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Old 12-09-2011, 09:20 PM
 
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I actually kinda agree with the OP that eating out CAN sometimes be cheaper than eating in - depending on where you go to eat and what kind of food you like to eat and cook. We used to live next to this really amazing greek place - it was known all around the city and had crazy lineups every night, but we were able just to pick up the food to go and eat at home, saving on the drinks and tip. Their quantities were insane for the price - me and DH would split an appy and an entree, and we would have leftovers for a small meal the next day. For $10, you got a plate with two huge chicken, lamb, or shrimp skewers, a gigantic mound of delicious rice, potato, salad, pita and tzatziki. If I were to buy just the same amount of chicken breasts at the store, it would run me at least $6-7 - never mind shrimp, and the rest of the ingredients, and the time and effort to cook it. The only reason we didn't eat there more often is because it was quite fat, salt, and calorie-laden, although scrumptious. But trying to cook a meal like that at home would not save too much.
It was similar with some middle eastern places, like chicken shawarma could have a huge amount of chicken, enough for a decent dinner and lunch the next day for DH, for less than $6, and delicious. Or as an another example, we love hot and sour soup from a Thai restaurant here. It costs $3.50 a bowl, and is filled with chicken and obviously all the thai flavors. If I were to try and make that myself, I'd need to go out and buy all the ingredients - coconut milk, lemongrass, kaffir lime, fish sauce, etc etc, plus do all the labour intensive work of making it, and it would likely still not come out as tasty and end up costing me much more. The restaurant can afford to make it cheap because they make it in such large quantities.
So it really all depends on the quality and type of food you're looking for at your price point. Obviously, if your end goal is just to go as cheaply as possible, you can buy and cook huge portions of chili or what have you; but for some fancier meals it's often not even worth making at home. I know I've had dinner parties where I wanted to try out fancier recipes - nothing that sounded crazy expensive, but required lots of different ingredients I don't normally use - and I'd go out and buy everything and then realize it would've been cheaper per person to go out to a nice dinner - and I wouldn't have the cooking and clean up looming before me too.
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Old 12-10-2011, 07:43 AM
 
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Valid point. I recently bought ingredients for Thanksgiving dinner, came to roughly $80. For two people. Sure, we could have gone out to dinner cheaper. But we did have leftovers plus for about a week.

My Mom had these coupons for BOGO free Big Mac, for .99. That was dinner, for two people for less than a dollar. We did not get fries or soda. We ate there so much, I finally rebelled, and said no more...ugh
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Old 12-10-2011, 08:19 AM
 
Location: Bella Vista, Ark
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Emeraldmaiden View Post
Try this - make a nice pot of spaghetti sauce. With or without meat; it works both ways. Then divide it up into say, 4 portions. Refrigerate one, freeze two, eat one tonight.

One meal - sauce with pasta and a salad.
Next meal - sauce with browned Italian sausage and veggies (I use sauteed onion, chopped eggplant and zucchini). Simmer them together until the veggies are done.

The two in the freezer can be for pasta again, lasagne, whatever. This is a way to cook in bulk without having what feels like leftovers. It's meal planning and frugal cooking while still having some variety.
with 2 of us, that is about what I do. I will use my crock pot, sometimes make meat balls and sometimes no meat. They after one meal, I will leave enough in the fridge for another night or lunch. The rest get frozen in containers just the right size for the two of us. If we have company, sometimes I will just pull out 2 containers. Then cook up pasta and a little bread, plus a salad and we are set.

Nita
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Old 12-10-2011, 08:20 AM
 
Location: Bella Vista, Ark
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MaryleeII View Post
Part of the problem of cooking in for a single person is the waste. If you cook economically, you end up with leftovers you can't finish before they spoil. If you cook conveniently, you consume things in small quantities that end up costing you about as much as just picking up something.
again, that is what freezers are for...
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Old 12-10-2011, 08:22 AM
 
Location: Bella Vista, Ark
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Originally Posted by Bunjee View Post
I agree with gypsychic. Whatever floats ya! That was me many moons ago too!

Still, I'd offer one tip. If you're in Arizona then grilling year-round is feasible. And there's nothing to me more satisfying than grilling. Also, in hot weather I am more inclined to appreciate cold foods. You grill a steak for eating a la minute, and you grill a steak for chilling. It's not leftovers; it's meant for later preparations like cold beef salads or sandwiches. Same with chicken, seafood, vegetables (like for roasted salsa), whatever.

The big change for me came not when I could no longer afford it--though that happened too--but when local restaurants didn't offer what I wanted to eat. There was a sandwich I had at a winery once that I could only reproduce at home, or do a 4-hour drive. Or a rich war wonton soup, which does vary in quality, and if you have few ethnic options in the first place, then you're outta luck. Once you run through the menus at your regular spots, that's what happens next...
i agree, if you can afford to eat out and enjoy it, that is wonderful, but the OP asked if it wasn't just a cheap or cheaper and the answer is NO, it is much cheaper to eat at home.

