Saving Money: Eating In vs. Eating Out - VeggieBoards
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#1 Old 04-14-2008, 07:29 AM
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One of my friends and I went out for lunch yesterday. She and I are in similar financial situations. We both make about the same salary and are trying to pay rent, bills, loans, etc.



The difference: I eat out once a week. I also shop at the cheapest grocery store in town and try to make food last for two weeks. On the other hand, my friend told me that she goes out for dinner three times a week and that it's cheaper for her instead of making dinner every night. She lives in Florida and mentioned that the culture there is centered around outdoor dining and going out for dinner more often. She's also closer to most food places than I am, so she's not wasting gas driving to and from the grocery store.



Is it cheaper to go out for food or cheaper to buy what you need at the store and cook at home?
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#2 Old 04-14-2008, 07:52 AM
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Your friend seriously never goes to the grocery store? I can´t imagine it would be any more expensive gas-wise to buy food for those three dinners in addition to buying groceries to make seven breakfasts, seven lunches and the four other dinners each week. Or does she buy a large meal at the restaurant, eat only a part, and then stretch the leftovers to cover the other eighteen meals a week? If so, I´d like to know how she does it! Only at Buca di Bepo could my leftovers from a single restaurant meal feed me for two or three additional meals. Usually I can stretch a restaurant meal into two meals--one in the restaurant, and one at home.



Generally, there are 21 meals a week, plus snacks. If someone went out to eat at every single meal and bought snacks from vending machines and the like, it would be far more expensive than buying equivalent foods from the average grocery store. I could see how if someone ate the cheapest burritos from Taco Bell, drank water, etc. how it might well be less expensive than buying all your groceries from the local superduper grocery store. But, if you´re also going to places like bulk food stores every couple of months to stock up on basics, etc. you will cut your grocery bills significantly.

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#3 Old 04-14-2008, 08:09 AM
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Haha. What a crock. I live in South FL. I used to go out to eat maybe 2-3 times a week, average. Of course, it depends on what you eat while out, as opposed to what you buy at the grocery.



Unless she considers the $ menu "going out to eat" I highly doubt it's really cheaper. When I went out to eat, we'll say that a plate would be around $8-$13. Plus tip... (if you're cheap) $1.00 or so up to a more generous $5. (I always give at least $5 if the bill is anywhere under $20...waitressing can be hard work, and they live on tips!) So we'll say an average of $13-$15 eating out. And, on average, there are not A LOT of leftovers, maybe worth one meal. (ONE PERSON)



Last night, I made this simple dinner with a can of crushed tomatoes ($1 for a big can at the $ store), a bell pepper (3/$1 or $.50 at the $ store - can't remember), an onion (a bag of 4-5 at the $ store) with chick peas (another $1 canned at $ store - cheaper if you buy dried and cook yourself!). I also made brown rice, which is more expensive than white rice, but fairly cheap when you realize how much it really makes (and I've fallen in love with it, it's so yummy!!!) So, if you shop at the $ store, we'll say it was $4 and if you go to the regular grocery, it'll cost maybe $7, total. (You never know!) There is NO tip, of course... and I made enough for TWO people with leftovers (so easily 4 meals).



So let's see... $13 at a restaurant for one person with minimal-moderate leftovers, or $7 for 2 people with moderate leftovers for both. You tell me.



But yes, of course, it depends on where you go, what you buy, how much you eat, how much you tip and all of that.
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#4 Old 04-14-2008, 08:16 AM
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I eat out every night, usually twice a day.



It's a whole lot more expensive to eat out than it is to buy groceries and cook at home.
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#5 Old 04-14-2008, 08:19 AM
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I live alone and generally prepare and eat meals by myself. Depending on the meal, it can easily be more expensive for me to eat at home vs. eating out. As it is now, I eat out one or two times a week and eat at home the rest of the time.



My average weekly food bill is between $40 and $60 dollars.



To prepare something such as a salad, it ends up costing me close to $15 or $20 if I buy all fresh ingredients. It's sometimes a lot easier for me to go and spend $6-$7 on dinner and save the money. I'm also not a huge fan of leftovers so that also makes a difficulty.

