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cheaper to dine or cook

 
 
Reply Mon 4 May, 2009 10:16 am
is it cheaper to dine out or buy foods and cook...Im trying to get my family to eat healthier...but it seems to cost more cooking at home.... Smile
 
Lightwizard
 
  1  
Reply Mon 4 May, 2009 11:11 am
@foodlover2,
You need to surf the Web for tips and perhaps get E mail updates from the sites you like. Food Channel.com and Dr. Andrew Weil's site are good ones and I believe he is still into the Mediterranean Diet. Of course, the health specialty markets like Whole Foods are more expensive but one can shop at a local supermarket and still stick to healthy ingredients, follow store specials, use coupons, etc. to save money. Restaurants, unless it's a health food restaurant, don't serve food that's very healthy. High in fat and salt is the worst offense but the chain restaurants like Carrow's are trying to put healthy dishes on the menu, even MacDonalds but with kids (or adults Very Happy for that matter) have the temptation of the unhealthy items on the menu. There's a lot of good healthy cooking books on the market, also -- try searching Amazon. I hear you, though -- supermarkets are all up in their prices, have cut their coupons down to a $ 1.00 limit and especially chain restaurants are putting out menus with entrees in the $ 6.00 to $ 8.00 range.
0 Replies
 
Butrflynet
 
  3  
Reply Mon 4 May, 2009 12:08 pm
@foodlover2,
foodlover2 wrote:

is it cheaper to dine out or buy foods and cook...Im trying to get my family to eat healthier...but it seems to cost more cooking at home.... Smile


If you purchase the raw ingredients in bulk and stay away from buying processed foods, it can be a lot cheaper and healthy to cook meals at home.

Buy things when they are on sale or in season and create a pantry for the storage of those items. When condensed soups such as cream of mushroom, cream of celery are on sale, purchase a case of them. This will last you for most of a year. When condiments are on sale, purchase them by the case.

When grains or baking supplies such as beans, rice, pasta, flours and sugars are on sale, purchase them in large quantity and store in air-tight containers to retain freshness and insect-free.

Keep an eye out on prices for frozen vegetables and purchase in large quantity when they are on sale. These will stretch your produce dollars when the fresh ones are out of season and more expensive. When fruit and vegetables are in season and you find a good price, buy in large quantity and freeze or can the extra amounts you won't use up before spoilage.

Prepare meals in large quantity and store the leftovers in the freezer in portioned sizes. These you will reheat in the microwave and will be for lunches you take to work or for nights when you just don't feel like cooking.

Make your own salad dressings and marinades rather than purchasing the very expensive bottled stuff. Same goes for iced teas. Make it at home, don't buy the bottled stuff.

Buy meats with the bone in, then remove the bone either before cooking or after cooking. Save the bones in the freezer until there is enough to make your own stocks for soup. Buy cheaper cuts of meat and use a slow cooker for preparing them.

Make your own yeast and quick breads. When you make bread, make extra and store it in the freezer. Freeze formed bread loaves for future baking. Make extra cookie dough, form the cookies and freeze them for future baking.

Do all your veggie prep work once a week. Plan out your menus and prepare all the veggies you'll need for the week. Peel and chop garlic, onions, celery, carrots, peppers, etc., and store in containers to pull from during the week for your recipes.

Frequent your local farmer's markets. You get a good selection of produce, can buy in quantity for freezing/canning, and the prices and quality are much better than what you get in supermarkets.
boomerang
 
  2  
Reply Mon 4 May, 2009 12:27 pm
Even without all the great money saving tips others have posted, it is still WAY cheaper to cook at home than to eat out.

My kitchen is tiny with very little storage so I shop a couple of times a week, buying just what we need for the next few days.

Consider a healthy meal out: roast chicken, vegetable, salad and drink -- that will cost you, even at an inexpensive restaurant, say $9.00.

I can buy a whole chicken and roast it (about $8.00), a vegetable, salad stuff and drinks (say.... $4.00) and feed my whole family. That's just a couple of dollars more than the per person price in a restaurant.

Plus, I have left overs -- I use the chicken bones to make a stock that I'll use later in the week for beans, soup or risotto. The leftover chicken meat will usually go into a pasta. Add another $6.00 for the additional ingredients to make those dishes and I've fed my family dinner for 3 days on around $18.00.

