Dollars & Cents: The (Low) Cost of Eating at Home

I’m always really startled by just how cheap eating at home is versus eating out. I mean, I know that eating at home is cheaper. It’s just when I take the time to run all the numbers meal by meal and compare to a night out that I really see how big the difference is. Usually I’m thinking about my grocery purchases as a month to month dollar amount/goal. So it seems like a relatively large number. But of course meal to meal comparisons with restaurant vs. home cooked is the more accurate and real comparison.

Anyway, I’m running these numbers as a matter of curiosity and because we (I) had a goal that we would not eat take out at all this month after getting into the habit of stopping for burritos on my way home from work pretty frequently during June and July. I wasn’t expecting my husband to jump into this challenge for his work lunches (he usually gets lunch once or twice a week) but he was very willing to go along with it. We haven’t been perfect, but we have done so much better than in previous months. I bought a bagel and Michael picked up a sandwich at lunch twice. We had a date night at a local burger place. Otherwise all of our meals have been made at home. I haven’t really run the numbers for our breakfasts, but we generally have oatmeal or yogurt, sometimes eggs. Our lunches are usually leftovers (if we have them) plus additional veggies and a piece of fruit. The meals below are what we ate for dinner this past week. The cost is for the entire amount of food prepared/served. I’ve also included the cost per serving, both per recipe and for that evening (sometimes we eat different side dishes).

Sunday

  • Date night, we spend about $26 for the two of us on burgers, fries and drinks (not fast food). Approximately $13/person — no leftovers.

Monday

  • Pinto, Corn & Potato Soup: $6.04/8 servings = $.76/serving. Half of the soup was frozen for a future meal.
  • Cheddar Jalapeno Cornbread: $1.87/6 servings – $.31/serving.
  • Total meal cost was $7.91. The individual serving on Monday was $1.07 AND we’ll have “free’ soup for a meal next month.

Tuesday

  • Bean & Vegetable Enchiladas: filling $3.14/10 servings =$.31/serving plus finishers (tortillas, cheese, salsa) $3.23/5 servings = $.65/serving for a total of $.96/serving. Half of the enchilada filling was frozen for a future meal.
  • Sides: pickled beets (for me) at $.50/serving and spinach salad (for Michael) at $.81/serving
  • Total meal cost was $7.68. My serving Tuesday night cost $1.46 and Michael’s dinner cost $1.77 AND the enchilada filling in the freezer will cost nothing next month.

Wednesday

  • Oven Fajitas (using the recipe from Budget Bytes and doubling the vegetables): $10.72/6 servings = $1.42/serving.
  • Apples & Cinnamon: $.93/2 servings = $.47/serving.
  • Total meal cost was $11.62 and each serving was $1.89.

Thursday

  • Homemade Pepperoni Pizza: $2.84/8 slices = $.36/slice.
  • Steamed spinach: $1.62/2 servings = $.81/serving
  • Total meal cost was $4.46. My husband had 4 slices of pizza so his meal was $2.25. I had two slices of pizza so my meal was $1.53.

Friday

  • Leftovers: already accounted for above.
  • Assorted crudites: estimating a generous $1.00/2 servings or $.50/serving.
  • Total meal cost will be $1.00 and each serving will be $.50.

The total cost for evening meals made by me during this (work) week is $32.67, only $7 dollars more than we spent for one meal out. Additionally, that food has also fed us for lunches and will be available for two future meals.

It takes a little time to calculate the cost of a recipe, especially if you are disorganized and fly by the seat of your pants half the time (meaning I am making an educated guess about what I spent on some items [I round UP when I am not sure, as I don’t want to post a falsely low expense]. My biggest savings this week came from eating primarily meatless meals and keeping our meat/poultry portions small when we do consume them. Additionally, I started from dried beans and make my own bread & spice mixes. I have not yet tried making my own tortillas but want to do so. I will say that this amount of scratch cooking absolutely takes more time than purchasing semi-convenience foods. Making my own bread definitely went out the window when I worked full-time.

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