It's much easier for me to cook for 2 people than for one.
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#6 Old 04-14-2008, 08:23 AM
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There is no way it is cheaper unless she shops at the Starbucks inside the grocerystore to get her groceries. Or, maybe she just buys premade sandwiches and bottles of wine and bricks of cheese. I guess it does depend on what you're getting!
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#7 Old 04-14-2008, 08:23 AM
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Originally Posted by Brandon View Post

I live alone and generally prepare and eat meals by myself. Depending on the meal, it can easily be more expensive for me to eat at home vs. eating out. As it is now, I eat out one or two times a week and eat at home the rest of the time.



My average weekly food bill is between $40 and $60 dollars.



To prepare something such as a salad, it ends up costing me close to $15 or $20 if I buy all fresh ingredients. It's sometimes a lot easier for me to go and spend $6-$7 on dinner and save the money. I'm also not a huge fan of leftovers so that also makes a difficulty.

It's much easier for me to cook for 2 people than for one.



But... you don´t eat the entire head of lettuce in your salad, do you? I can´t imagine that unless you buy more produce than is necessary for your salad and always pitch what´s left, it´s really that expensive for ONE salad. I guess if most of your salad is nuts, it could be pretty pricy. But can´t you buy your produce, and then the next day you use some of the lettuce and tomatoes in a wrap, and some of the carrots go in your stir-fry, etc?



The dinner salads I´ve eaten in restaurants usually are $8-$10 and there´s also the tip.

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#8 Old 04-14-2008, 08:28 AM
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Originally Posted by Brandon View Post

I live alone and generally prepare and eat meals by myself. Depending on the meal, it can easily be more expensive for me to eat at home vs. eating out. As it is now, I eat out one or two times a week and eat at home the rest of the time.



My average weekly food bill is between $40 and $60 dollars.



To prepare something such as a salad, it ends up costing me close to $15 or $20 if I buy all fresh ingredients. It's sometimes a lot easier for me to go and spend $6-$7 on dinner and save the money. I'm also not a huge fan of leftovers so that also makes a difficulty.

It's much easier for me to cook for 2 people than for one.



Word.
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#9 Old 04-14-2008, 08:28 AM
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Originally Posted by Skylark View Post

But... you don´t eat the entire head of lettuce in your salad, do you? I can´t imagine that unless you buy more produce than is necessary for your salad and always pitch what´s left, it´s really that expensive for ONE salad. I guess if most of your salad is nuts, it could be pretty pricy. But can´t you buy your produce, and then the next day you use some of the lettuce and tomatoes in a wrap, and some of the carrots go in your stir-fry, etc?



The dinner salads I´ve eaten in restaurants usually are $8-$10 and there´s also the tip.



I don't buy heads of lettuce, I think iceberg lettuce is nasty.

And I don't put nuts in salad. Just vegetables (broccoli, cucumber, tomatoes, bell pepper, carrots, etc etc) .



I didn't speak clearly I suppose, I don't go out to eat salads. The iceberg lettuce thing again. There are salad bars I can go to here in town for about $6-$7 dollars if I wanted to.
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#10 Old 04-14-2008, 08:37 AM
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I don't buy heads of lettuce, I think iceberg lettuce is nasty.

And I don't put nuts in salad. Just vegetables (broccoli, cucumber, tomatoes, bell pepper, carrots, etc etc) .



I didn't speak clearly I suppose, I don't go out to eat salads. The iceberg lettuce thing again. There are salad bars I can go to here in town for about $6-$7 dollars if I wanted to.



Ah, now I getcha. I believe romaine lettuce, green leaf and red leaf are also measured in heads, though I could be wrong. I figured since we were trying to compare the costs of equivalent meals in restaurants vs. at home, it was best to compare a dinner salad at a slow food restaurant (since I didn´t realize salad bars are an option where you live) to making it at home. Now that I know what you´re talking about, I agree it may well be cheaper for you to go to the salad bar restaurant.



But, another question--are you able to use all the produce you buy on your other meals? If you found you had a lot going to waste, it might make economic sense to try to turn it into a salad.

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#11 Old 04-14-2008, 09:11 AM
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I found an article on the same subject after posting the thread: http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com...anCooking.aspx



From my experience, I find it cheaper to eat at home. I buy rice and beans in bulk, cook extra and freeze leftovers, and then pack my lunch. I suppose it depends on the specifics; what you buy, where you buy it, restaurant prices, etc.
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#12 Old 04-14-2008, 09:14 AM
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But, another question--are you able to use all the produce you buy on your other meals? If you found you had a lot going to waste, it might make economic sense to try to turn it into a salad.



