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The True Cost Of Eating Out

fast foodIt’s common knowledge for the frugally minded that eating meals at home is cheaper than eating out. Some would argue that for a single person the savings is nominal. Not true. For those of you who still need to be convinced, let’s look at the math.

Sonic Happy Hour
There’s nothing quite like a Route 44 Cherry Limeade from Sonic. If you order during the daily happy hour, that big beverage will only cost you $1.60. Seems like a steal, doesn’t it? Or does it?

A 2-liter Cherry 7-Up runs around a dollar, and you get 50% more than you get in a Route 44. That’s if they don’t put any of the tiny ice in your cup at Sonic.  So buying the 2-liter could potentially give you twice as much liquid for less money. But you have to provide your own ice.

Chicken Sandwich
Chick-Fil-A has made a business out of chicken sandwiches. The basic sandwich consists of a bun, a fried piece of chicken breast, and a couple of pickle slices. You can buy the classic sandwich for approximately $2.75.

Assuming you can find boneless, skinless chicken breasts at the grocery store for around $2 per pound, you can beat that price at home. Use one half pound of chicken breast per sandwich and pay approximately $0.40 per bun (in a bag of 8), that leaves you $1.35 to cover the cost of 2 pickle slices and some breading to season the chicken before you fry it. More than enough.

Gourmet Popsicles
In a time when craft beer and craft coffees are popping up everywhere, craft popsicles are trying to make a name for themselves… at a price of $3 each. They’re essentially frozen fruit bars. Sprouts sells a box of frozen fruit bars that rival these craft options for $2.50, with four fruit bars in each box. That’s more than a 75% savings.

Grilled Chicken Salad
If you go to the average sit-down restaurant and order a grilled chicken salad, you’ll pay in the neighborhood of $9.75. Let’s break down the cost of those ingredients at the grocery store:

  • 1/3 lb. grilled chicken — $0.70
  • 1 head of green leaf lettuce — $1.25
  • 1 tomato — $0.75
  • 1/3 cucumber — $0.25
  • 2 carrots — $0.15
  • ¼ cup dressing of your choice — $0.50
  • cheese, sunflower seeds, dried fruit, croutons, cilantro, or other fancy toppings — $2.00

You still have more than five dollars to spare, not including the tip money you save.

Cup Of Coffee
You can buy a cup of coffee in a drive-thru for anywhere from $1.50 to $5. At home, you can brew a K-Cup for about $0.60 or brew a pot the traditional way for less than $0.10 a cup. That’s a significant savings, even if you buy organic, fair trade coffee.

Even if you buy the cheapest cup of coffee in the drive-thru, the total for all of these items out is $18.60. If you prepared and ate the same meals at home, it would only be $8.80. In this particular situation, it costs more than twice as much to eat out as it does to eat at home.

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