Six Ways To Save: Eating In Vs. Dining Out

Thursday, May 8th 2008, 9:52 am
By: News On 6

Some people just love to eat out. It can be quicker, easier and taste better than anything you would make at home. But, the receipts can add up. As The News On 6's Carina Sonn reports, there are ways to save money on meals.

Whether you're eating at home or at a restaurant, these days the price of everything is going up. But, Sonn wanted to see how much money she spends at restaurants on a regular basis and compare that with a couple of weeks of just eating what she bought from the grocery store.

That story continues our series, "6 Ways To Save."

Dining out is part of our culture. Just like the phrase, "as American as apple pie," folks in the United States like to eat out.

"I hate cooking," said consumer, Paul Carbonni.

Paul Carbonni is one of the millions of Americans who spend a good chunk of cash at restaurants. He usually eats out about twice a day, which can cost him as much as $300 a week.

"It's mainly the convenience and I'm willing to pay, even with the economy being what it is. And it has affected my income," said Carbonni.

"Sometimes you look at your debit card and it's not where you thought it was," said consumer, Mike McMahon.

Mike McMahon doesn't spend as much eating out, but is still surprised by how fast the money goes. Partially to blame are all of the choices available. reports there are close to 950,000 restaurants in the United States, with sales projected to reach $560 billion this year.

In this economy, more and more consumers are trying to stretch their food dollar, which usually ends up at the grocery store.

"I usually cook stuff up at the house because I take my lunch and it's easier," said consumer, Kathy Kelly.

"It saves a lot of time. You have more time at home, rather than waiting in line at restaurants, more time with your family," said consumer, Scott Ferguson.

But, the cost of groceries is going up.

Flour, now 49 cents a pound, is up 36%. Eggs are at $2.20 a dozen. That's up 35%. Milk can cost $3.78 a gallon. That is up 23%.

So which option saves you the most money? The News On 6's Carina Sonn decided to try a little experiment. She ate like normal for two weeks, and then bought groceries for another two and compared the receipts at the end.

The second half of, "Operation: Eat In" got off to a rocky start. Sonn went grocery shopping without a list, which she says is probably a bad thing when you're trying to save money. But, she buys groceries so rarely that she goes through every aisle to find what she needs or might want.

Sonn hit up all of her usual spots, including the produce section, top ramen aisle, and everything for making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Sonn spent $76.10. She pretty much spends $70 or more every time she goes to the grocery store, which she says isn't that often.

She'll turn up what cooking skills she has in hopes of keeping more cash in her apron, at least for the next two weeks.

When the experiment was complete, Sonn counted all of her receipts. She spent $201.93 eating out for two weeks. She had to go back to the grocery store a couple more times. So, at the grocery store, she spent a total of $83.13. That is a difference of $118.80. Bottom line: eating in, saves your wallet.