We’ve all been there – it’s the end of a long day and the last thing you want to do is cook. So, you grab the takeout menu and order in, or you get the family into the car and go out to a restaurant for supper.
Sure, it makes the evening a bit easier and you’re spared the burden of cooking dinner for the night – but that takeout or restaurant meal is costing you, in both money and in health.
Eating out today is jeopardizing your financial future
Eating out is literally costing you money. And it’s a really bad deal: restaurants and takeaway services often try to use the lowest quality ingredients they can get away with to keep their margins high, and those margins are on average a staggering 300%.
Specifically, that means the dish you paid $15 for cost the restaurant $5 to make. Good deal for them, a bad deal for you.
The average American spent around $3000 on food prepared outside the home in 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Taking into account that 300% margin, that means they spent $2000 extra per year to consume $1000 worth of food.
Over time, turning to the easy, last-minute solution of dining out or buying takeout for a meal (instead of cooking it yourself) can easily put a dent in your financial future. That $2000 could have been spent on:
- building up an emergency fund
- paying down credit card debt
- paying down school loans.
Or how about investing that extra $2000 at an average rate of 8% for 20 years? You’d have an extra $91,000 for retirement, according to The Motley Fool.
If you can bear some more hard truths, borne out by the numbers, then go and have a look at this article by Forbes.com. They compare the cost of 86 meals obtained 3 ways: through full-service restaurants, meal kit subscriptions, and by cooking from scratch at home.
The people at Forbes found that by cooking at home you’ll save the most on protein-based meals (like those found in Keto or Paleo-based diets). Restaurants have extremely high mark-ups for meals containing beef, chicken, and pork. Add to that the fact that you’re not choosing the quality of the meat most of the time, nor how the animals were raised.
Forbes also found that there’s a hefty mark up on the carb-based meals we all love, like pasta. And these are the easiest meals to prepare at home!
The alternative: eating in made easy
So maybe you’re saying now (and I hope you are!), “OK, so I agree that eating out is a bad deal – but what’s the alternative?” And of course, you know that my answer is, “eating in!”
But then we return to the situation that I described at the beginning of this article that can roughly be summed up as “life”!
And yes, life happens – there will be times when you need to order in, or when you want to go out to a restaurant to celebrate something special. And that’s OK. However, if you want to protect your health, maintain a healthy weight, and protect your financial future – then eating out cannot be the default.
Instead, you can plan for “eating in” to be an easier part of life. And I’ve found three ways that you can make this happen.
Plan out during the weekend each meal for every night of the upcoming week, and make sure you have the ingredients on hand.
If you’re short on recipe ideas, consider using a meal planning subscription service, which will send you menus with lists of ingredients needed for each meal.
Meal Preparation in Batches
Pre-prepare entire meals, or a part of a meal over the weekend. Then, during the week, it will just be a matter of heating the meal up or putting it together before serving.
Get Pantry Savvy
We all find our own secret weapons to fight the home-cooking battle if we’re determined enough. The change that’s made the most difference for me has been to clear my pantry of processed foods and replace them with high-quality ingredients made by talented artisans.
I depend on these ingredients to make simple dishes taste great. I let my high-quality pantry ingredients do the work for me. That way I keep my weeknight meals healthy, simple and delicious.
Ordering in has got nothing on me: I’ve got better olive oil than they do! 😉
And personally, I’ve come to treasure the quality time I get to spend with my husband over a healthy, delicious, home-cooked meal, sans interruptions from waiters. (No more: “Are you still working on that?” when I’m in the middle of recounting my day!).
But won’t all of this cost me more than eating out?
So, signing up for a meal planning service or restocking your pantry with artisanal ingredients will cost you some money – in the short term. But by investing in these strategies and cutting way back on your last minute ordering-in or eating-out bill, you’ll still be winning on the financial front.
Then there’s the improvement that you’re likely to feel in your health – which could potentially save you further in medical bills and sick days.
And by committing to eating in, you’ll fall in love with food again – and to me, that is priceless.
So it’s clear that eating out a lot is financially draining, a bad deal and most likely will cause you to gain weight over time.
I’ll leave behind the extra 200 calories per take-out/restaurant meal. But I’ll take the extra $2000 cash per year any time!
Got an idea of how much you spend on takeout and restaurants per month? Leave a comment and let me know!
Photo courtesy of Sabine Peters at Unsplash