How to Save $9,000 on Food
If you’ve ever read any books or listened to any podcasts on personal finance, you’ve probably heard something about how people spend too much money dining out, rather than eating at home. But, I mean, is it really that big of a deal to spend 10 bucks on lunch?
I decided to do an experiment.
On one day, I would dine out for all of my meals. Another day, I would prepare and eat all of my meals at home. I saved my receipts and broke down how much it cost for each day.
How Much I Spent Dining Out
I wanted to make my data applicable to as many people as possible, so I chose casual places that are modestly priced. You know, the type of place where you would go, not for a special occasion, just for regular food when you don’t want to cook.
It was most convenient to just get breakfast at my work cafeteria. I also think this is a good data point because a work cafeteria is somewhere a lot of people eat everyday. It’s obviously convenient to have something right there, and usually work cafeterias are more affordable than dining out, so you’re still saving money, right?
Here’s what I ordered:
Not the most glamorous breakfast, but it did the job. I also treated myself to a nice coffee, which was actually more than the food! But what kind of blog would this be if I didn’t mention something about those pesky $5 lattes (even though mine was only $3.75). This was actually the first time I ever paid for coffee at work. I usually just get the free stuff in the break rooms :p
Overall, I spent $7.36 on breakfast.
For lunch, I went to a local favorite: Chi’Lantro, one of the OG Austin food trucks that now has some brick-and-mortar locations.
This was actually kind of funny. Here I am, trying to spend money on food, but what happens? The power went out! It was literally right as I was about to pay for my food. Their point-of-sale system went down and it didn’t seem like the power was coming back on any time soon so they just gave me the food for free!
Obviously, this was just an unusual incident, so I’m providing the numbers for what I would have spent:
Had it not been for the lucky timing, I would have spent $12.44.
For dinner I went to Mod Pizza. Like I said, trying to find casual places that someone might eat at on a regular basis. No fancy restaurants today.
The power didn’t go out here, so I still had to actually pay. Here’s what it came out to:
I never thought I’d be one of those people who goes to a pizza place and gets a salad. Alas, here I am. It was a tasty option though, and it cost me $12.49.
Overall, I spent $32.29 on breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Really, that’s not too bad. You could easily spend that much on a single dinner. But how does it compare to what I spent making food at home?
How Much I Spent Eating at Home
To come up with these numbers, I took the cost of the total item that I spent at the grocery store, then divided it appropriately for how much I ate. For example, I bought a dozen eggs for $4.38 (my wife and I buy the expensive ones because the chickens are treated better). I had one egg with breakfast, so $4.38 divided by 12, or 37 cents per egg.
I’m one of those boring people who can eat the same thing everyday, especially when it comes to breakfast. Every morning I fry an egg (with some extra egg whites for more protein) and have a banana and a bowl of oatmeal with it.
Here’s how much that costs:
It was crazy cheap! Even with the expensive eggs, breakfast at home only cost 82 cents!!
(Side Note) One time I was in Seattle for work and went to a coffee shop for breakfast. My oatmeal there was $8. EIGHTY TIMES what it costs me at home! Apparently I need to start a business selling oatmeal to hipsters.
For lunch, I just made a simple sandwich: a few slices of ham and a slice of cheese on whole-grain bread, with fresh spinach and tomato. I also had a glass of orange juice.
Here’s how much that all cost:
Only $2.25. Not bad at all!
I just realized I forgot to include the prices for mayonnaise and mustard, but I don’t feel like remaking a receipt. It also probably is just a few cents worth out of the big container. We’ll say it was probably 25 cents for the amount I used, which is probably too high, but I’d rather overestimate than underestimate. So $2.50 for lunch.
For dinner I made tacos! They’re pretty easy to make, include all the major food groups, and they’re delicious!
I made them with beef and topped them with lettuce, tomato, avocado, and shredded cheese, then squeezed some lime juice over them. I made three tacos and here’s what that cost:
My most expensive meal of the day, but still only $4.04!
Making my meals at home, I spent a combined $7.36. Interestingly, that’s how much I spent on just my breakfast on my dining out day!
- On the day I dined out for all of my meals, I spent $32.29.
- On the day I made all my food at home, I spent $7.36.
As compared to dining out, I saved $24.93 by eating at home. That’s pretty good, but it’s only 25 bucks. Not like I’m gonna get rich by saving $25.
Or am I??
Well, actually, this is the point I really wanted to make. Little things add up. If you save $24.93 everyday, that’s $9,099.45 per year!
Also, I ate at pretty affordable places. I never spent more than $13 on a meal. I could have easily spent twice that much.
Now, I’m not saying don’t ever eat out. Honestly, it’s nice not to have to make food or do dishes. My wife and I eat out 2, maybe 3 times, per week. I just wanted to point out how cheap it is to make food at home, and how much saving even a little bit every day can really add up.
If you spend a lot on food, especially dining out, consider having one more meal at home everyday. Of course, that requires some extra time to make the food, and I understand the aversion. I actually really dislike cooking, but the breakfast and lunch both only took about 10 minutes, so that’s not a bad tradeoff for saving a few thousand dollars per year.
Have you ever tracked how much you spend on food?