All 3 meals are healthy and fresh.
0 Replies
 
Lightwizard
 
  2  
Reply Mon 4 May, 2009 12:33 pm
@Butrflynet,
Good suggestions -- I do find a big savings at Costco, of course in the larger packaging, but their meats and new fish market are good bargains. Their fresh fish is of the same caliber as Santa Monica Seafood which is a bit of a drive for me anyway (Costa Mesa, Orange County). Smart & Final just opened right near my house and it's their "Extra" store so there's a full selection of produce. There's also Sam's Club near my house. You're right about the bottled sauces, of course -- for instance, canned Italian style S&W tomatoes makes a cheaper and better pasta marinara sauce. I run it through the food processor to chop it up a bit finer, heat it in a sauce pan with a little olive oil, extra fresh garlic to taste (either raw or roasted) and at the end add shredded fresh basil. A great Pomodoro tossed with Angel Hair pasta and grilled shrimp on top (raw large or jumbo from Costco). I sometimes add shredded spinach or broccoli florets and yellow and orange diced sweet peppers for a green and yellow vegetables, or grill the pepper rings and add them on top. It is the time one is willing to spend on cooking but there's so many quick meals like the one above that are as delicious as something one spends an hour or more whipping up.

Today, one has to clock in the transportation cost going to and from restaurants rather than a once-a-week market run.
0 Replies
 
chai2
 
  2  
Reply Mon 4 May, 2009 01:52 pm
Playing devils advocate here.

Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't.

If you have kids and are a stay at home parent who likes to cook on a regular basis, then sure, it can be cheaper if you are going the cooking large portions, freezing, buying in bulk.

More and more lately, I'm finding that's not economical for me. There was a time, not that long ago, where I would cook all Sunday afternoon for just my husband and me, make 3 or 4 different meals, divide up, put some in the fridge, freeze some, have enough for the week.

Now I find myself looking for 2 for 1 coupons at restaurants (I order them on the phone and pick up on my way home), buy things like Bertolli meals for 2 and augment with a salad/veggies...or those MichaelAngelo family meals (I watch to make sure I don't get the high in fat ones, and again prepare quick sides.

Places like Subway sell 12 inch subs (some healthy, like turkey or roast beef) for $5.00. Quiznos has that new Torpedo that sells for $4.00.

If we are having a meeting at work and a hot buffet lunch is ordered, I'm not ashamed to take whatever is left home.

When I order for work from places like Jason's Deli, I earn points, and later use them for myself. Last time I went there I realized they have a salad bar, which had hard boiled eggs, diced turkey, ham, cheese etc as well as the fruits and veggies. I think the next time I use some points I'll just get a salad bar to go, and get a container of eggs, turkey and such, and make my own egg salad at home. Eggs aren't so cheap anymore. I go to a sunflower market now to buy my produce at a really good price, so I use that to build around a meal that I bought out.

I will say that things like curried lentils & rice cost just a few dollars to make...a frozen entree of curried lentils/rice costs enough to feed 4 or 5 people from what you can make yourself.

That is easy to make though. For something labor intensive, it's worth it to just buy already prepared, and savor every bite.
Lightwizard
 
  1  
Reply Mon 4 May, 2009 04:32 pm
@chai2,
I'm the household chef now but since my Nephew moved out, I'm only cooking for me and my Mom, so I often make meals for four and freeze two of them. I can make a Northern White Bean cassoulet and stretch it out to six or eight meals including lunches by freezing portions. We actually need a bigger freezer.
0 Replies
 
shewolfnm
 
  2  
Reply Mon 4 May, 2009 04:47 pm
I feed my family of 3 on about 80.00 a week.

I do not eat processed foods. 80% of my staple food is found in the produce section. For meat I buy from the grocery store, organic/grass fed animals. THAT is the most expensive item on my list, and I might be understating that it is only 20% of my grocery bill.

We do not eat crackers, regular breads, popcorn, snacks or other things that are not necessary.

For example , breakfast today was - acorn squash, yellow squash, steel cut oats and a nut/flax / honey bread. Butter used on bread and acorn squash and cinnamon sprinkled on bread. It was more food then each of us could eat with too many left overs.
That meal cost me about 7 dollars and no time to make because I use my steamer for the squash ( cut in half, remove seeds, steam) the yellow squash is cooked on low heat, no turning, until it is brown and sweet.
Bread is a premade bread but not a common one. Popped it in the toaster .
All together I spent 15 minutes at best making breakfast.

No- eating healthy is not hard. Eating bad is harder then eating good , but eating bad means you dont have to pay attention to what you are eating or what you are putting into your body.

If you are ever curious about what you REALLY eat... sit down with an ingredient list one day... Google every word you can not pronounce...
chai2
 
  1  
Reply Mon 4 May, 2009 05:04 pm
@shewolfnm,
shewolfnm wrote:

I feed my family of 3 on about 80.00 a week.

I do not eat processed foods. 80% of my staple food is found in the produce section. For meat I buy from the grocery store, organic/grass fed animals. THAT is the most expensive item on my list, and I might be understating that it is only 20% of my grocery bill.

