Eating Out Cheaper than Cooking? MSN says yes, I say…..

Adam Linder, singer/songwriter/guitarist of the indie-punk band Sister City brought this to my attention, after Reddit brought it to his, as is so often the case.

Section I: The issue at hand

Is Eating Out Cheaper Than Cooking? from MSN Money

The conclusion they come to is that most times, yes, eating out is cheaper than cooking. They cite that the cost of purchasing food at the supermarket are rising “6% a year, about 2.5 times as fast as the cost of restaurant meals.” This, and a few comparisons such as the following, serve as the main support for their claim:

“Olive Garden

Meal: seafood alfredo (unlimited salad and breadsticks).

Total price: $15.50

Grocery store: fresh shrimp, $5.33; scallops, $3.99; pasta, $1.99; bag salad, $3.99; breadsticks, $3.99

Total: $19.29

Winner: Olive Garden

Grocery-store items were calculated using prices at FreshDirect. Seafood estimates based on one-third pound of shrimp and one-third pound of scallops”

They admit that their method was “highly unscientific” mainly because they didn’t try to find sale items, the prices of groceries vary across the country and they did not consider the nutrition or environmental friendliness of each meal.

Section II: Minor versus major misleading factors

Luckily, the commenters (both on the article and on Reddit) seem to see glaring faults with the article. What STILL gets me though, is that most people seem to be missing the BIG hunker, here. Many people are noting that they didn’t include tip, tax, gas money, drinks and the varying costs of food by region. A minority mention what’s really throwing us off here:

You do not eat one box of pasta, an entire baguette (more common than breadsticks at the store) and an entire bag of salad in one sitting. 

It’s like saying a $2 bag of one pair of socks is cheaper than a $5 bag of three pairs of socks. It is cheaper right now, but you’re still gonna “eat” the other two pairs of socks, just not right this second.

Divide the pasta, baguette and (arguably) salad by FOUR. You go from $9.49 for all that to $2.49 (spread out over four people or four sittings for one person). That lowers your total at-home to $11.81 compared to Olive Garden’s $15.50 (yes, plus tip).

New Jersey’s tax versus North Dakota’s tax and other such factors will not alter the cost of your meal by SEVEN DOLLARS, you guys. I guess people are just pointing that out for the sake of being complete, but the portion thing is really the thing I feel we should be rallying behind here.

Even if you are a single person living alone, you can’t really tell us that 3/4 of a box of pasta  would just eventually be thrown away, considering that you apparently like pasta since  you bought it in the first place. Buying a normal box of pasta is buying in bulk for a family of one. You’ve won.

Section III: Inadvertent harm and hopelessness causing to average shoppers

While this portion thing is wildly clear to the recipe-obsessed, who already have seven pasta sauce recipes bookmarked, it may not be clear to the average eater who does go to the store buying the ingredients for the first meal they’ve made in ages, chicken parm for two, and is shocked and angered when it comes out to… I don’t know how much… way more than they expected.

And they will say “I thought cooking was supposed to be cheaper,” and now they’ll read this article and say “I was right. Now I know for sure” and be mad they’ve been told lies for so long by advanced home chefs who think that two hours prep isn’t that long at all!

And they’ll have enough jarred pasta sauce, pasta and shredded mozzarella cheese to make however many more meals, but they’ll just have the frustration in their mind, it’ll go bad, and they’ll still have been ripped off as far as they’re concerned.

And the time you spend cooking? Well, that is just for you to decide. It’s time or money, you can’t really win out on both. Same as hiring someone to paint your living room instead of doing it yourself or buying clothes at the store instead of making them. One is cheaper, the other is faster.

Section IV: Conclusion and photographic evidence

So to me, the main inflation we see in this article that wanted to jump on the whole economy thing and dispel some “common knowledge,” is that you’d count the cost of an entire box of pasta on one side, but only the cost of the pasta on your plate at the Olive Garden. Which other people had pointed out but not as many as I would have hoped! So I felt I should really REALLY point it out and here we are! Chicken parm once a year grocery store shoppers, DON’T BELIEVE THESE LIES AND EVENTUALLY BECOME POOR!!!

some ingredients

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About Jen Cantin

Follow Jen Cantin on Twitter if you have nothing better to do! Wouldn’t want to impose… Two cats and three times more ‘tude than the leading car insurance provider.
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3 Responses to Eating Out Cheaper than Cooking? MSN says yes, I say…..

  1. joanne sinclair says:

    Yes, that is why that article was so frustrating. Why did the author of the article not even pick up on that when writing it. At a lot of restaurants,dinner for one, or maybe 2, will feed an entire family, and then some. These articles claiming it is cheaper to eat out drive me CRAZY.
    For the cost of say 2 Outback meals, so 40 something dollars,not counting tax and tip, I bought at my store yesterday..4 packages of already cut up veggie mixes for stirfry, one Chinese cabbage, one pkg. of chicken cut for stir fry, ginger-scallion sauce, whole wheat oasta..fixings for ruebens including swirl rye bread, cheese, corned beef, saurkraut, potato chips, Dill Havarti for my granddaughter, bananas, 3 4-packs of bagels, butter,coffee, and a few bbq chicken pieces from the wing bar,a container of greek olives, and bleu cheese stuffed giant green olives, mixed, and a cup of coffee…not to mention the 2 pkgs. of dog chewies.and probably one or two items I am forgetting about,o yeah,Huggies baby wipes..for just about 50 bucks, maybe less, and this will feed us ,3 adults plus tthe baby, and my son stopping in and eating or taking his portion home, for probably 2 different nights, and a lunch or 2. And that’s without even thinking about it,and it is more convenience food(already for stirfry veggies and chicken, and sauce) than we usually buy.
    Tired and my night to take care of my gdaughter, so hard to do a big meal. Still SSSOOO much cheaper at home. And my grocery store is not the cheapest, just, again, convenient because I work there.
    Is this too long, sorry, just very passionate on this subjuct.

  2. joanne sinclair says:

    I knew I would forget something big, a 1# bag of frozen bay scallops. That’s a lot of food for a little money. And none of it is boring, or unhealthy.

    • I know, that is a HUGE list of food and all pretty healthy and varied! I think the people who write these articles just want to try and prove something new, since so many of us already know from experience that cooking at home is cheaper. But we know better! Thanks for reading and responding, Joanne!

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