Dining Out = Cost Savings?
Last week was my first week in culinary school . Yea!
Right now I’m taking sanitation and soon I’ll be starting basic cookery classes. Sanitation isn’t the most interesting subject (even though it’s important) so the chef instructor likes to interject stories and commentary along the way.
He stressed the importance of dining out several times a week to gain experience and exposure to new ways of cooking. He wants us to try at least one new restaurant a week and even asks us every morning who went out to dinner. I understand why he gave us that advice; you won’t grow as much as a cook if you stick with cooking at home and never try other people’s versions.
One of the students in the back of the class said he would need to get a second job in order to afford eating out all the time. The chef smiled and remarked that eating out was actually cheaper than cooking at home.
Half the class looked confused (myself included) and he was asked to explain. He said that if you eat cheap fast food, take out, or at hole-in-the-wall dives you can spend less on food than if you cooked that meal for yourself at home. He used a hamburger as an example.
He reasoned that in order to make a hamburger at home he would need to buy more product than he needed. He couldn’t buy just one meat patty, one slice tomato, and one bun. He would need to buy a pound of hamburger, a whole tomato, and a pack of buns, all to get just one hamburger. Those minimum purchases result in excess and makes it more expensive than buying a $1.09 hamburger from a value menu.
This was an intriguing argument and it reminded me of the first time I made lasagna at home. I remember laughing when the bill for the ingredients came out to $30 when I could get a frozen pan of prepared lasagna for only $10. Mine may have tasted a ton better but it certainly wasn’t cheaper.
I see his point and agree that it is valid, assuming several things:
- You are not cooking in bulk or for more than 1-2 people
- You are wanting lots of variety in your meals
- You only want enough for one meal and don’t want leftovers
- You stick with low cost restaurants and cheap meal choices (no fine dining)
I fully agree that if I wanted to make dinners in single portion sizes that there would be waste and higher costs involved to cook at home. My single homemade hamburger would end up costing me over $5. That $1 fast food burger looks pretty good by comparison.
However, if you are cooking for more than 2 people or don’t mind leftovers, I feel cooking at home almost always wins out. I know that my food bill decreased dramatically when we started packing lunches, eating leftovers, and cooking at home almost exclusively.
After class I went up to him and said that although I understood the point he was trying to make I disagreed that eating out was always cheaper. I argued that buying/cooking in bulk, eating leftovers, and forgoing some variety actually made for a cheaper food bill.
If cooking large quantities of food from a planned menu wasn’t cost effective, restaurants wouldn’t be making huge sums of money. Right?
He agreed that economies of scale can be an “equalizer” and under those circumstances eating at home can be cheaper. He didn’t really seem convinced though. He said we would discuss it more towards the end of the course.
I guess I should start detailing real life examples for when we discuss it again. I want to be prepared to show the other side of the story if I get the opportunity.
A lot of the students in my class seem to be pretty young, maybe even fresh out of high school. I would hate to see any of them start picking up fast food everyday thinking it was the most cost-effective option for them.
Image Source: ebruli