Cook at home or Eat out?

Debt Hater was debating between eating at home all the time or eating out. She wanted to know how to figure out a way to see if eating at home was cheaper or not.

For me, it is cheaper to eat at home.

kitchenWithout a doubt, I spend $200-$250 a month on really good, organic foods, and if I were to eat out all the time, I would have a bigger waist and a smaller wallet, to the tune of $450 a month.

I arrived at $450 as a number because I actually ate out for one day, and had a bowl of Pho for lunch without a breakfast.

I was so full, I didn’t need to eat anything for the rest of the day. So… $15 x 30 days = $450 on average.

No going outside of the $15 tax & tip included zone, which means my  food choices would be kind of limited based on price.

For me, eating out is definitely easier.

I could probably make the Pho at home for cheaper if I took the time to do it, but t it takes such a dang long time if you want to get the soup really flavourful and done right.


But if you are trying to find a differential between whether eating out all the time at cheapie places or eating at home is cheaper, try these two methods.

You will NEED to be tracking all your expenses for these methods to work.


Method #1: Track it by the total amount

  1. Try each method for one week.
  2. Try eating at home and buying groceries for the whole week.
  3. The next week, try only eating out for the whole week.
  4. Compare the two totaled amounts.


You will probably have leftovers from groceries or eating out, but pretend they don’t exist, as we are looking at the totals, rather than on a per-meal basis.

restaurantAs not to waste food, I would suggest buying what you think you need for the week, and then eating the food until it’s completely gone, even if it goes over a week (7 days).

If it goes over an entire week, and ends up being 9 days for example, then take the grocery bill, divide it by the 9 days, and multiply it by 7 days to get an approximation for a week.

On the 10th day, start eating out for 7 whole days for whenever you feel hungry.

Eat any leftovers before you buy a new meal.

Method #2: Count by the meals


  1. Try each method for the week, the same as in Method #1
  2. But this time, keep track somewhere of how many meals you ate out of the money you spent
  3. The difference is you are looking at the amounts by the number of meals eaten rather than a single, total weekly amount



If you eat at home, and you have leftovers into the next week, that grocery bill counted for those meals.

So if you bought $50 of groceries but you went over 7 days into 9 days, count the meals you ate for those extra days as part of the grocery total, just like above. 

Only this time, you would have something like: $50 in groceries = 27 meals (9 days, 3 times a day)

If you eat out, and you have leftovers for another meal, that one receipt counts for two meals.


At the end, you should have a good idea of what you would typically spend eating out or cooking at home for each month.

eating out restaurant mealsThe problem with NOT tracking it methodically as described above, is that if you eat out today, but cook at home tomorrow, you start mixing the receipts & getting the food amounts confused.

Plus, if you plan on always eating out, would you ever cook at home? And vice versa?

You have to try that kind of lifestyle for a week to see if you could get used to it, or get sick of it.

When I traveled and ate out all the time, I eventually hated it so much, that I finally bought some plain bread and cheese.

A simple, no fuss, no muss meal.

It was all I wanted.

It was what I craved, after eating steaks, and other restaurant-type fare.

Any other tips from readers on how to calculate or figure out which way is cheaper?

About the Author

Just a girl trying to find a balance between being a Shopaholic and a Saver. I cleared $60,000 in 18 months earning $65,000 gross/year. Now I am self-employed, and you can read more about my story here, or visit my other blog: The Everyday Minimalist.