Check, Please! Is Eating Out Worth It?

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Breaking down the cost: Restaurants & meal kits

Americans hate to cook. You know it, I know it, and corporations know it.

We all know we should cook more meals at home. We acknowledge it would be better for our health and better for our finances if we cooked more of our meals at home, but we don’t. We are only human, so as much as we declare our intention to cook more and eat out less, we rarely follow through.

The free market does not always provide the optimal outcome. Companies realized there was a strong demand for alternatives to cooking at home, and they have made loads of cash by fulfilling that demand. Fast-food and restaurant delivery has long been available to consumers who don’t feel like cooking.

In the past 5 years, however, tech companies have found all new ways to meet the demand of consumers who don’t feel like cooking. Food delivery has accelerated through services such as Postmates and Uber Eats, which have expanded the market for food delivery from restaurants that in the past had never offered delivery services.

In addition to the fact that we are ordering more food, there is a new niche for food delivery in the form of “food kits”. There is a whole new industry of companies that will mail pre-packaged ingredients and recipe cards straight to your door.

Most of us are aware that eating out or ordering food kits is more expensive than buying ingredients at the grocery store and cooking at home. Today I want to discuss exactly how much money we are wasting because we are too lazy to buy our own groceries and cook our own food.

How much you can save by cooking at home

Let’s get straight to the point, eating out at a restaurant is one of the worst financial decisions you can make. According to a report from Wellio, It costs nearly 5 times more money per serving to eat at a restaurant than cooking the same meal at home.

Cooking your meals through a Meal Kit service is a slightly less terrible financial decision, where the average cost per serving is nearly 3 times more than cooking from scratch.

New research broke down the cost per serving for cooking the same meal at home, from a meal kit or ordering from a restaurant.

Cost Comparison Chart: Home Cooking vs. Meal Kit vs Restaurant
Data source: wellio. Chart created with Onomics.

It’s useful to put some numbers to what we already know, the further removed you are from preparing and cooking your own food, the more expensive your food is:

Buying the ingredients, yourself and cooking your own food costs $4.31 per serving

Having the ingredients delivered to you with some of the prep work done costs you $12.53 per serving

And eating at a restaurant, where you are completely removed from the purchasing of the ingredients or the preparation of the food will cost you $20.37 per serving.

All these figures come from the Wellio report

Where we are getting ripped off the most

What is the biggest rip-off at restaurants?

The big take away from the report is that meals that feature meat have the highest markup at restaurants compared to cooking the same dish at home. To provide some context, the report found that the highest markup of any meal in the study was Beef Wellington. On average it costs $36.49 to order a serving of Beef Wellington at a restaurant, while it costs only $4.53 to prepare a serving of Beef Wellington at home. For those of you keeping score that is a 700% markup. Yikes!

We only need to look at the top 10 meals where you save the most money by cooking at home rather than ordering from a restaurant to know, we should be buying our own meat and cooking at home.

Meals where you save the most money cooking instead of delivery
Data source: wellio. Chart created with Onomics.

What is the biggest rip-off from meal kits?

The results from analyzing meal-kit costs is a little more subtle than the restaurant costs. The big takeaway is that foods with a relatively cheap list of ingredients such as flour have the biggest price markup when bought through meal kit services. I suspect that this is because although the ingredients are cheap, these meal-kit services must have a minimum price that they can charge for any meal given all their extra costs to deliver the meal to your house.

Let’s look at the top 10 meals where you save the most money by cooking from scratch rather than buying a meal kit.

Meals where you save the most money cooking instead of delivery
Data source: wellio. Chart created with Onomics.

Do you like cauliflower bowls? Do you hate paying $13 dollars for one serving? Then why not go to the grocery store, buy the ingredients and make it your self and save your self $11.82 per serving. The top 6 recipes on this list all cost less than $1.40 per serving when you make it at home.

Bottom line no matter what you are cooking it will be significantly less expensive than ordering a meal kit or going to a restaurant. I know it sucks to go to the grocery store and do the prep work required to cook at home. But just as it’s never been easier not to cook, at the same time it’s never been easier to cook. You no longer need to buy expensive cookbooks or watch the Food Network in order to learn how to make delicious meals. You can google or YouTube FREE recipes to fit almost any dietary needs and get detailed instructions on how to prepare and cook these meals.

Do your wallet, and your body a huge favor and start cooking.

Have you cut back on eating out or started cooking more in order to save money?  Do you feel that the high cost of eating out is worth it?  Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

Disclaimer: The information in this article is not intended to encourage any lifestyle changes without careful consideration and consultation with a qualified professional. This article is for reference purposes only, is generic in nature, is not intended as individual advice and is not financial or legal advice.

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  1. Brian Thorp Brian Thorp says:

    If you think the margins on food are large, you should see the margins on cocktails!

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