Help Me Win This Argument with My Co-worker (JFF)

Updated on March 24, 2011
S.G. asks from Fort Eustis, VA
27 answers

I say cooking meals at home, from scratch, is a great way to save money (I won't even get into the health benefits here, the argument is just about money.) My co-worker insists that that is not true. She claims that fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats don't make it cost-effective to make dinner at home versus going out to eat. She is a family of two and we are a family of four. Has anyone taken the time to do that math for various dishes to prove I am RIGHT and she is WRONG?!? Thanks!

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answers from Minneapolis on

Maybe...if she's eating a junky $5 pizza every night. And then she totally loses out on the nutrition argument. Most nights I pop a Lean Cuisine in the oven.$2 on sale. There is no where I can eat a healthy balanced meal that includes veggies for that amount. Id tell her she loses because the McDonald's dollar menu does not count as a healthy meal.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

I agree with you that you are right. You can feed a family of 4 for under $5 with leftovers. Where can you feed a family of 2 for $5 with leftovers?

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answers from Washington DC on

It is cheaper for us to eat out ONLY when it is a kids night and the kids are free. My husband and I can then feed all 5 of us good food for under $20! But otherwise, for $20 at home I can make a gourmet meal!! Of course it is cheaper to eat at home!! If they looked at what they spent over two weeks, they'd see it. Plus the health benefits - like you said :).

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Biloxi on

I am going to say you are both right... for you witha family of 4, yes, it is much cheeper to cook at home. but, cooking at home for 2 can be tricky and you end up cooking the same amount that you would cook to feed a family of 4 but the remainder gets thrown out. So, in her situation, it very well may be cheeper to eat out. And when she says "eat out" i'm assuming she isnt talking about gourmet resturants.... fast food, pizza, or local mom and pop resturants yes, but fine dining....well, we all know that isnt cheep any way you slice it!

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answers from Chicago on

My husband and I regularly discuss the cost of eating out - don't even get me started on if you order alcoholic beverages or desserts!

Here's a way to PROVE your point to your coworker - IF it were cost effective to eat out then there's no way any restaurant would be in business. No matter where she eats she is paying for the ingredients, the person to cook her food and serve it, the dishwasher or paper/plasticware the manager and all the overhead (like the location, lights, cleaning, etc).

Bottom line is, they HAVE to be profitable or they don't stay in business.

That said, it may be "cheaper" to make a whole lasagna and feed it to 12 people than it would for her to make a whole lasagna for 2 people and end up throwing out 2/3 of it because they didn't freeze it or take leftovers for lunch.

I think you're right, no matter what.

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answers from Cincinnati on

Family of 2 vs a family of 4 is a HUGE differnce ($$ wise that is). In her case, I think it is cheaper to eat out for 2 people assuming they are going to the places that have Wednesday $1 burgers and not hitting Red Lobster.
Think of it like this, if she and her SO were to go to McDonalds and each order 3 things off the $1 menu, they would have spend $6 total for dinner...its hard to make a dinner for less than that for 2 people.
Could be more that she is saying that because she doesnt want/like to in her opinion, time is money and she would rather spend the time talking at dinner before meals vs preparing for it, making the mess, cleaning it up.
anyway 2 cents.

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answers from Anchorage on

My family of 4 will be having steak, potatoes and onions, and strawberries with cream tonight. The total cost was $20 dollars. If she can find a restaurant to match that, I want to know were it is!!

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answers from St. Louis on

of course, you're right! If you're a wise shopper, if you shop smart.....then it's almost always cheaper to eat at home.....& healthier to boot.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I think it depends on the meal. If I have a recipe but do not have the spices, I ahve to buy them. It will cost me more the first time since I have to buy the spices or herbs. Then when I make it again, it costs less. It depends on how you figure the per person cost. I have 6 in my family and I can easily make a meal for $2 or less per person which you cannot even do on a $1 menu plus it is healthier. But a friend of mine is just her and her fiance. They go out to eat for about $8 a person for some meals that would cost more to cook at home.

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answers from Provo on

Ok say for a family of two the meat would cost $7. The herbs and what not are already bought from a previous dinner. Rice is $2 for the box that has 50 servings (estimating of course) So thats $0.8 for two servings. The electricity to cook maybe $0.10. So that's $7.18?? I think that's a steal!!

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answers from Austin on

It depends. For 2 people to eat out with good planning can be less expensive AND you each get to choose what you eat. We usde coupons and do not eat at expensive places. Or we go to places where we serve ourselves.

The moment our daughter comes home from college, eating out goes over the budget. We save a lot more by cooking on our own.. So In a way, I think you are both correct.

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answers from Dover on

Obviously you're right. I assume she & her husband are not eating fast food for every single meal, but even if they were, I think you'd still be right. My husband, 2 kids & I went to dinner during happy hour last weekend which means that 3 of the 4 meals were 1/2 price. My husband & I had 2 beers a piece & the kids had soda. With tip the total for the meal was $57. I can grocery shop for the 4 of us which will include dinner every night as well as leftovers for lunches for DH & I for the weekdays for right around $150 for TWO WEEKS. Helloo??? That means every 3 times we go out to eat and get the less expensive food, we could all be eating for 2 full weeks!! Your co-worker is a dope.

