It’s not saying much to point out that eating meals at home is generally cheaper than eating out at a restaurant. When it comes time to start trimming expenses, one of the first line items experts suggest reviewing is the “food away from home” category.
That gap, however, has only been widening in recent months, thanks to grocery store prices dropping consistently for the past year, while restaurant prices have been inching steadily in the opposite direction.
According to new analysis from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, supermarket prices overall have dropped 2.2 percent since last September. Those savings are spread across multiple departments, with eggs leading the way (down over 50 percent, primarily due to recovery since last year’s bird flu outbreak). Ground beef is down 11.2 percent, broccoli is down 13.5 percent, peppers are down 20.3 percent, among others.
Even with the price of raw ingredients dropping, the price of food purchased at restaurants, as well as other pre-prepared foods, is up 2.4 percent since last year at this time. This means it only makes more sense to take the time to make your meals at home. If that’s easier said than done, consider some of the following tips for reducing your reliance on dining out.
Why are you going out?
If you’re struggling to eat out less, first figure out why you turn to restaurants, fast foods places, and pre-prepared meals so often.
Convenience – If you’re low on time, letting someone else cook for you certainly feels like a good solution, but it’s a costly one. Instead, consider making a large amount of food ahead of time and portion it out into the necessary number of future meals. You can use the freezer to create a backlog of varied meals, all ready to go when you need them.
You hate cooking – It’s fine if you don’t like cooking, just like it’s fine if you don’t like cleaning. You can hire someone to clean your home, just the same as you can hire someone to make you dinner every night. But if you don’t have a lot of disposable income, you probably can’t rationalize spending money on a housekeeper. So how do you rationalize paying someone to make your meals for you? In truth, not liking cooking isn’t really much of an excuse. It’s a chore, but it’s necessary. Create a list of easy meals that you’re comfortable making and stick with that list, expanding as you find new recipes you’re excited to try.
You just like going out – Eating out is fun. Plus the food is usually better than what you can come up with at home. So if dining out is important to you, make it count. Schedule it out in advance. Make it a special event. Treat it like a holiday and you can make the most of your meal away from home.