This weekend, my husband, Jeff, and I went on a kayaking/bird watching tour with some friends. On the way home we stopped at a restaurant on the river for some lunch. I’m not much of a burger or fried fish eater, so I ordered a salad. Jeff warned me against it, since I have a salad at home almost every day. But the description looked delicious. It was something like this:
Fresh mixed greens with strawberries and carmelized onions, dressed with a strawberry and yogurt vinaigrette, topped with Chevre – $9.95.
This was a late lunch, and I’d had an early breakfast before the trip. I was on the hungry side. In fact Jeff’s arm was starting to look tasty. So when the salad arrived, I was disappointed. It was a very small portion, there was one strawberry and a sliver of carmelized onion. The ingredients were fresh and of high quality. It just wasn’t $10 worth of salad.
The USDA Economic Research Service reported that in 2012, food prepared away from home, i.e., restaurant food, whether take out or sit-down, represented 43.1% of average household spending on food. That is up from 25.9% in 1970. In 2014, the NPD Group, a market research firm, reported that the average american ate food from a restaurant 191 times per year.That’s more than three and half times per week.
Eating out is expensive. One of the easiest ways to save money is to eat out less often. Let’s compare salads. The salad in the photo is the salad Jeff made for me the day after our kayaking trip (I told you I eat a lot of salads). It had spinach, cabbage, celery, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, Kalamata olives and Feta cheese. The cost to make this salad at home was about $4.00. We saved more than half over the $10 restaurant salad, and we got about two and a half times the food. Plus it was every bit as lovely as a restaurant salad.
Most people eat out for social or convenience reasons. Dining out socially is great, provided you have the budget for it, but dining out for convenience is a waste of time and money. Even social gatherings can be less costly and just as fun if you gather together in your or a friend’s home with everyone bringing a dish or drinks. With a little planning you can have great food for less money and no more time. From time to time, I’ll share a dish that we’ve made at home and compare the value of make at home versus buying already prepared. If you have a dish or recipe you’d like to share send it along.