Saving Money With Smart Grocery Shopping and Eating Out

Grocery shopping vs. eating out

It’s so easy to spend extra money on eating out when quick, convenient, and crave-inducing food is available for sale all around us, everywhere we go. Everyone knows that it’s cheaper to cook. Back in the day, a lot of households consisted of a man who worked, and a woman who stayed home and cooked, but today, both men and women are bringing home the bacon, so who’s going to cook it?

Sure, there are grocery delivery services like Blue Apron and Instacart that take some of the time and energy out of the cooking process, but when your tummy is grumbling after a long day at work, and a delicious meal is just a five minute stop off the highway, those few extra dollars feel totally worth it.

Well, I’m here to tell you, not that eating out is actually cheaper (I’m sorry, it’s just not), but that you can incorporate eating out in a way that really works for your schedule, and is cheaper in the long run.

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You with me? Ok, let’s crunch some numbers:

Can You Handle the Truth About Eating Out?

Take breakfast, the simplest meal of the day, and cereal with a banana and orange juice, the simplest breakfast I can think of.

Obviously, prices and individuals vary a lot, but on average:

1 half-gallon of regular whole milk       $2.28

2 regular boxes of cereal                    $7.48

8 bananas                                           $2.00

1 half gallon of orange juice                $2.84

TOTAL for ten breakfasts               $14.60

1 breakfast at home                         $1.46


So let’s compare this to a typical breakfast out at IHOP, for example.

1 order of regular pancakes               $6.49

1 regular orange juice                         $2.29

Tip                                                       $2.00

TOTAL for one breakfast out         $10.78


Nothing fancy about that, but you’re looking at over a 700% increase in spending than if you’d just stayed at home and eaten cereal. That’s an extra $9.32 a day, and nearly $280 extra a month! Or, to put it a different way, over $300 a month just spent on (probably) a way less healthy breakfast!

Ok, but maybe you’re saying to yourself, “there are way cheaper ways to eat breakfast out than that!” Sure, but it’s still not cheaper than eating in. The cheapest fast food breakfasts out there, with roughly the same amount of calories and a drink, hover between $2.50 and $4.50. Let’s say $3.50. Now you’re spending over $60 extra per month. You can get a regular egg and cheese biscuit with no drink at McDonald’s for $1.39, but that’s still more than the at-home meal without the drink, and it’s less healthy and probably less filling.

I’ve done a pretty good job of convincing you that eating out is a terrible idea if you have any interest in saving money at all, so why am I telling you to keep eating out? Because you’re going to do it anyway!

Let’s talk about sustainability…

Not the environmental kind, but for you, your stomach, and your wallet.

Related: How To Reduce Your Monthly Bills and Save Hundreds!


Why Your Poor Groceries End Up in the Trash

Let’s take a typical twenty-something, working a nine to five office job, and trying to save money buying groceries and eating at home for breakfast. Let’s call her Aliyah.

On Sunday, Aliyah finds time to go food shopping. She buys milk, cereal, bananas, and orange juice (see above for prices). The next three days, she eats breakfast at home before going into the office. On Thursday, she figures it’s safe to reward herself by stopping for breakfast at McDonald’s on her way to work. She gets an egg and cheese biscuit with a drink for $3. On Friday, they have free bagels at the office so Aliyah eats for free when she gets there. On Saturday, Aliyah’s friends want to go out for brunch. She spends $20. On Sunday, Aliyah’s parents want to spend some time with her and take her out for breakfast. On Monday, Aliyah goes to make breakfast at home but realizes she only ate three of the bananas she bought, and the other five have gone brown. She throws them away and eats cereal anyway. Aliyah does the same on Tuesday and Wednesday, eats out again on Thursday because she’s bored with cereal. She goes out Saturday and is taken out Sunday, again. By Monday, the remainder of the milk and orange juice have gone bad and she didn’t have time to buy groceries, so she goes to McDonald’s again. And so it goes…

So what happened?

Aliyah bought food for ten breakfasts at home, but only ended up eating six. She used less than half of the bananas she bought and threw out nearly a quarter gallon of milk and orange juice. Despite getting two free breakfasts a week, she spent at least twice as much as she originally intended to and wasted at least $9 of her grocery bill to the trash.

Bottom line? She didn’t factor in her actual lifestyle when she was out buying groceries.


Eat Out, Shop Smart, and Save Money

My top tips for eating out realistically, grocery shopping intelligently, and living frugally:

If you struggle to figure out what to buy at the store every week maybe trying our a service like $5 meal plan is a good option. Not only will they send you delicious easy to make meals to plan out your week but they make grocery shopping a breeze! Once a week you will get your meal plan and your grocery list to go along with it. Sign up today and get a 14-day free trail.

This was a guest post from Tori over at Top Restaurant Prices.


How often do you eat out?

How much do you spend on food each month?