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answers from Washington DC on

She is nuts.

Jar of tomato sauce and pasta for 3 dinners for 4 people = $12 ?

Same with fresh tomato sauce (tomatos, onions, peppers, paste, seasoning) and fresh pasta (flour, etc.) = $8 maybe?.

Pasta dinner at a restaurant =$6-8 per plate = $24-32 for 4 people

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answers from Boston on

I did the math. I figured that, on average, we spend $1 per person, per meal in this house (breakfast, lunch and dinner). There are 4 of us. And we eat very healthfully - almost all fresh fruits and veggies, chicken 1-2 nights/week, red meat 1 night/week, pork 1 night/week, pasta 1 night, eggs one night, generally (we do have chickens, so that saves us about $3/week on eggs - not a huge cost savings). So yes, the nights that we have meat for dinner it is more than $1/per, but the nights that we have pasta it is less. Lunches are leftovers, sandwiches or salads. Breakfasts are homemade quick breads, bagels, oatmeal or cereal.

It is not cost effective to buy lots of fruits and vegetables, decide you don't actually like them or don't want to cook them, wait until they get rotten and then throw them out and go out to eat. I think that happens to lots of eat-outers. But yes, it is WAYYYYY cheaper to eat at home.

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answers from Iowa City on

Well....I haven't done the math but I'll pick a pasta dish and do it now. Pasta is what? Like, $1.50 a box. Sauce, we will say $3.00. Let's throw in some ground beef...we will say $5.00. And cheese...maybe $2.00. And a salad for good measure (maybe $5.00). So a total of $16.50 (and I think that is on the high end). This can feed 4-6 people. If I went to my local Italian restaurant a plate of pasta costs $10.00. A side salad is around $4.00.

So.... roughly $4.13 per serving for homemade and $14.00 for eating out.

I think you win!



answers from Chicago on

Just a few examples:

-my favorite thai restaurant ordering in costs over 20.00 for two of us (plus 2 year old)
-to make the same dish: about 5.00 per time we make it

-depending on toppings
-take out 15.00-20.00
-at home: 3.00 - 4.00 (if even that much) for two pizzas

-take out 8-10.00 per person
-at home 8.00 for three hamburgers (using high quality meat)

-25-40/per person out
-10-15/ per person in

French toast
-6-8/ per person out
-3 / total home

I think anyway you look at it you will pay a lot less unless you are eating off the value menus.

Plus when you cook at home you tend to use the same products over so when you do the math it makes it even less per meal.

We pay a lot for our dinners at home, but it is still a lot less than eating out for us.


answers from New York on

I would def say that it is cheaper to eat at home. Especially if you buy in bulk and can break it up into 3 or 4 meals. Plus you have to factor in the gas to get there and back. Ppl don't think about that expense. When you add in appetizer, meal, drinks, dessert that all adds up. When you eat at home, you eat what is prepared and nothing else is added. For what it costs say to make a chocolate cake, you can have that for 2 or 3 nights of dessert compared to 5 or $6 for one piece in a restaurant. Plus sometimes you have leftovers and that can be taken for lunch the next day. It's nice to eat out once in a while but you just can't do it everyday. Plus if you find great sales you can save big. We have a year round farmers market and I can get 3 or 4 bags of stuff for like $18.00. Compared to shop rite or price chopper I would only get like 1 or 2 bags for that price. You have to know where to shop and where you get more for your buck.



answers from Rockford on

We spend so much more money on weeks we eat out quite a bit! It is definitely cheaper to make meals at home. It is also cheaper in that you will have less medical conditions down the road, while the eater-outers could have weight gain, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, high triglyceride, diabetes, etc. That is not cost effective at all!



answers from Chicago on

I haven't done the math but if you're going out to eat at sit-down restaurants with servers, then it is more expensive. You don't have to tip the grocer!

I'd go with cooking at home from scratch.



answers from Chattanooga on

I think it's cheaper if you actually use everything you are buying. I am not very culinarily inclined, so I will occasionally buy stuff to make a meal, but then whatever I don't use will go bad before I can modivate myself to make another meal. lol. I also hate leftovers. (my step mom used to make us eat all the leftovers, no matter how old they were. She would just scrape off the mold. eeew.) So for me, it's not cost-effective. BUT my mom and stepdad NEVER go out to eat, and use everything they buy... and only spend about 200 per month on groceries. That's including drinks, treats, snacks, and meals.


answers from Jacksonville on

There could be reasons that it IS the case for her. I know when it was just my husband and me, before kids, it often felt less expensive to grab a sandwich out at a restaurant rather than cook. We'd get a nice salad somewhere and be done. It depends on what they are eating "out". We would go to The Loop (small Chicago style pizza chain that was inexpensive) and I'd get a burger and he'd get a chicken salad. We'd spend less than $15. And the food was GREAT. But, for me to make a salad at home, with all the ingredients, would probably cost $15 just for the salad...not including dressing or the burger. Why? Because you can't buy just ONE hamburger bun, or just enough lettuce for ONE salad, or a quarter of a tomato, quarter of a cucumber, a handful of olives, ONE carrot, etc... My husband also works (and did back then also) a very odd schedule, and often isn't home for dinner. So the veggies might not still be any good by the next meal. That half a tomato, would end up in the trash. Same with the half cuke, half onion, half bell pepper, etc.