I buy specific items for specific meals, though any leftover is always used in a different meal. E.g. onion or bell pepper left over from salad ends up in stir-fry or tacos. I try very hard to not waste food.
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#13 Old 04-14-2008, 02:40 PM
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Wow I was just to post a thread about this. I had a very similiar experience last week. My friend was complaining about money and saying how she is now resorting to asking her family/friends to give her gift cards for fast food places and Dennys/Big Boy/Applebees/etc to help her out financially. She only eats breakfast at home, lunch is either Mcdonalds/Wendys/chinese or other fast food places and dinner is always a restaurant, snacks are vending machines at work or another trip to a taco bell. I asked her why she didn't just buy groceries or ask these people for gift cards for grocery shopping and she believes its cheaper to eat out every meal. I don't see this logic at all. And no she is not just ordering from the dollar menu at places, its usually combo meals with additional side orders and a full meal from restaurants. She doesn't take leftovers home either. My ex was the same way with eating out every meal and thinking its cheaper. It really boggles my mind and doesn't make a bit of sense to me.
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#14 Old 04-14-2008, 03:59 PM
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i think you have to factor in what people are spending at or buying from each place.



if i was to buy swanky already prepared and chilled and boxed- bung it in the microwave 'ready meal', dry packaged with a sprinkle of herbs, or chilled pre-cooked deli rice, veggies, and tofu at the grocery store, it aint going to be cheap, not at all. could easily be $15 for one or two meals worth.



in that case, i'd probably be better off getting a chinese takeaway- the same 3 items would cost $15, and be enough for 4, maybe even 6 meals (plus they give you free stuff round here if they like the look of you... springrolls, crackers, etc).



but if i was to buy a 10lb bag of rice, a block of tofu, and fresh or frozen plain veggies, and some seasonings from the indian or asian grocery, its gonna be about the same outlay, and cost me less per portion by far- cos 10lb of rice and bottles of seasoning last forever.



... but to do the last choice, i need access to a kitchen, electric, utensils, time, storage capabilities, cleaning products, etc.... those add a little cost each time i use them, are additional initial outlays, and the prep takes time away from me which i could be using to earn relatively decent money, possibly even enough to pay for the takeout. plus i need to know how to cook (lots of people really don't) and if i don't have someone to teach me, that might mean paying for lessons, maybe even a recipe book....



so yeah.....
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#15 Old 04-14-2008, 04:22 PM
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Here's the experience of one man eating in and eating out.



Here's the results:

Eating in: $335 ($11.55/day)

Eating Out: $622.43 ($20.08/day)
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#16 Old 04-14-2008, 05:00 PM
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i think you have to factor in what people are spending at or buying from each place.





Sure, that's definitely a contributing factor.



I think people are largely assuming that everyone likes to eat the same meal 3-4 (or more) times from one session of cooking. Hence, cook once, use the ingredients once, eat lots of times = cheaper.



I like variety in my diet and as I said above I don't like leftovers that much. I will eat them begrudgingly to not waste the food but most food tastes kind of meh to me after it's been cold and then reheated.



I know I'm not fitting the norm in this thread, either with eating or spending habits. I don't spend much on food at all, whether it's eating in or out.

For a couple or family of 3 or 4 it would definitely be cheaper to eat meals at home. For single folks, it's not necessarily always cheaper.
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#17 Old 04-14-2008, 09:03 PM
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People say prepackaged convenience meals are expensive, but I think it's the fresh fruits and vegetables that really drive up the cost of groceries when someone tries to buy ingredients and make their own meals. 1 microwavable meal is $1. A typical dinner costs me $3. I saved a lot of money back when I was eating at home.
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#18 Old 04-14-2008, 09:44 PM
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Eating in is cheaper than eating out, for sure. Unless you're eating off the $1 menu for all your meals when you eat out, there's no way you're getting a better deal!