Nita
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Old 12-10-2011, 11:34 AM
 
Location: Scottsdale, AZ
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Last night I did attempt to make a good, home-cooked meal from scratch. I decided I wanted chicken fettuccine alfredo with garlic bread and a caesar salad. Bought chicken breasts, fettuccine noodles, two jars of alfredo sauce, garlic bread, cheese, pre-packaged salad, ranch dressing, and olives...my total was somewhere between $25-$30. I do some 'leftovers' in the fridge but I'm taking a friend out tonight for supper, I'm meeting my parents for breakfast tomorrow morning (brunch), and I'll probably go out Sunday night with my sister and her husband.

So could it be cheaper? Yes if I make quantities of things but to make a small portion, enough for a single meal, I'm not sure.
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Old 12-10-2011, 12:17 PM
 
Location: California Mountains
1,448 posts, read 2,493,432 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SpeedyAZ View Post
Last night I did attempt to make a good, home-cooked meal from scratch. I decided I wanted chicken fettuccine alfredo with garlic bread and a caesar salad. Bought chicken breasts, fettuccine noodles, two jars of alfredo sauce, garlic bread, cheese, pre-packaged salad, ranch dressing, and olives...my total was somewhere between $25-$30. I do some 'leftovers' in the fridge but I'm taking a friend out tonight for supper, I'm meeting my parents for breakfast tomorrow morning (brunch), and I'll probably go out Sunday night with my sister and her husband.

So could it be cheaper? Yes if I make quantities of things but to make a small portion, enough for a single meal, I'm not sure.
The high cost was due to the sauce in the jar, the ready-made garlic bread, pre-packaged salad, dressing in the bottle, etc. In short, you bought all convenient food, except the chicken breast and cheese.

Fettuccine Alfredo is one of the simplest dishes to make from scratch. Heavy cream, butter, and Parmigiano are all the ingredients for the sauce. Parmigiano is expensive at the supermarket, but from Costco, it costs much, much less. The cost of Parmigiano over many uses is minimal.

Ready-made garlic bread also costs more than bread with homemade garlic spread. It only takes a couple of minutes to make garlic spread.

Instead of salad dressing in the bottle, you can make your own in five minutes and it can be kept in the refrigerator for later use.

(Side note: IMHO, Caesar salad should not go with fettuccine alfredo; a heavy cream-based main course served with an egg/mayonnaise-based salad dressing is a bit too much. If it were my meal, I would make a light Italian dressing for a cucumber and tomato salad, or lemon juice and pepper over arugula salad, both can be topped with Parmigiano. The homemade Italian salad dressing would be about 79 or 99 cents, which is the cost of a bundle of fresh parsley. All other spices should exist in the everyday pantry.)

I would not buy pre-package salad; to me it is not as fresh as what I can do with other greens. The Italians rarely go for the mixed salad deal, but only the simple salad with just arugula, or just cucumber and tomatoes, or just tomato and mozzarella di bufala. The best way to serve a steak, the Italian way, is atop a large bed of arugula and nothing else.

To answer your question, it definitely can be much cheaper even for a single meal when the only real cost is the chicken breast and Parmigiano. Since you will use the same piece of Parmigiano for a long time after last night, only a very small portion of its price should be counted toward last night's meal.

Last edited by Ol' Wanderer; 12-10-2011 at 12:59 PM..
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Old 12-10-2011, 02:42 PM
 
Location: Bella Vista, Ark
69,256 posts, read 79,427,308 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SpeedyAZ View Post
Last night I did attempt to make a good, home-cooked meal from scratch. I decided I wanted chicken fettuccine alfredo with garlic bread and a caesar salad. Bought chicken breasts, fettuccine noodles, two jars of alfredo sauce, garlic bread, cheese, pre-packaged salad, ranch dressing, and olives...my total was somewhere between $25-$30. I do some 'leftovers' in the fridge but I'm taking a friend out tonight for supper, I'm meeting my parents for breakfast tomorrow morning (brunch), and I'll probably go out Sunday night with my sister and her husband.

So could it be cheaper? Yes if I make quantities of things but to make a small portion, enough for a single meal, I'm not sure.
If you spent $25 to $30 on that meal you did something wrong. I really do think you are just trying to justify eating out. That is fine, but if you try to cook economically at all, there is no way eating out and healthy can be as cheap as eathing at home..
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Old 12-11-2011, 01:28 PM
 
Location: N of citrus, S of decent corn
34,526 posts, read 42,694,765 times
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What is wrong with your thinking is that you eat mostly junk, and you don't eat leftovers. What is wrong with leftovers? Foods frequently taste better the next day.
IF you ate a balanced diet and IF you cooked a meal, then froze part of it for a second or third meal, then you would certainly spend much less money.
But if you only like junk, and you don't want to be bothered cooking, and you retain your childish prejudices against leftovers, you are throwing money away.
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Old 12-11-2011, 02:11 PM
 
Location: GLAMA
16,584 posts, read 32,635,770 times
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I make 10 quarts of soups, stews, sauces etc then freeze them in two-meal sized containers. At this moment I have containers of turkey vegetable soup, bean with bacon soup, Navy bean soup, split pea with ham soup, and bolognese sauce in my freezer. If you consider this a form of leftovers, then you might as well stop reading right here.

The stuff with turkey and ham were made with the parts of the meat course that most people these days throw away. I never allow a turkey carcass, ham bone or even chicken carcass to be tossed until I've extracted every bit of goodness from them. Makes for cheap eats, especially here in California where produce is cheaper. (Every pot of soup I make includes an entire head of cabbage for the goodness contained therein)
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