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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I notice by reading on here and watching American tv shows that a LOT of Americans eat out a LOT!!

I remember the prices in Harrisburg last year when I visited my friend and I was amazed. Don't hold me to the exact name of the restaurant because we ate out a LOT in the few days that we were there (we stayed in a hotel and were out with dh's colleagues for meals a lot).

My girlfriend, her mother and I went to (I think) TGIF's for lunch one day and the lunch special was $5.
We could choose from various things. I chose baked salmon and pasta in a nice sauce. The plateful that I got was HUGE! I couldn't eat it all (and I can EAT).

I had a glass of wine with it. I could just have had water and my entire lunch would have been $5.

If we could eat out here for that price I would do it more often but the meal that I got there would have cost at least triple the amount here.

Actually the glass of wine - to my shock - was more expensive than the salmon.

Do you know that I could possibly not even be able to make that meal from scratch across here for $5.

While there, I also saw TV adverts for various restaurants - don't ask me the names - don't remember - but it was for steaks and lobsters and it was something like lobster and steak for $10. You can't buy a lobster for $10 here - anywhere!! and I'm talking about a discount supermarket - never mind in a restaurant.

I was wondering how the 'average' American actually does eat out and at these prices isn't it actually cheaper to eat out than make it yourself?.

(BTW Even though my siggy line says eat out - for me that also means getting take out.)
 

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These prices are based on a local grocery store website - you can probably get cheaper.

Looking at the TGIF menu
Salmon - 11.99/32 oz - $6.00/pound - 10 "servings" - so $0.60 a serving - lets say 2 servings = 1 filet so $1.20 (guessing)
Pasta sauce: $2.75 20oz jar
Pasta - dry - about $2.00 for a 16 oz box

So $1.20 for the fish, a couple dimes for pasta for one and a cup of sauce for about $1.00 to cook at home.
 
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I'm not your 'average American'... if there really is a horse of that color anymore... but I understand what you are saying.

In some cases, yes, it is cheaper to buy the meal prepared. It's more a hit or miss with that though. Specials don't run all the time and in the end unless you get it for take-away, it will add up with a beverage and tip. (can't remember the last time my family gave me a tip for bringing the food to the table :lol:)

I could make a salmon dinner as you described for 4 for less than $7 but it means having to use frozen.
 
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my dh and I go out about once a week. I usually don't like to spend over 10.00 for a meal. You are right, the alcohol costs more than the meal. We usually get a 20 oz beer with dinner and it costs around 5.00 for the drink and we will sometimes get 1 each and one to split so it is 15.00 for the beer alone. We don't go to fancy places usually chain restaurants or local family owned. We usually pay around 45.00 on a night out. It is our only entertainment. We could definately do it at home for way less but it is our time out together. I almost always bring home half my dinner for the next day's lunch. My dh works nights and alot of hours and we work seperate shifts so it is our only time out together usually.
 
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I don't fit ...Since we went on the no-eat-out challenge last year... ate out 14 times since Jan. 2010 not counting work related meals. It helped that my wife is on the Atkins diet :). I don't think there is any meal at a restaurant that can be boughten cheaper than home-made unless you use a really good coupon. (not counting labor at home). You are going to have to raise your own salmon and lobster :)

Lee
 

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I moved out of the US in 2009 but until then I lived in several major cities on the East Coast and I didn't eat at restaurants that cheaply. Almost always, for a dinner for two without alcohol (I don't drink and most people I used to go out with didn't either) was about $25, plus tip (which is another 20%). It usually worked out to around $16 for me just about every time. That was going to mid-range restaurants (not fast food and not gourmet). I could ALWAYS cook the same thing cheaper at home. Supermarket food is really cheap in the US. I had major culture shock when it came to buying food when I moved to Europe. I'd been visiting Greece since 1999 but when you live here permanently you actually have to face what it costs to fill up the cupboards and fridge and it is a LOT more than what I spent in the US. The only things that are cheaper here are farmers' market type things (fresh fruit and vegetables).

I once got in an argument with a lady from the Netherlands who told me that, on average, it costs about €150 for two people to have an average dinner at a normal restaurant in NL. I just couldn't believe it and I think I may have actually accused her of making up stories!! Since then I have heard more such examples. Here in Greece, for two people to eat out at a mid-range restaurant and to get one salad, two mains, a bottle of water and two glasses of wine is about €30 including tip. But again, I can always make anything MUCH cheaper at home than I can buy it out - with the exception of fast food (souvlaki - meat on a stick - the meat is cheaper than buying raw or frozen meat of the same species in the supermarket / butcher - and I have been known to order plain chicken souvlaki sticks, take them home, and put them into whatever I'm cooking for dinner!)
 
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These prices are based on a local grocery store website - you can probably get cheaper.

