If you Google "how to save money," you will certainly find numerous results including tips that involve eating your meals at home rather than going out to eat. The common personal finance advice is to cut out restaurant meals. But when is it cheaper eating out than eating in?
Primarily due to skyrocketing inflation over the past year, the typical rule that eating out costs more than making your meals at home doesn't always hold true. One TikTok video illustrated the flaws in that logic recently.
A woman on TikTok found that buying ingredients was more expensive than eating out.
Recently, TikTok creator @Keke.rog posted a video explaining her desire to eat a Chipotle steak bowl. She said that she has been trying to save money and figured that going out to eat probably wouldn't be the best option.
So, the woman bought the ingredients to make a copycat of Chipotle's steak bowl. She said the dish would have cost her around $13 at Chipotle and would be enough for two meals for her. Then, in a surprising twist, she said that buying the groceries to make the same meal cost her $35.
With a sarcastic tone, @Keke.rog summed up the video with the remark, "Money-saving hack." Obviously, $35 for the ingredients to make her Chipotle meal is much more than the $13 she would have spent.
However, the TikTok video leaves out some details.
While this video creator is likely telling the truth about how much her groceries cost, she left out a few important details. Although she says she bought enough to make two steak bowls, she doesn't specify whether she bought any extra ingredients beyond that. She also doesn't say which grocery store she shopped at.
It seems unlikely that this person bought only the precise quantity of ingredients needed for these two meals (though a commenter says she noted that only some rice was left over). Often, the cost of groceries is still a better bargain if you have leftovers.
Government inflation data shows how much 'food at home' costs have increased.
What the TikTok video is showing is that eating at home isn't always cheaper. This is due largely to inflation, which has raised grocery prices over the past year. As GoBankingRates recently reported, the increase in "food at home" costs has been more than the increase in "food away from home."
"Food at home," which generally means the cost of groceries, is categorized separately from "food away from home" in the Consumer Price Index, or CPI. By September 2022, groceries were up 13 percent from the previous year, and dining out costs were up 8.5 percent.
More recent figures confirm the trend. As of December 2022, the cost of food at home (groceries) had increased 11.8 percent over the previous year. On the other hand, food away from home (dining out) increased only 8.3 percent.
What these numbers tell us is that while costs of all food have gone up considerably, dining out hasn't increased as quickly as the cost of a supermarket trip. So this means that in many cases, you could eat out for less money than the equivalent meal at home.
Other factors impact the cost of meals.
Consumers should also consider how many people are eating, as feeding a family may be cheaper at home than dining out. Many commenters on the TikTok video also said the time and effort of cooking is also a factor. Others claimed they've made similar meals for much lower grocery costs.
Some ways to save when you do buy groceries include:
- buying generic or store brands
- choosing lower-cost ingredients like beans over meat
- buying staples like rice in bulk
- using couponing apps