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The Cost of Dining Out vs. Staying In

How many meals per week are you eating away from home? You can’t beat the convenience of dining out. However, whether dining at a fast food outlet or a nice restaurant, meals away from home can be expensive enough to hurt your finances. Do you know what the cost of dining out can do to your monthly budget? By late 2011, Americans were spending an average of approximately 4.5 percent of their income on dining out, according to a 2012 article on the MSN Money website.

There are many benefits to cooking your own meals in terms of nutritional value, taste, as well as finances. But which option is actually cheaper? Which option can really help you with debt management? Here’s a look at how much you can probably save on some common meals if made at home.

Cost of Dining Out vs Making a Meal at Home

Chicken Dinner: On average a chicken dinner with a side of vegetables for one person at a restaurant costs $13 – $16. To make a similar meal at home, as per the national averages from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, costs between $6.40- $8.  Here’s a tip – when you buy chicken, buying a whole chicken is more economical than purchasing pound to pound. It can help you stay on budget.

ACCC recommends homecooked meals over the cost of dining out.

ACCC recommends homecooked meals over the cost of dining out.

Cobb Salad: On average a cobb salad with chicken for one person costs $8-$15. A homemade Cobb salad on the other hand can cost you between$5- $7.

A recent Gallup poll reveals that eight out of ten Americans eat at fast-food restaurants at least once a month. An average meal from a fast food chain for a family of four cost $18 or more. Here are some healthy alternatives that you can try out at home that are much cheaper.

Spaghetti and Meat Sauce: This meal can be prepared for a cost of $10 – $12.

Slow Cooker Black Bean Soup: Try this wholesome meal and guess what? It only costs you around $8-$10.

Taco Salad: This is another tasty option instead of the fast food dinner you were thinking of. This meal won’t cost you anything more than $16 for your whole family.

Remember to also check what produce is in season to save that extra dollar.

The cost of dining out adds up. While making your own food at home is a budget friendly option that help you manage credit card debt, it also gives you and your family the opportunity to enjoy healthier choices. Make the change today by limiting the number of times you dine out and see what a difference it can make in your savings.

If you’re struggling to pay off debt, ACCC can help. Schedule a free credit counseling session with us today.


Dilini is a Marketing Communications & Programs Associate at ACCC. To anyone, managing finances can be a real challenge! Any tips and tricks to help get through this are great! Dilini will share her experiences, tips, and tricks along the way through the Talking Cents blog. Stay tuned!

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