We do not eat crackers, regular breads, popcorn, snacks or other things that are not necessary.

For example , breakfast today was - acorn squash, yellow squash, steel cut oats and a nut/flax / honey bread. Butter used on bread and acorn squash and cinnamon sprinkled on bread. It was more food then each of us could eat with too many left overs.
That meal cost me about 7 dollars and no time to make because I use my steamer for the squash ( cut in half, remove seeds, steam) the yellow squash is cooked on low heat, no turning, until it is brown and sweet.
Bread is a premade bread but not a common one. Popped it in the toaster .
All together I spent 15 minutes at best making breakfast.

No- eating healthy is not hard. Eating bad is harder then eating good , but eating bad means you dont have to pay attention to what you are eating or what you are putting into your body.

If you are ever curious about what you REALLY eat... sit down with an ingredient list one day... Google every word you can not pronounce...


Hey, have you gone to that Sunflower Market yet?

I know the HEB dropped their produce prices to match them since they opened, but I'm like "screw you. you took my money, and now you drop your prices. I'll go to where I'm appreciated" I do go to HEB for other grocery stuff though.

I'm sure I don't spend $80 a week on food. Well, maybe right there @ $80.
Lightwizard
 
  1  
Reply Mon 4 May, 2009 05:24 pm
@shewolfnm,
I'm with you and that's about what my budget was for the three of us, so it's dropped to about $ 50.00 a week, or I try to keep in line even though I splurge sometimes. Just received a $ 6.00 coupon from Fresh & Easy so I'm on my way to stock up on items they specialize in including fresh made-for-six entrees like Chicken Florentine which I'll freeze four portions. I bought some smaller pasta dishes for dinners so I've conditioned myself to cook smaller portions than if I used regular dinner plates.

However, I can't give up popcorn and it's not as bad a sin as some believe as far as snacks. It's a good source of fiber and even the salt content isn't bad if you buy the mini-bags of microwave popcorn.

If you eat a lot of controlled carbohydrate and fat meals, you can tolerate a not-so-healthy dinner or breakfast once a week.

Even with something like a Belgian waffle treat (usually on Sunday), I top them with fresh cut fruit (or natural juice canned) and a bit of light whipping cream.
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Mon 4 May, 2009 05:35 pm
@chai2,
You're talking with left overs queen here, as I cook for one, and package/freeze what I don't finish in the next day or so - usually a fair amount as one of my failings is that I am not generally keen to have the same thing several times in a row. Like Lightwizard, I need one of those small standing freezers. I tend to recycle the leftovers into new concoctions, usually soups. Good thing I love soup.

I buy a fair amount of produce, and my luxuries are good cheeses and olives.

I like Sunflower market here though I don't go there that often. It's a bit of a trek, but I appreciate much about it, in particular their olive oil in what is an approximate one gallon can for about the price of half that volume from any other market. I always pour some of it into a handier container, both because I like old glass bottles, and I use less if I am pouring from a small container.
I also like their coffee choices. Heck, I like the place in general.

I spend probably eighty every two weeks. Have largely cut out good meats except, say, every two months, and the odd whole chicken - and even then I'm into braising more slow cook type cuts. I love fresh fish, but - I nearly shouted when Lightwizard mentioned Santa Monica Seafood, that's my place - I have a high test quotient for what I think is a good piece of fish, and Albuquerque is not fish heaven.
I don't do Costco anymore (go for walnuts and come home with godknowswhat).

On Subway, I just noticed not all that long ago that my market receipts often have "coupon" type deals for Subway printed on the back.
I'm not much of a coupon person as I don't want most of the stuff on coupons, including, ahem, anything by Kraft (see tag by someone re viral marketing), but I do like Subway.




ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Mon 4 May, 2009 05:41 pm
@ossobuco,
Ah, I got back into making popcorn as I did as a kid - popping it in my glass covered big frying pan. A bag of corn kernals is cheapo and I can tune what I put on it - canola to start, then real butter, maybe curry powder, maybe chile powder, maybe garlic powder - or butter warmed with minced garlic, x amount of salt and pepper. I tried air popped corn and hated it.
shewolfnm
 
  1  
Reply Mon 4 May, 2009 06:45 pm
@Lightwizard,
I do love popcorn Smile
That too is a must for me, but like osso, I make my own.
Mostly because soy oil is in everything and , well, I just wont get on that rant ..but it is something i avoid like a plague now.

I have gotten almost to a point of frustrated tears trying to shop package foods because they ARE much easier, but I have just given up.

