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Is Eating Out Cheaper Than Cooking?

A father and son wash veggies together to cook.
Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock.com

Whether you’re a foodie, a busy parent, or an exhausted working professional, the age-old question of whether it’s cheaper to eat out or cook at home has likely crossed your mind. We’re all struggling to navigate inflation and eating on a budget can really help. So which is cheaper—eating out or cooking at home?

Generally speaking, cooking at home is the more cost-effective option, especially if you’re buying ingredients in bulk, opting for seasonal produce, and taking advantage of sales and coupons…but there are exceptions.

Certain factors can sometimes make eating out cheaper. For example, if you’re cooking for one or two people, it may be more expensive to buy all the necessary ingredients and tools for a single meal than to simply grab a bite at a nearby restaurant that’s inexpensive.

Magnetic Meal Planning Pad for Fridge 52 Undated Tear-off Sheets

Meal prep and grocery lists are a great way to save money when you're eating on a budget and trying to cook more at home.

If you’re dining at a budget-friendly restaurant or taking advantage of happy hour deals, you may be able to enjoy a meal out for a lower price than what you’d spend on ingredients for a home-cooked meal.

The downside, though, is that when dining out, you don’t have as much control over the quality or nutritional value of the food you’re consuming. While cost-effectiveness is important, so are your nutritional and health goals. Often, it’s difficult to gauge everything in restaurant food.

So, if you’re trying to eat on a budget, the best decision—in terms of affordability—will depend on your circumstances, lifestyle, and preferences. But in general, cooking at home is still the best budget option.

Abbey Ryan Abbey Ryan
Abbey Ryan is a storyteller, preferably of stories in written form. Across the 5 years of her professional writing career, her work has been featured in The Chicago Tribune, Amazon, The Medical News Today, and more. When she's not writing (which is rare), she's likely traveling, painting, or on the hunt for a good snack. Read Full Bio »
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