Looking at the TGIF menu
Salmon - 11.99/32 oz - $6.00/pound - 10 "servings" - so $0.60 a serving - lets say 2 servings = 1 filet so $1.20 (guessing)
Pasta sauce: $2.75 20oz jar
Pasta - dry - about $2.00 for a 16 oz box

So $1.20 for the fish, a couple dimes for pasta for one and a cup of sauce for about $1.00 to cook at home.
@4oz per serving you'd get 4 servings per pound of fish, making that $1.50 per person not .60.

So, about $6-7 for a similar meal for two at home. (after you've added the side veg and breadstick) Still pretty cheap if you ask me.

To answer the OP, it CAN be cheaper to eat out once in a while in some places, but in the long run it is cheaper to cook at home. Many people however see the investment in equipment (pans and utensils) and time (and learning) as a huge stumbling block. Rather than spend $50 at a shop to buy cookware they'll go to a burger joint every night for dinner.

What was that movie last year about fast food in America? Where the family of 4 said it was cheaper for them to eat at McDonalds every day than buy food? They spent something like $170 a week on fast food and claimed that was cheaper than groceries? Riiiiight.

I have seen studies that show that the 'average' American eats out anywhere from 4-5 times a week, to 50% of their meals. I think most people in this forum are not 'average' in that respect.

And, FWIW, you can't get a lobster for $10 around here either. They go for about $40 per pound. The restaurant sells them cheap because they buy them by the truckload, only offer you a part of the lobster, and are hoping to make money off that glass of wine you want with your meal.
 
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With all the great deals and coupons that I get at our grocery stores, there is no way that eating out is cheaper than cooking it yourself...for example...I bought a flat iron steak this week for $4.25 then used a coupon for $2.00 so total cost $2.25...throw in a couple of potatoes to bake..for probably another cost of .75 cents and half a bag of fresh express salad mix $1.00... so in all $4.00 total meal for 2 or $2 each...Steak...baked potato and salad.. no chance of finding that in a restaurant for that price.. plus there would be sales tax and tip added to the bill..
 

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You need to keep in mind that it was a lunch SPECIAL. Normally you do not find lunches for that type of food at that price. Sure there are many places that might have a special but don't forget to add up all the food for the day. $5 for lunch and how much else for breakfast, dinner, and a snack. For me it is cheaper to make my own food. Plus the calories are lower. Once in a while I will eat out. What makes it more special than the price is that it is a treat for me.
 

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Many people however see the investment in equipment (pans and utensils) and time (and learning) as a huge stumbling block. Rather than spend $50 at a shop to buy cookware they'll go to a burger joint every night for dinner.
Contrary Housewife that is a really good point. I never considered the cost of my cooking/kitchen equipment. Just in January I bought a few things I considered pretty basic essentials (spatula, a basic chef's knife, pepper grinder, mortar & pestle, cutting board, and other things of that sort, nothing electric) and it cost me €150. It really does add up, not to mention things have to be replaced periodically. I use cooking blogs and other websites for recipes but if I had my way, I'd buy cookbooks as well - don't have the $$ for those though. I still would rather cook at home and I do think it works out cheaper, but once you add the cost of all the cookware, appliances, dishes, heck you could throw in the price of a dishwasher, stove, and refrigerator if you wanted to get hardcore - a person may just end up saving money by eating out 3 meals a day. I wouldn't like to try that personally but I do see where someone might reach that conclusion.
 
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We don't eat out a lot since I usually have food ready to eat. For Valentine's day, we went to a well-known burger joint for a combo meal the other day. We spent almost $15 for the two of us. Then, I was lazy and wanted another day off from the kitchen, so we went again. Another $15! YUK! Bad, bad me! We won't be doing that again for a long while. I'm sick to think of all of the groceries I could've bought.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I moved out of the US in 2009 but until then I lived in several major cities on the East Coast and I didn't eat at restaurants that cheaply. Almost always, for a dinner for two without alcohol (I don't drink and most people I used to go out with didn't either) was about $25, plus tip (which is another 20%). It usually worked out to around $16 for me just about every time. That was going to mid-range restaurants (not fast food and not gourmet). I could ALWAYS cook the same thing cheaper at home. Supermarket food is really cheap in the US. I had major culture shock when it came to buying food when I moved to Europe. I'd been visiting Greece since 1999 but when you live here permanently you actually have to face what it costs to fill up the cupboards and fridge and it is a LOT more than what I spent in the US. The only things that are cheaper here are farmers' market type things (fresh fruit and vegetables).

I once got in an argument with a lady from the Netherlands who told me that, on average, it costs about €150 for two people to have an average dinner at a normal restaurant in NL. I just couldn't believe it and I think I may have actually accused her of making up stories!! Since then I have heard more such examples. Here in Greece, for two people to eat out at a mid-range restaurant and to get one salad, two mains, a bottle of water and two glasses of wine is about €30 including tip. But again, I can always make anything MUCH cheaper at home than I can buy it out - with the exception of fast food (souvlaki - meat on a stick - the meat is cheaper than buying raw or frozen meat of the same species in the supermarket / butcher - and I have been known to order plain chicken souvlaki sticks, take them home, and put them into whatever I'm cooking for dinner!)
I would argue - maybe because I live in one of the largest cities in NL - that it is possible to have a reasonable dinner for 2 for maybe around 80/90 euros.
Heck I could also go to one of the TOP restaurants and have a meal for 300 euros is I wanted (only if someone paid because I would never).
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Food prices in the Netherlands are very high so therefore eating out is also very expensive.
A happy meal at MacDonalds here is (if I'm not mistaken) $7. You get a basic hamburger/small fries/small drink/ a surprise gift and a dessert. This is the cheapest meal that you can get at McD.

