Seven Reasons Why You Should Avoid Restaurants

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(photo: cooking onions at home)

According to an Indiana Business Review article, individuals in the United States between the ages of 25-54 spend an average of $2833.00 each year on eating out (this is according to 2004 data).  While the number is not surprising, it did get me thinking about personal finance and daily eating habits. 

Given the current economy, many personal finance blogs and magazines are offering advice on money saving products, deals, coupons, investment strategies, etc., but I’ve yet to see a piece on the importance of NOT eating out often.  Consistently dining out is full of hazards including:

  1. Eating out is a colossal waste of money (most food and beverage items have a huge markup).

  2. Eating out is not healthy (you don’t have direct control over ingredients nor the amount of fat, salt, etc. used in the cooking process; note there’s no implication that fat and salt is bad for you, but I’m suggesting the person eating the food should have direct control over all ingredients).
  3. Eating out, often, leads to a reduction in the quality of ingredients used/consumed (unless, of course, you’re eating at a three star Michelin restaurant each night; that fact is that most American who eat out aren’t dining at Daniel).
  4. Eating out is a waste of time (think about the process: figuring out where to go, figuring out how to get there, waiting for your food, leaving a tip/paying, getting back to your home/apartment, etc.).
  5. Eating out is lazy (going to a restaurant other than for a special event breeds the type of behavior that is all about immediate satisfaction).
  6. Eating out can rob you of personal time with family and/or spouse (think about the teamwork needed to prepare a nice meal – it’s the kind of behavior that makes families and couples bond).
  7. Eating out does not allow one to build leftovers into his/herweekly food planning process (read: do not buy lunch at work!).

Many people make statements like, “I don’t know how to cook” or that “cooking is hard”  in response to eating out often, but cooking quality meals is NOT hard (see my getting started to cooking at home guide here) and after you’ve been doing it for a while you can get really efficient at putting together healthy and great tasting meals (including food for lunch at work the next day).  Some folks will make the argument that eating out is also about the subjective experience of being waited on, experiencing new foods and flavors, and a break from cooking at home and I can certainly understand this argument.  

Easy recipes adopted for cooking at home:

1. Italian Chicken Soup 
2. Risotto Milanese 
3. Pesto Tuna 
4. Pasta with garlic, olive oil, and parsley
5. Lavash Pizza  
6. Easy Whole Roasted Chicken 
7. Rosemary Chicken   
8. Pizza Calabrese  
9. Eggplant Parmigiana
10. Scallops with Pan Simmered Tomatoes
11. Roasted Peppers
12. Pork Chops with Pan Roasted Mushrooms and Chicory Greens 
13. Classic Salad Dressing
14. Baked Flounder with Fennel Salad
15. Couscous with Feta and Tomatoes
16. Lamb and Beef Kufta Kebab
17. Braised Short Ribs in Red Wine
18. Lentil Soup
19, Onion and Potato Fritatta
20. Oven Roasted Vegetables 

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  • http://www.evanlucas.blogspot.com Evan

    Another excellent post! I think I’m going to start following your advice and then documenting it.

  • http://www.thegreenestdollar.com Heather

    Vince,
    Thanks for this awesome list of recipes!
    Have you checked out the blog: http://cheaphealthygood.blogspot.com/
    It’s a frugal cooking site, and the girls that write it do a really great job; very funny. I think you might like it!
    I’ll definitely be trying some of these recipes, especially the veggie ones (not a meat-eater).

  • Jen

    Excellent post. Few restaurant meals can compare to a meal lovingly cooked at home with fresh, quality ingredients.
    For some reason the Chicken Thighs and Mint, Classic Salad Dressing, Onion and Potato Frittata, and Oven Roasted Vegetable links aren’t working for me. Two give an error, and two link to the wrong recipe.

  • http://www.scordo.com/blog/2009/01/cheap-eats-four-recession-proo.html Scordo.com

    Cheap Eats: Four Recession Proof Ingredients for Cooking at Home

    As I’ve said in the past, eating out/ordering in is a colossal waste of money and beyond the occasional breakdown or special night out I tend not to reach for the Chinese take out menu or make reservations at our…

  • Anonymous

    While I agree with you for the most part, let me tell you why I eat out occasionally. One, it provides jobs for people who may not have one otherwise. The other is that I get to spend quality time with my spouse and am even more appreciative of my children when I get back. Sometimes mom’s just need a break! I do agree that it’s a huge chunk of money and there’s little to no control over what you are actually getting. Thanks for the wonderful article!

  • http://www.sayeducate.com/2009/02/04/should-you-stock-up-on-groceries-in-advance-of-inflation/ Matt Keegan

    Excellent advice. So useful, that I listed your article in my “Resource” section for a related food storage items that I wrote. You can click on my name to get to that link. Thank you!

  • http://www.scordo.com/blog Vincent Scordo

    Hi Matt,
    Thank you! I haven’t seen the link, but I’m probably looking in the wrong place!
    Best,
    Vince

  • http://www.scordo.com/blog Vincent Scordo

    Hi,
    Thanks for your comments, here’s a quick response:
    1. Jobs for other folks. If your financial house is in order, then it’s ok to think that spending money can help create or maintain jobs. However, if you have debt, then you should take care of yourself first.
    2. Spending time with a spouse is key. You could arrange for someone to watch your kids while you cook at home or if you need to go out (do coffee instead of dinner).
    I’m glad you enjoyed the article and, yes, mom’s do deserve breaks!
    Best,
    Vince

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  • http://www.frugalfruitlands.net Lise

    Hi! *waves* I found you through a comment you left on Wisebread pointing this article.
    All good points, btw. This is something I’m still struggling with, but as you point out, most restaurant food is of poor quality compared to what you could make at home. I spent a summer working in a commercial kitchen and I know that, unless you’re working at a really nice restaurant, all they do for ingredients is back the Sysco truck up to the walk-in once a week. I live in an area with a lot of small-time agricultural, so there’s no reason I have to PAY EXTRA to eat like that when I can buy fresh-picked corn on the cob right down the street.
    (Also, not apropos of this article, I’m intrigued to see that you have an interest in philosophy and cognitive science, as well!)

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    Michelin’s top rating is three stars. Nice article, tho.

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  • LivingInMyKitchen

    I haven’t eaten out in……I don’t remember how long. There’s a vague memory of food being brought to me, someone else had bought and prepared it, someone else did the dishes. I seem to remember that I wasn’t in my own kitchen, there were no dirty dishes to deal with after eating. It’s all a surrealistic memory now.