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RedDeerGuy1's avatar

Why is cooking your own meals usually cheaper than ordering out?

Asked by RedDeerGuy1 (21247points) March 26th, 2019
20 responses
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Should not the price be the same? Is their any healthy meal that is cheaper ordering out? I order Meals on Wheels for $7.50 a day for healthy food. Is that a good deal compared to buying bulk veggies and meat? What about weight loss deals on the television? Are they any good?

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jca2's avatar

Because a restaurant will factor into what they charge you a markup on the food that has to cover their overhead (their building, heat, lights, etc.), their labor costs (the chefs and servers and cleaners and hostess), the things like plates and napkins and toilet paper and all that stuff, and the food itself (they need to make a profit on the food).

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

@jca2 Should not the overhead costs apply to my self in my apartment? Shopping, dishes, water, electricity for heating and lights… ect?

jca2's avatar

@RedDeerGuy1: If you were selling something, you’d have to factor that in to the price.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

@jca2 I try to save 10% a month for emergency fund and for big purchases. I would factor that in the price. Maybe the cost of delivery is for better expertise at cooking and sanitation. I wonder if it is worth the extra price to have safer food?

KNOWITALL's avatar

Way cheaper to make it at home, for us. For example, we bought two steaks for 12, had fresh green beans and bread n butter for a total of maybe 20 bucks. At a restaurant probably 40 bucks plus tip.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

@KNOWITALL Yes, but why is it cheaper? Are the steaks cooked better at a restaurant? Or are they a better cut? I’ve heard that the cheap cuts are sold to grocery stores and the good stuff goes to restaurants? Is that true?

Dutchess_lll's avatar

No your food purchases do not factor into your personal overhead cost, unlike a resturaunt.
You are only paying for the overhead cost for the company who processed your food and for the grocery store you bought it from.
A resturaunt has both of those costs AND has to make a profit on top of that.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

No the cheap cuts are not sold to the grocery stores.
Where the grocery stores have the edge over you is they buy in bulk. Bulk is always cheaper than buying individually.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

@Dutchess_III Thanks. Maybe I should buy those $110 bulk roasts from the Warehouse Club?

Dutchess_lll's avatar

Sure. If you have freezer space to store them in until you’re ready to cook ‘em.
I always jump on the 2 for 1 roasts at our grocery store.

kritiper's avatar

Places you buy food from have a mark up so they can make a profit. You don’t do that eating in.

Darth_Algar's avatar

What they said above. Plus, simply put, when you dine-out or order food for delivery, you’re paying for a service, not just for goods.

Brian1946's avatar


“I always jump on the 2 for 1 roasts at our grocery store.”

When I did that, they threw me out of the store, even though I explained, “This is how I tenderize my meat!”. ;-)

Jeruba's avatar

Well, you could go ahead and compute the costs of your dishes, water, electricity for heating and lights, rent, etc., and prorate them, and add a valuation of your time, and figure out what your home-cooked meal is really costing you. And then the difference would be less.

There are some things that would be a huge bother to fix at home. If you want just one portion of, let’s say, lasagne or shepherd’s pie or moussaka, you can’t just cook that amount—you have to make the whole thing.

It can be hard to buy certain ingredients in single-portion quantities, so either you’re going to waste some or you have to commit to a lot of use of that ingredient.

You probably don’t have a hot enough oven for fresh pizza. You can’t bake just one roll or one slice of pie. And you need a giant pot to cook a lobster.

So there are some things it just makes more sense to have prepared elsewhere. And for that convenience, the service, and the other expenses of the provider (plus a profit, or else why are they in business?), you have to pay more than the mere cost of the ingredients, as others have explained.

LadyMarissa's avatar

I eat out every day & it costs me $7.63 per day including my drink. It only cost me 13 cents a day more than it does you to eat & mine is good old Southern Home Cooking!!! :)


Stache's avatar

I can make a kick ass spaghetti meal for 4 for $8.

You do the math.

seawulf575's avatar

When you cook at home, you aren’t trying to make a profit. You mentioned that you get Meals on Wheels for $7.50/day. That is probably a good deal, but that isn’t the same as normal ordering out. Meals on Wheels is funded through a large number of avenues between government funding and charitable donations and volunteer delivery. That knocks the cost way down plus they aren’t trying to turn a profit.
I eat out for only a couple reasons…I want the convenience or I want something I cannot make better at home. But I understand I can make all that at home more cheaply. Even if I go to to McDonalds for a quarter-pounder meal…that runs me about $7.50. If I go to the grocery store, I can get a pound of ground beef for about $4, a package of buns for about $1.50, a bag of fries for about $3 and a 2L of soda for about $1.50. So I spend $10 for the food at home, but I can get 4 meals out of it making it closer to $2.50 per meal. Yes, you can add in a dollop of ketchup and mustard,a little salt and a napkin, but that isn’t going to change the price per meal significantly. And my food tastes better.

LostInParadise's avatar

Should not the overhead costs apply to myself in my apartment? Shopping, dishes, water, electricity for heating and lights… etc?

If you charged yourself for the labor costs, a lot of the price difference would disappear – work required for buying, preparing, cooking and cleaning up.

You would also need to charge yourself for a part of your rent and utilities. You might argue that you have to pay for these things anyway, but you are choosing to use a portion of them for preparing a meal instead of something else that you might prefer doing.

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