Your meat prices are VERY VERY cheap for us.
Our cheapest chicken filet - on sale - is $2.70 per pound.
Our cheapest chicken legs are - on sale - $ 1.35 per pound.
Our cheapest ground meat is - on sale - $ 2.03 per pound.

You have no idea how envious I was when I heard the prices that you all were mentioning on the forum for turkey around Thanksgiving and Christmas. If I am lucky I can get turkey for $6 or $7 per pound.
 

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But what you have to realize, Dutchie, is that many rest. here will run specials....especially at lunch and that is the time to go.

Also, many of the big chains almost ALWAYS have a coupon out. I like to go to Black Angus fur lunch and their coupons prices just went up, in this area, to $6.99 for lunch. You get to pick from various things on the menu.......almost always at least one fish dish. Last time I had salmon and it was really good.

For dinners........the buffets will run specials. Or many of the large but 'down home' places ( Applebee's, Denney's, etc.) will run 'early bird specials' so as to catch the seniors and people just getting off work.

As for the price of equip. I don't think that should be a big factor. I have 'set up house' twice going from scratch, when coming back into the country, and I hit the thrift shops. On a sale day for under $20 (probably under $10 for 2) I could have a kitchen set up with minimum items and cooking. If others feel they have to 'have new'...........that is their problem/loss!!
 

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The only things that are cheaper here are farmers' market type things (fresh fruit and vegetables).
And I have even questioned why they aren't cheaper in the US? GREED, I say.

When I lived in Calif. I was shocked at produce prices........and wasn't I in one of the produce places in the US???

I now live in an "apple state" and if I want an apple UNDER $1 a pound I have to settle for Fuji.......or MAYBE Granny Smith.

I truly think I probably ate better when I was overseas as I ate TONS of produce as it was so cheap. (and beans, as meat was $$$$!) AND GOOD TASTING TOO.........took me a long time to get used to eating our 'cardboard' bananas when I came back. Don't think I have had a mango........not at $1 a piece with the HUGE seed in them.
 

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I would argue - maybe because I live in one of the largest cities in NL - that it is possible to have a reasonable dinner for 2 for maybe around 80/90 euros.
Heck I could also go to one of the TOP restaurants and have a meal for 300 euros is I wanted (only if someone paid because I would never).
...and that is still just CRAZY expensive. A friend went to Amsterdam for a conference and got a piece of pizza at a street stand and paid €9. I still kind of think she was exaggerating because I personally don't want to believe that people have to pay that kind of money for food, because I will be very sad.
 
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As for the price of equip. I don't think that should be a big factor. I have 'set up house' twice going from scratch, when coming back into the country, and I hit the thrift shops. On a sale day for under $20 (probably under $10 for 2) I could have a kitchen set up with minimum items and cooking. If others feel they have to 'have new'...........that is their problem/loss!!
That is really great. If we had thrift stores here, I would be all over them!

I now live in an "apple state" and if I want an apple UNDER $1 a pound I have to settle for Fuji.......or MAYBE Granny Smith.
That made me smile because Fujis are my favorite apples and I miss them!! Here I pay €1.10 for a kilogram (2.2 lbs) of grade B tomatoes, €1.30 for 1 kg of grade B apples, and €0.80 for 1 kg of potatoes. I'm not sure how that compares to average US prices but this is on our little remote island where everything is MUCH more expensive than on the mainland. Fresh fruits and vegetables are one of the only things that I feel like I'm getting a bargain on around here. Quality is reasonable, not fantastic (I don't buy the grade A).
 
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That lunch special salmon could also have been hitting the end of its shelf life, prompting a cheap deal to clear it out of the refrigerator. Lunch specials are cheaper in general, to try to get people in during the day.
 

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Our local KFC has their buffet with a drink for $5.00 from 11:00 to 2:00 daily and all day on Tuesday. Cheapest deal I've seen in a long time but its just a temporary sale. If you get a bucket with sides its very high. Dh wanted KFC last night even though I had planned to cook and a 16 piece bucket with 4 sides + a side of 3 corn on the cobs was $40.00. We were suppose to get biscuits but they forgot to put them in. Kids picked it up and didn't notice. We called and are suppose to get a gift certificate to cover the biscuits. Sheesh! I was not at all happy with the price and we won't be doing that again. If dh wants chicken he can go on his lunch break and eat for $5.00.
 
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