 for 3 people. This is not unattainable for most meals for us. There are some caveats, though. We do not eat a lot of cheese or fancy sauces, because my husband does not like them. Most of our meals at home (dinners, that is) are meat and a side or two, depending on what is in the house.
For the record, desserts are in their own category and are not included!
The average cost of a meal out with my kid and husband is about $30. Sometimes it is more, sometimes a little less, but this is the average. I always drink water, because it chaps my hide to pay restaurant prices for soft drinks, but my husband usually gets a soft drink.
If we replace one meal out per week with one meal in, we save $20 per week.
It is so simple, really!
$20 saved per week at 4.33 average weeks in a month is $86 savings per month. (or $1,032 per year!)
For several years, we chose to eat out at least twice a week. We squeezed in some fast food, as well, for lunches. Our meal costs were several hundred dollars per month. We no longer do that, and we can thank our budget for our awakening on this subject. When I saw the numbers of dollars that were going out the door every month just on run-of-the-mill meals at average restaurants, my jaw dropped. And to be honest, making a sandwich at home is not any harder than driving to the fast-food joint and waiting in the drive-through. It just requires more planning. I mean, if you want to make sandwiches, you better have sandwich makings, right?