As a youngster there is nothing more exciting than piling into the car and driving out to a restaurant for a meal. New smells, different foods, and a change of atmosphere tend to raise your spirits, especially when it comes to ordering desert. However, as you reach adulthood and have a family of your own, some of these feelings change when you become the person paying for these experiences. And as you drive to another restaurant where the menu prices are larger than your car payment, you have to wonder if it’s financially worth dining out as opposed to eating a home-cooked meal. To work through some of the pros and cons, here is a comparison of the financial sanity between going out to eat and dining in.
Except for scenarios where you live in an urban or downtown area or in an apartment above a favorite restaurant, you need to get to your dining out destination by car or, if you live in a city, public transportation. Driving to the restaurant, no matter if it’s 2 miles or in another county, requires the use of gasoline and, in some cases, paying a toll. In the city you either pay for a round trip on the subway or bus or use up some funds on a monthly pass.
Dining in requires transportation as well, but this normally takes places when you do the initial shopping for the ingredients needed to make the meal. You may need a last minute item, but walking or biking to the local market instead of driving could be a better solution.
Cost per Serving
The seafood platter you order at your favorite seaside restaurant is listed at $20 on the menu. That also happens to be the cost per serving of your platter. There are no breakdowns of these amounts at restaurants unless you dine at a family-style establishment. What you see is what you get. At home the cost per serving is easier to calculate. Let’s say you have a family of four and the dinner ingredients cost $20. Simple math tells us the meal cost $5 per serving for each person. Your family may never reach the $20 per serving cost except on those evenings when you dine on pheasant and caviar.
Another cost factor in comparing dining out with cooking at home isn’t directly related to the price of the food. Rather, it’s connected to the health ramifications. Eating out frequently can lead to weight gain, which means extra payments to a medical professional as well as potential increased costs in medicine to treat ailments like diabetes, cholesterol, or hypertension. By cooking in and following a healthy diet of proteins, fruits, and vegetables you can end up lowering potential medical costs. However, you may need to increase the money put in the clothing budget as you buy smaller-sized garments.