I did an experiment a few months ago where I lived on $8.88 TOTAL for 21 days! Yes, I got some free meals thanks to charitable friends, but I also did a lot of research on food prices and made that money stretch far. Whenever a friend was going to a grocery store I'd tag along and I figured out which grocery stores have the best prices on cheap yet (mostly) healthy items. I found a 6-pack of Ramen Noodle Soup's for .89 cents at one grocery store in town. I also bought rice in bulk and used Italian dressing to season it. While I wasn't living the good life, I also wasn't starving, and $8.88 for 21 days is pretty extreme. The average person trying to save money and pay off debt can get even more for very little!



Also, another great way to save money on food is to cook with a friend or a few friends! Go to a grocery store together and split the cost of a meal (or combine items you already have lying around) and make a meal.
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#19 Old 04-14-2008, 09:57 PM
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I think that eating in is cheaper. Of course this would not be true if you buy a ton of fresh organic fruits and vegetables and those fake meats and stuff. I sometimes get stuck eating out and it'll cost 5-10 bucks for a meal that fills me up with no leftovers, while I have a recipe for chili that uses $5 worth of groceries and lasts for several days. I really cannot comprehend how eating out could be cheaper than cooking your own meals, but that would be pretty sweet if it actually worked that way where I live.

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#20 Old 04-14-2008, 10:54 PM
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Eating in is definitely cheaper for me. If I had the money, though, I'd eat out 1-2 meals most days. I don't particularly like to cook and nothing I make tastes as good as Noodles and Co. or the local Vietnamese or Thai place.



I buy too much dog food. That's the problem. I could afford to eat out more otherwise.
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#21 Old 04-14-2008, 10:57 PM
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Eating out for me can be cheaper as I tend to buy really expensive organic groceries.



I just try to balance it out- if I've been eating out at expensive restaurants lately, I will try to eat cheaply at home. If I haven't eaten out for awhile, I'll splurge on expensive groceries.

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#22 Old 04-14-2008, 11:14 PM
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while I have a recipe for chili that uses $5 worth of groceries and lasts for several days. I really cannot comprehend how eating out could be cheaper than cooking your own meals, but that would be pretty sweet if it actually worked that way where I live.



You just proved my point that I made above.



If you like eating chili for several days then rock, it's way cheaper.



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#23 Old 04-14-2008, 11:15 PM
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I buy organic groceries too, but it's still cheaper for me to eat at home. It usually costs $7-10 per meal when I eat out. Maybe I just need to pick cheaper restaurants. I don't consider places like Taco Bell "eating out" though. It's good for when there's nothing else or I only have $2 on me, but I couldn't eat there every day.
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#24 Old 04-15-2008, 12:46 AM
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Cheaper, on the whole, to eat in, depending on how sensibly you cook. Having a large chest freezer is great, I can make a 3 or 4 home made freezer meals for the price of 1 store bought freezer meal. Eating in cheap take-aways (take outs/fast food places) might come close to as cheap, but these aren't classed as "eating out". Man, I want to live where eating in good restaurants is cheaper than eating plain, home-cooking.

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#25 Old 04-15-2008, 12:48 AM
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Originally Posted by fadeaway1289 View Post

My friend was complaining about money and saying how she is now resorting to asking her family/friends to give her gift cards for fast food places and Dennys/Big Boy/Applebees/etc to help her out financially. She only eats breakfast at home, lunch is either Mcdonalds/Wendys/chinese or other fast food places



None of those places are classed as "eating out" though. They are fast food.

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#26 Old 04-15-2008, 12:58 AM
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Holy crap!! Quote from the article

Quote:

Restaurant-association surveys indicate diners increasingly view restaurants as extensions of their own homes, and a large percentage would like to see table-top televisions installed at their favorite eating joints.



Surely not. Who did they survey? 8 year olds talking about the school canteen? I just can't imagine paying all that extra money for good table service only to have the wine waiter dodging a TV in the middle of the table!

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#27 Old 04-15-2008, 01:57 AM
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Cheaper, on the whole, to eat in, depending on how sensibly you cook. Having a large chest freezer is great, I can make a 3 or 4 home made freezer meals for the price of 1 store bought freezer meal. Eating in cheap take-aways (take outs/fast food places) might come close to as cheap, but these aren't classed as "eating out". Man, I want to live where eating in good restaurants is cheaper than eating plain, home-cooking.

