Cost of Meals at Home vs at a Restaurant

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Today we’re going to see just how expensive it is to eat out on a regular basis and how much you can save by making the same meals at home.  Not only will you be saving money, but you will also be feeding yourself and your family healthier meals because you know exactly what is going in them!

We often associate cheap meals with ramen or mac & cheese, but in this article I wanted to focus on good meals that you could order in a nice sit-down restaurant.  In order to save money on food costs, you do not have to revert back to your college dorm menu, you can eat the same foods you would eat in a restaurant.  The simple fact of preparing your meals at home will allow you to save over 80% of the cost of the same delicious food ordered at a restaurant.  This money-saving trick will allow you to put aside money for your next trip or big purchase in a sustainable way, without changing your level of comfort too much.

Let’s take a look at the cost breakdown of a few of my favorite meals and how they compare to the cost when eating out, whether at a sit-down or fast-food restaurant.  I recommend that you take the time to repeat the exercise with the meals you often make or like to eat.  You might realize that some meals you don’t enjoy are more expensive that others that you enjoy more.  The grocery prices that I used are average prices found at big grocery stores such as Maxi or Super C, but keep in mind that by selecting your meals based on sales at your grocery store you can reduce the prices even more. The sit-down restaurant prices are based on low-mid range restaurants.  Expect prices to be significantly higher for high-end and specialty restaurants. For a detailed breakdown on the cost for the meals described below click here.

One of my favorite meals: Ribs!
One of my favorite meals: Ribs!
Meal Home Restaurant Savings
French toast and bacon 2.09$ 18.50$ 16.48$
Banana chocolate chip muffins 0.59$ 3.45$ 2.86$
Egg sandwich 0.63$ 3.45$ 2.82$
Chicken club with fries 3.65$ 18.00$ 14.35$
Half-rack of ribs with fries 6.00$ 20.00$ 14.00$
Lasagna 2.12$ 18.50$ 16.38$
Pad Sew 2.54$ 16.00$ 13.46$
Quarter chicken with fries 2.58$ 15.00$ 12.42$
Vegetarian quesadillas 2.51$ 14.50$ 12.04$

Cost of homemade meals

Looking at the meals above and having done the exercise on many other meals I usually eat, I can calculate the average cost of breakfast lunch and dinner s shown below.

  • Average cost of meal at home (breakfast): 1.00$
  • Average cost of meal at home (lunch/dinner): 3.00$
  • Cost of eating all meals at home: 7.00$/day

When I first did this exercise, I was amazed at how little it costs to eat at home.  I knew restaurants would charge a premium for the service and to cover their costs, but I would’ve never thought making my own meals would be so much less expensive.  In the tables above, you can see that I calculated the cost of meals assuming I was making food for more than 1 person.  Of course it’s easy to say that it makes more sense to eat at home if you are a big family and that it gets expensive if you live alone.  In reality, it costs the same amount whether you cook for 1 or for 4 people except that you get 3 extra meals if you live alone.  Leftovers often have a bad reputation, but I love leftovers.  When we make a meal, we try to have at least enough leftovers for the next day’s lunch, and anything more we freeze.  Freezing leftovers allows us to always have a delicious meal handy for those days after trips, parties or nights out when there are no leftovers for lunch.  Leftovers are also handy for those nights when you just don’t feel like cooking.  Having ready-made lunches or dinners you can eat on those busy days means you will be less tempted to eat out or order take-out and your budget will thank you.

The easiest way to save money is to keep track of all your sending, namely when eating out. Once you realize where most of your money is going, you will be able to make small changes that will have a big impact.  This applies to more than just food as discussed in How to Start Saving . Here are only a few ideas of ways to save money by moving towards home cooked meals:

  • Eat out one less time a week: save 715$/year, enough for a new bike, computer or TV.
  • Bring lunches instead of eating at a fast food restaurant: save 30$/week, 1500$/year, enough for a relaxing vacation.
  • Invite your date for a romantic home cooked meal instead of going out: save over 50$/couple for a meal and drinks, enough to pay for a new outfit or a pair of shoes.

How much do your home cooked meals cost? What are your tricks for eating more homemade meals?  Leave your comments below!

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