And if the cost of the food items are relatively close, then why not? Because then you're saving on electricity you aren't using in preparing it. And you get your valuable time to relax and chat over your meal, instead of having to face the dirty kitchen when you're done.

It also can depend upon your tastes. My hubby is "finicky". He is a meat kinda man... (hold the potatoes). He likes his protein and his fresh veggies, and avoids starches (bread, pasta, potatoes, etc--- all the inexpensive things you can use to save $ when cooking).

So, maybe she isn't exactly right in every instance, but I think you could at least concede, that if you weren't feeding a family of 4, it would make more financial sense than it does to you now.



answers from Gainesville on

Really, it all depends on where you eat. Cheap food, usually bad, is cheaper than buying and cooking.
However, am really trying to save money and it is MUCH cheaper to eat at home than eat out. NO QUESTION. We are a family of four too.
Let's see: your vegetables will average $2 per pound or less, and if you get organic meat it's between $4 and $6 per pound. You can get down to $2 per pound for ground beef, non-organic. Say you cook with 1 lb of meat and 3 lbs of veggies; this is probably my average. I'm even trying to go for 4 lbs of veggies to 1 lb of meat; I make the 4:1 ratio by volume, not weight I think. So anyway, 3 lbs x $2 / lb = $6. Expensive meat = $6. Total = $12. But we get between two and three nights out of that, so between 8 and 12 meals for four people. So the cost is between $1.50 per person and $1 per person, depending on how much you get out of it. Pasta per night is another dollar, so add a quarter per person per meal, so between $1.75 and $1.25 per person.
At Publix, organic chicken is between $2.99 for chicken thighs (bone-in, skin on) and $5.99 for boneless chicken breast in various cuts. Zucchini, yellow squash, and green beans on sale are 0.99 / lb. Green peppers are $2.69 or less, but a big one isn't close to a pound, and red and yellow peppers are $3.69. Broccoli and snow peas are I think $1.99 per pound. Mushrooms are $1.99 per lb. So I think my math is fine.
Mind you, I'm using fresh produce and high quality meat. If you use frozen veggies or canned veggies it's even cheaper.
Now for more fun. Friday night pizza night is one DiGiorno pizza ($7.00, less on sale, more not, so I'm rounding) with a can of olives ($1.69) and an orange pepper chopped on it ($0.75). Add and divide by four, and that's $2.36 per person.
Salmon and frozen succotash night. Salmon ($12 for one lb) and succotash ($1.69). $13.69, divided by six or seven because we get one night and two or three lunches out of it, is $2.28 (6 meals) or $1.96 per person (7 meals).
HA!! This is FUN!



answers from Detroit on

I have done the math and it is WAY less expensive to eat at home especially if you have a family. Even if you have steak. Think about it. Say you buy sirloin steak maybe on sale at let's say $6.99 per pound. You can probably figure 1/2 a pound per person, so that is about $14.00 for four people. Potatoes, (which I just bought) 5 lbs for $3.00. A potato weighs approx 5 ounces which is just shy of 1/3 of a pound (math 5lbs/$3.00= $.60 per pound 60/3=$.20) and maybe a side of carrots price maybe the same as the taters. Total per meal? $3.50 for steak, $.20 for taters and $.20 carrots = $3.90. Now tell me where you can get a steak dinner for THAT!


answers from Columbia on

Great question! My son recently decided that he would no longer eat fast food and our whole family jumped on board with him. I haven't done all of the math, but I can tell you that it surprises me to check my bank balance and consistently have more money than I would normally expect to have at certain points throughout the month. Sure, some grocery items are splurges, but when you consider the quality of the meals at home versus what you get when you eat out, you really are getting more for your money. (not to mention you feel better!) I agree with the other moms that said there are a few items that can be cheaper for a single meal out, but you can have a casserole, a veggie, and cornbread for about $3 and know exactly what you put in it.



answers from Philadelphia on

I've never actually done the math, but it generally seems to me that since I've started cooking at home more, there's more $$ to go around. We're a family of 5 (including one teenage boy, so we go through a lot of food). I know that when we eat out, it's rarely under $40.00, usually more like $60 - $80 (I'm talking about restaurants, not fast food). For $40.00, I can make a gourmet meal and STILL have leftovers for another entire meal...AND invite my sister's family over to join us!



answers from Houston on

one of you got bored and needed an genuine argument i use canned fruits and veggies when i cook and it is cheaper for me to feed 4 with left overs by scratch. but here is the catch 9 if tacos are on sale 12/$5 or something like that it is cheaper to buy that and i can go to ex chilis and get a entree 2 meals and a desert for $20 it is big enough i can split it 4 ways we get more food and more desert and such this is what i do when i eat out. now here in texas at the mexican food trailers i can get a burritoe for $5 buy 2 of them and they are large enough to half and feed 4 people almost as cheap as scratch. you are both right

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