Countless financial experts tell us that cooking at home is cheaper, and health experts tell us that it is usually healthier. Most restaurants serve very large portions, which also include extras like bread, chips, and appetizers; these extras increase the overall sodium, fat, and calories of the meals. However, while it is usually less healthy to eat at a restaurant, it isn’t true in every situation. Some people add so much butter, salt, and sugar to their meals that certain restaurant food would actually be healthier. Although restaurant food generally has a high markup with certain deals, restaurant food can actually be cheaper than eating at home — not to mention less work. Most people will spend significantly more money if they eat out regularly than they will if they eat at home, but there are occasions when eating out is the best decision. Here are five times when eating at home just isn’t worth it.
1. When eating out is cheaper
Although many people believe that eating at a restaurant is more expensive, this isn’t always true. Particularly if you are able to use coupons or take advantage of special deals, sometimes eating at a restaurant is actually less money. Many restaurants have kids eat free days, and if you carefully choose your adult entrees, this can be a great deal. For example, most Steak ‘n Shake restaurants offer free meals for kids on the weekends, but customers can also usually use coupons in addition to the deals. The restaurant has many meals for $4 or under, so if you purchase two adult meals for $4 and get a free kids meal, you might actually be spending less than you would at home.
This rationale is true of many other restaurants as well. Some restaurants still offer the all-you-can-eat option as well, which can be less expensive than eating at home if you have a very large family, or you personally eat a lot. Lastly, if you want a particular meal but the ingredients are expensive and you would rarely use them for any other meals, you may find that eating at a restaurant (where they make multiples of the meal each day) will be cheaper.
2. When you regularly waste food
Although restaurants are often expensive, if you regularly waste food at home, you are also wasting money. If you personally dislike leftovers, or your family never eats them, you are basically throwing away money. Restaurants will often give you large portion sizes (the average restaurant meal is now more than four times the size it was in the 1950s.) You can choose to share a meal with someone that you both will really enjoy, which will increase your chances of having no leftovers (or of actually eating them later because you like the meal.) While restaurants are expensive, if you are really getting four times the amount of food you should normally eat, you can share it to save money. If you share food, your restaurant bill won’t be as costly, and if you pick out something you like, you will be less likely to have leftovers.
3. When you need to save time
It’s no surprise that when many people are stressed or hurried they choose to eat at a restaurant instead of making food at home. While making this choice regularly will cost you a lot of money, doing it once in a while is completely understandable. Although eating at a restaurant simply because you are too tired or stressed to make something at home won’t save you money, sometimes it’s worth just taking a break and enjoying a meal out. Eating out can also break up your usual routine, and can even be an adventure if you try somewhere new. If you’ve had a particularly hard day, sometimes eating at home just isn’t worth the hassle.
4. When you can’t duplicate a restaurant’s food
Sometimes we just want what we want when we want it. While it would be great to be able to make anything that a restaurant makes, the truth is that many of us are just not that gifted in the kitchen. Even for talented cooks, some meals just taste better at a restaurant. If you have tried recreating your favorite dish at a particular restaurant, and it never turns out right, sometimes spending the money to purchase that meal is worth it. If you like something enough, splurging once in a while to get it right is reasonable. However, there are many websites that offer recipes that are similar to the ones that are often popular at restaurants, so try making your favorite meal at home if you can find the recipe. Try Food.com’s Restaurant Copycat Recipes.
5. When you want to celebrate
Sure, you can plan a huge party or small celebration at your house. However, you will probably have to clean, set out special dishes and possibly decorations, potentially provide all or most of the food, and of course deal with the fact that many other people will be in your house for an extended amount of time. While some people enjoy entertaining, it can also add extra stress, and isn’t always worth it. While eating out at a restaurant with a group will probably cost you a lot more money, it might save your sanity. Also, some people just enjoy gathering with a group of friends or family members at a restaurant; it can add to the celebratory mood, and restaurants often will add a special dessert or sing a song in honor of a birthday or graduation.
While eating out at a restaurant is often more expensive than eating at home, sometimes eating at home just isn’t worth it. Plus, occasionally eating out at a restaurant is cheaper, and sometimes, it is even healthier. Many restaurants now have lighter options and even provide nutritional facts, so your night out at a restaurant doesn’t have to mean you eat less healthily than you would at home.