Same here. Eating out cheaper than eating in could only be possible at McD (EUR1 per item now, thats ~USD1.60), or at one of the local döner (kebab) places (I think they start at EUR3/USD4.75), but obviously neither of these are an option for me. And comparing fast food items to homecooked meals made from fresh produce and with mostly organic ingredients is not appropriate anyway (in my opinion). You would have to compare it to eating at a vegan restaurant (if you make something really fancy) like http://www.zest-leipzig.de/amain.html (these prices are in EUR, exchange rate is ~1.6), or at least compare it with a veggie takeaway & café (for a simple meal), prices at the only local almost vegan place start at EUR5 (USD8) for the days special.

From what Ive heard, groceries are more expensive in Europe than in the US, but for USD20 (Brandons example I think), I can make a vegan meal for 4 from organic ingredients and with fresh produce. I usually do bring some sort of (intentionally made/calculated) leftovers for my office lunch the next day (no other option near us except a bakery and a fries/sausage shop anyway), but I dont have to eat the same meal 3 to 4 times in a row. Its a matter of mixing & matching ingredients, freezing both entire meals and sides, etc. I prefer to buy organic produce, and dont avoid costlier ingredients either (e. g. pine nuts and raw pistachios arent exactly cheap here, and I use them regularly), but eating out regularly, even at the vegan takeaway & café, would definitely be more expensive

And I have never seen a microwaveable (I assume that means a frozen dinner?) meal (neither omni nor veg*n) for the equivalent of only $1 (like kpickell wrote) here.
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#28 Old 04-15-2008, 02:13 AM
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I buy specific items for specific meals, though any leftover is always used in a different meal. E.g. onion or bell pepper left over from salad ends up in stir-fry or tacos.

My approach is different. I rarely buy specific items for specific meals, but choose what produce appeals to me most, regarding freshness, price (special offers, in season), etc. Then I decide what to cook from it. Some fresh staples (as well as many nonperishable staples) like apples, onions, avocados (mostly) are always on my grocery list though.
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#29 Old 04-15-2008, 07:24 AM
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Pasta, beans, and veggies are far less expensive to buy and prepare at home than it is to buy them out.



A gardenburger & fries at Red Robin runs me just under $13 with tip. I can buy 16 gardenburgers for $8.99 at Costco, that comes out to about $.57 per burger. Even with fries and a ton of toppings, there's no way it costs me over $12 additional to make it at home.



A ceasar salad costs me about $2 max to make at home, whereas it averages $8-$10 "out".



I guess it depends on what you buy, but I tend not to buy much in the way of convenience foods. I buy dried beans, which I pressure cook, stock up on canned tomatoes when they're on sale, and buy my produce from the bruised & dented cart when I can.
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#30 Old 04-15-2008, 09:37 AM
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For the most part, eating out is more expensive. It really depends on where you go and what you cook.



The grocery store is my downfall. I usually can't leave without spending less than $30 for one meal. It turns into a "I need this" adventure Also, sometimes I need spices that aren't available in the 99 cent bag, so I have to shell out $6 for a container of something like Poppy Seeds. I tend to keep my spice rack stocked, but sometimes it's a new spice I've never used. Luckily when I spend that $6, it lasts a while.



When it comes to fast food, yeah, it can be cheaper. My bf and I went to Bakers Drive Thru yesterday and got a bunch of food for $7.71. I didn't have to get the soda, so it could have been $6. The fries were optional too, so it could have been $5. Since its not a restaurant, we didn't have to tip (which is another problem with eating out... I was a server, I have to tip at least $4).



When my bf and I eat out at restaurants, we usually just get waters and share an entree. We can leave spending $13 after tip. Often we even have leftovers from our 1 meal. Not bad for 2 people.



The other day, I made vegan chili. I used almost everything I already had (which I had to pay for at one time, but it was pretty cheap stuff like onion, canned tomato, spices, canned beans, bottle of beer). Probably cost $2 a serving compared to $6 at a restaurant.



Here's a tip for people who dine out: Ever been to a restaurant that has a survey you can fill out through the internet or on the phone (on the receipt) where they send you a gift certificate or coupon? USE THOSE! I started doing it and ended up with: free $9 guacamole at El Torito, $10 gift card from Cheesecake Factory, a free dessert or appetizer from CPK... and some other stuff.
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