Home Cooking For the Win

There is a great way to save money and your waistline. It has been around for forever, but more and more people seem to be forgetting about it. 

It’s called making all of your meals at home. And yes, this includes lunch for all of you business boys and girls with jobs. I know you’ve all heard this before: eating at home will save you money, but it is so true that I need to say it again.

Let’s start with numbers. In 2015, the average household spent $3,000 every year eating away from home, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Now, what about 2019? Assuming an 8% increase in spending each year, which is what the increase was from 2014 to 2015, the average American household spends $4,000/year eating away from home (including delivery). I wouldn’t be surprised if it is more than that now with the proliferation of Uber Eats, Grub Hub and similar companies. But even $4,000/year is just a staggering amount. I could buy a reasonable used car every year for that. And that is not the full story.

Let’s assume that you invest $3,000 of that every year instead of spending it eating out (assuming you’ll need $1,000 to replace that food cooking at home and eating out minimally). Using this convenient and fantastically named “Latte Factor Calculator”, you can see the impact is even greater. $3,000 every year, assuming the long term stock market return of 8%, will cost you over $44,000. 

“But Tyler, there is a Burger King right next to my work and it’s so much easier to go there every day than make myself a lunch.” Yes, this is my actual work situation. Is that Burger King every day worth $44,000 in 10 years? That’s not even including the health costs of eating fast food or microwaveable meals every day for lunch. I don’t know about you, but that seems pretty steep to me.

Here are my suggestions for ways to save. When you cook a meal at home, make enough to have leftovers for the next day of work. Pack it up in some reusable containers, bring a spoon or fork in your lunch box, and laugh at all the suckers walking to buy lunch every day while you save for your future. Or, if you’re a social butterfly, meet them in the cafeteria or wherever they meet for lunch with your home-cooked meal. It’ll be better for you, taste better, and you will get the satisfaction of knowing you’re creating a future for yourself that’s not tied to work.

Coffee addict? Me too (Decaf these days). Instead of a starbucks on the way to work or in the middle of the day, bring your own coffee. This works great for me. I buy nice, locally roasted coffee (because I’m a hipster) in whole bean form. I then grind up enough for 2 or 3 cups in the evening and put it in a glass jar for the next day. I have a pour over funnel at work that I use to make cups of coffee throughout the day using an electric kettle that is in our break room. It’s way better than Starbucks, I don’t have to worry about making it before I leave for work, and it is hot and fresh right when I want it. That alone saves me $5 every day compared to someone buying the equivalent cups of coffee at a coffee shop. Suckaaaaa!

The library has all of the free cookbooks you could ever need to make healthy and delicious meals at home. It takes time and effort, but so do all of the things worth doing in this world. If you struggle with eating out because you don’t plan ahead, I understand. Take time every weekend to meal plan for the week. Some people even cook all of their food on Sunday and then just heat it up during the course of the week. Kudos to them, but Allyson and I like a bit more variety than that. Do whatever works for you, and keep in mind all of the money you’ll save with some simple changes.

Obviously, this post means that Allyson and I never eat out right? Nope. We eat out on average twice a month. By limiting when we eat out, it becomes a special treat. We love sushi, which ends up being our most frequent date night location. If you can limit yourself to eating out once or twice a month, it will become a special occasion that you look forward too. Isn’t that the sort of thing we should be spending our money on, rather than a boring fast food meal eaten around a TV? I think so.

One last thing. Cooking at home is fantastic. Things like Hello Fresh and Blue Apron are not. $10/person per meal! Are you kidding me? Not to mention the environmental cost of shipping food from God knows where to your house, plus all of the trash (packaging) that it comes with. At least at a grocery store you can try to buy local. Stay away from meal delivery. No matter how nice it is to have your meals planned and shopping done for you, if you aren’t a rich Hollywood actor/actress training for a superhero role, this should not be your reality. The rest of us humans in this world need to look at recipes, write down shopping lists, and buy all our own food. Don’t worry, it is worth it to avoid being so out of touch with reality you think a bag of pizza rolls cost $22. 

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