ActII microwave popcorn so far is the only brand of popcorn I have found that does not have anything in it that I dont want to eat.
It is sin
it is crack
it is the devil
and I love it ~!
0 Replies
 
shewolfnm
 
  1  
Reply Mon 4 May, 2009 06:48 pm
@chai2,
chai2 wrote:

Hey, have you gone to that Sunflower Market yet?

I know the HEB dropped their produce prices to match them since they opened, but I'm like "screw you. you took my money, and now you drop your prices. I'll go to where I'm appreciated" I do go to HEB for other grocery stuff though.

I'm sure I don't spend $80 a week on food. Well, maybe right there @ $80.


I have, and i was not that impressed.
Granted, they have some things there that I cant find anywhere south of 2222..so for a handfull of things, I will go there..

But veggies?
I get more then we need by shopping Sunharvest on Wednesday. Triple coupon, double store sales all day.
I can get broccoli for 25 cents a pound with the right store coupon, or just buy it at its standing sale price of 78 cents.

I take it home and freeze it right away separated and cut into serving sizes for dinner.
Lightwizard
 
  1  
Reply Mon 4 May, 2009 07:28 pm
@ossobuco,
What brand of popcorn? The only one I've been able to find at the grocery store is Jolly Time and often a generic and a bin of popcorn in some produce sections. I use my big domed top frying pan with usually peanut oil (it has a high smoke temperature which is why the Asians use in in wok cooking) but it turns out too tough and chewy every time. The microwave always come out light, fluffy and tender. I do have to add some real melted butter but I don't eat it every night, only about twice a week, especially for a movie. Pop-Secret has always been good and Smart & Final has the big box of mini-bags. It does have palm oil and safflower oil and non-fat milk which I guess is the binder for the real and artificial butter flavor. I wish I could find the low salt and/or no butter mini-bags but haven't found them. I did have a Hamilton Beach Stir Crazy electric popper years ago and it worked great and the popcorn was much better than I've tried to produce lately. It has a double rod that revolves in the heated pan section to keep it stirred and prevent burning.
I have had the same poor performance from hot air popped corn (maybe their ads are hot air?)
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Mon 4 May, 2009 07:44 pm
@Lightwizard,
I started out in this with an expensive package of blue corn, to try it. Eh! On to regular..
I admit the popped corn isn't all feather light. Still, I can control what goes into it. I'm not sure I saved the bag of regular pop corn - have it in a jar. Back later on that.

EhBeth swears by air popped, but, really, I'd so rather not. Maybe I had a cheezy air popper.
chai2
 
  1  
Reply Mon 4 May, 2009 07:45 pm
@shewolfnm,
shewolfnm wrote:

chai2 wrote:

Hey, have you gone to that Sunflower Market yet?

I know the HEB dropped their produce prices to match them since they opened, but I'm like "screw you. you took my money, and now you drop your prices. I'll go to where I'm appreciated" I do go to HEB for other grocery stuff though.

I'm sure I don't spend $80 a week on food. Well, maybe right there @ $80.


I have, and i was not that impressed.
Granted, they have some things there that I cant find anywhere south of 2222..so for a handfull of things, I will go there..

But veggies?
I get more then we need by shopping Sunharvest on Wednesday. Triple coupon, double store sales all day.
I can get broccoli for 25 cents a pound with the right store coupon, or just buy it at its standing sale price of 78 cents.

I take it home and freeze it right away separated and cut into serving sizes for dinner.


Do you freeze the broccoli raw or cooked?

wow, you is a smart shopper. I've always known you were a Sun Harvest girl.

I stop at the one a couple of blocks from work on occassion, to pick up lentils, tabuoli (sp?) and stuff.
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Mon 4 May, 2009 07:47 pm
@ossobuco,
That hamilton beach machine you talk about sounds good.
Just checked, no bag. But - it was some ordinary brand. Maybe a foofoo market would have more variety.

Whole Foods and Trader Joe's are quite a way from my neighborhood (don't get me going on location and location, I could work up a rant on self fulfilling marketing prophecy) - they might have more interesting choices.
0 Replies
 
shewolfnm
 
  1  
Reply Mon 4 May, 2009 07:52 pm
@chai2,
I freeze it raw and prepare it by steaming only.
If I want a stir fry type if broccoli.. I use fresh.

after it has been frozen it does not stay thick and strong sp steaming it to where it would be soft anyway removes the odd feeling of eating soggy veggies. I steam it for about 20 minutes to where the bottom is still crunchy a bit, and the top is soft.

ugh.



i think Im hungry
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Mon 4 May, 2009 07:54 pm
@shewolfnm,
You're getting my broccoli taste buds going. Of course, I'd want anchovies and chile pepper and garlic with that. (Watches as people drift away, backs turned, shoulders twitching).
 

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