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Taking the time to cook dinner is a pain when you have a lot going on, but you can save a lot of money versus getting takeout.
Making meals at home takes planning and time. When we can order whatever food whenever we feel like, it can be a battle to make the right choice for your wallet.
But as Americans spend more on eating out every year, we’re missing out on a big opportunity to save money.
Choosing to eat out multiple times per month instead of cooking can be rough on our bank accounts.
How much does eating out cost?
Every year, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports on how we spend our money in the Consumer Expenditures report.
According to the most recent report, the average American spent $7,923 on food that year, which is 2.5% percent more than we spent on food the year before.
Of the $7,923 we spent on food, $3,459 of that was “food away from home.”
That means Americans spent an average of $288 per month eating out.
How much money does cooking save?
In 2018, Forbes looked into how much more it cost to eat out than cook. Forbes used food data that broke out the cost of ingredients in 86 popular dinners.
The study found ordering delivery from a restaurant was almost five times more expensive than cooking the same meal at home.
That means the $15 burger a restaurant delivers to you would cost just a little over $3 if you bought the ingredients and made it yourself.
The Forbes study also looked at the price of using meal kit services compared to the price of cooking at home from scratch.
Even using a meal kit, the cost of ingredients was almost three times higher than cooking from scratch. So while meal kits are cheaper than delivery, it’s still a much more expensive way to eat than cooking regular meals.
The study also found which kinds of meals are the most expensive to order from restaurants.
If we’re spending an average of $288 per month on food we eat away from home, and we could spend roughly a fifth of that if we cooked, that means we could cut that expense down to about $58 per month.
So just by cooking at home, we could save about $2,760 in annual savings.
How to make cooking easier
You can save plenty by cooking at home, which is a big help if you’re on a budget or trying to save money.
Still, it’s easier said than done.
Here’s a list of tips to make cooking less of a hassle when you’re tired and don’t have much time to spend on meals.
- Think leftovers
Cooking at home is easier if you don’t have to do it as much. When you’re making dinner, think about meals that will keep for a day or two. That way the time you spend cooking will last for a few meals.
- Try new spices
Eating the same thing over and over again is a drag, but if you throw in a few interesting spices, it can change things up. All the sudden that boring chicken dinner is a whole new experience.
- “First in, first out” rule
When you buy perishables like fruits and vegetables, you need to eat them before they go bad. The “first in, first out” rule helps you remember to eat the older food in the fridge before it expires.
- Freeze meals
If you want to take your leftover game to the next level, try freezing meals. If you freeze your leftovers, you can make one big meal that lasts for weeks. Soups and stews are great meals for freezing.
Cooking usually isn’t as convenient as getting takeout. But with a little forethought, you can eat just as well at home while saving hundreds of dollars every month.
The trick is planning. Which ingredients will work for many different meals? What can you cook that will taste good the next day? Before you take the next trip to the grocery store, remember that it pays to think ahead.
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