How Much Money Does Cooking At Home Save You?
Updated: Sep 19
(For an audio version of this post, with more information, listen to my podcast, Money on the Brain! Click HERE, and look for episode #10.)
Everyone knows eating out is much more expensive than fixing your own meals. Yet everyone seems to continue to eat out. A lot. According to the most recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report, the average American household spends $3,459 each year eating out. That works out to be $288/month.
If you realize that you eat out too much and want to cut back, what will you make and eat at home? And will you really save much money?
Let’s crunch the numbers. We’ll start with the cheapest meal: breakfast.
Two eggs with cheese, a couple pieces of bacon and toast, and a glass of orange juice will cost around $1.25 if you make it at home. At a restaurant, it will probably cost around $8 with a tip. A packet of oatmeal will cost you twenty-five cents. Breakfast for a quarter! Hard to beat that.
A yogurt and a banana costs about one dollar. A bagel with cream cheese and a coffee (Keurig) will cost about 65 cents.
Breakfast is amazingly cheap. If you ate breakfast at home every single day, you could eat for less than $5 for the whole week.
It’s very easy to save money on lunch too, even if you eat at your workplace. Take some combination of a sandwich, a piece of fruit, and a small bag of chips. If you want to eat a little healthier, replace the chips with baby carrots or some other vegetable or fruit. Drink water- it’s free and healthy. Most lunches you can make at home will cost you a measly $2.
If you take your lunch every day, it will cost you around $10 if you work five days a week. If you went out to a fast-food restaurant every day, it would probably cost you around $6/day. Do that five days a week, and you’re spending $30/week on lunch, when you could spend only $10/week if you made it at home. Save $20/week for 50 weeks a year, and you’ve saved $1000!
Dinner will typically be the most expensive meal to make, but it still shouldn’t break your budget.
If you’re not much of a cook (like me!), start out making something easy, like stew, chili, and soup. The great thing about a lot of stews and similar meals is that they are easy to make, healthy for you, and they taste great. And, this is the perfect time of year for them.
(BONUS: All you parents out there- my kids love the following meals. They’ve been eating them for years, and they’re four and six years old. They’re more inclined to like them because they also help make them. It’s easy to get them involved. Even a two year old can pour a can of beans in the pot.)
Here are three examples: A stew I make called “Southwest Stew” costs $12.35 for all the ingredients. It serves eight. That comes out to $1.54/serving. Hearty Six-Can Chili costs $14.97, and it serves six. That costs $2.50/serving. White Chili costs $12.23, serves eight, and costs only $1.53/serving. (Click HERE for the recipes.)
Add a drink, some cheese and crackers to the meal, or maybe some cornbread, and your total cost per person will probably be between $2.00-$3.00. Now consider how much your favorite meal at your favorite restaurant costs.
Most people understand they can save a lot of money if they make their own meals, but they don’t see the big picture. They say something like, “So if I bring my lunch from home, I’ll save four bucks today. Big deal! What am I gonna do with four bucks?”
As mentioned before, save $4 five days a week, for 50 weeks, and you’ll have saved $1,000. And $1,000 would go a long way towards establishing an emergency fund, saving for college or retirement, or paying off debt. And what if you did this for fifteen years? Now you’ve saved $15,000 plus whatever interest you’ve earned.
If you’re struggling to find the money to accomplish your financial goals, start eating at home more often. It’s entirely possible that you could save $1,000 a year or more by doing so.