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Cost of eating out vs. cooking in the short term?

By greatman05 · 18 replies
Dec 17, 2010
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  1. Hello. This seems like it has a really simple answer, but it doesn't feel that way. Anyway, my college meal plan stops for winter break within a week before it resumes next year, and I need to be able to eat for the amount of time that the plan will be down. I have about $100 dollars to eat with for about 2 1/2 weeks.

    I have a few cooking utensils, but no previously stocked up pantry items (like flour, eggs, butter, rice, etc.) since I live in a dorm. So, would it be better for me to buy cheap food from the grocer or get cheap fast food?
  2. Leeky

    Leeky TS Evangelist Posts: 3,797   +116

    Man, would you really want to survive on take out? :haha:
  3. mailpup

    mailpup TS Special Forces Posts: 7,103   +423

    Not enough information. Can you cook? If you can, you surely already know the answer to your question.
  4. gwailo247

    gwailo247 TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,010   +18

    I've discovered that if you cook simple dishes, spaghetti, etc, and make them in bulk and eat them for a few days, you'll save money. But if you like a lot of variety in your diet, cooking for yourself is going to prove more expensive than eating out.
  5. greatman05

    greatman05 TS Maniac Topic Starter Posts: 429

    I can sorta cook, but not really. I'm trying to save money this time because the last time I had to cook, I ended wasting money I could've saved by eating out for the few days I had to eat without my college meal plan. You guys have given me some goo ideas though. I appreciate all of the help you've given me. Any other advice M
  6. gwailo247

    gwailo247 TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,010   +18

    If you play really addictive video games, like Civ 5 in my case, or one of those extra crack-y MMORPG's that i avoid, you can probably go without eating for a good 12 hours at a time. Then have something handy to gorge on, you can probably get by on like 10 bucks worth of food a day.

  7. mailpup

    mailpup TS Special Forces Posts: 7,103   +423

    It doesn't have to be all one thing or the other. Make some things yourself and eat out other times. For example, you can make your own lunch, say soup and sandwich, but go out to a non-extravagant dinner. If you eat breakfast, you can use part of the loaf of bread you bought for sandwiches to make toast, cinnamon toast, french toast, grilled cheese sandwich plus whatever else you can dig up.
  8. greatman05

    greatman05 TS Maniac Topic Starter Posts: 429

    OK...that sounds like a good idea. Thanks! :D
  9. Leeky

    Leeky TS Evangelist Posts: 3,797   +116

    I'm with Mailpup on this too.

    As for your evening meals, there is nothing to say you could make more of a particular dish, and then (if you have a freezer) freeze some, which can just be reheated later on.

    I often did this when I lived alone, and when I was working nights, as having a ready cook home made meal makes al the difference. It also reduces cost as well, as you'll often find the price is negotiable between 1 portion to 2 portions of the same stuff.

    Some favourites of mine were curry, lasagne, meatballs, Chilli, all kinds of pasta dishes etc.

    For example, how much is a small bag of flour/bit of cheese/butter/milk etc going to cost? With some tuna/sausages/ham/any meat really and some pasta you can make a delicious pasta bake with cheese sauce all by hand inside 15 mins. The extra portions can be frozen and either reheated or microwaved on demand. Convenience food need not be unhealthy, or expensive.

    Or how about Toad in the Hole? (Sausages, with yorkshire pudding). Thats just some fresh sausages, 4 eggs, 300ml milk, 225g plain flour and a pinch of salt. Mix the ingrediants together, warm a suitable oven dish filled with some oil (with high sides in the oven til almost smoking hot), add the mix (so it sizzles as its poured into the oil in the pan) and place the sausages in the poured mix, stick in the oven and 25-30 mins later its ready to eat. :)
  10. greatman05

    greatman05 TS Maniac Topic Starter Posts: 429

    Wow...those dishes sound really good :D
  11. mailpup

    mailpup TS Special Forces Posts: 7,103   +423

    This is actually a good time to experiment a little and practice your cooking skills. When school starts again you will have less time and if you practice some new dishes, you can whip them up quickly when the need arises.
  12. Benny26

    Benny26 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,535   +50

    Take outs are king when you've got some mates round for a beer...Cooking has to be king when you've got the mother in law round...

    Thats my philosophy anyway. :D

    Touché. :)
  13. Leeky

    Leeky TS Evangelist Posts: 3,797   +116

    That all depends on whether you like your mother-in-law... :haha:
  14. ravisunny2

    ravisunny2 TS Ambassador Posts: 1,986   +12

    Sound advice from mailpup.
  15. Arris

    Arris TS Evangelist Posts: 4,687   +354

    Just reinforcing what others have said here, making a casserole dish of pasta baked in the oven can provide dinner/lunch for 2-3 days. There are even lazier ways of doing this, at least in the UK you can buy "pasta-bake" sauces (£2.50 for 2 http://www.sainsburys.co.uk/groceries/index.jsp?bmUID=1292926339675), where all you have to do is cook the pasta and then mix in the sauce, grate some cheese on top and stick it in the oven. There are other such foods that you can make a bulk load of for cheap, which is good as you only have to do the cooking once for about 3 days of food. Potato bakes are also quite tasty. Just make sure you get your fill of fruit, veg, meat etc as well.

    Other tips from my student days:
    - Don't go grocery shopping when you are hungry, you'll end up with bits of meals and too much of the wrong types of food
    - Plan out your weeks meals, then you know exactly what ingredients you need for each meal. Also helps for budgeting.
    - If you aren't doing a "weekly" shopping and have the time to shop for your dinner daily you can sometimes pick up bargains in convenience stores and smaller supermarkets discounted/bargain sections. If you are going to cook and eat the food straight away it doesn't matter if it has a short shelf life (near its "best before" date).
  16. greatman05

    greatman05 TS Maniac Topic Starter Posts: 429

    OK. Thanks for the extra pointers! :D
  17. db119

    db119 TS Rookie

    Subway always has some good deals going down. I used to get by on the $5 footlongs
  18. Leeky

    Leeky TS Evangelist Posts: 3,797   +116

    Subway rocks! :D

    Foot long Italian bread, meatballs, spicy cheese, red onion, lettuce and crap loads of chilli sauce... Its bread and meatball heaven! :haha:
  19. beauty

    beauty TS Rookie Posts: 64

    it should be cheaper to eat at home for breakfast and lunch for sure, but for dinners it is harder to save money if you are only cooking for one unless you want to eat the same thing for 3 nights in a row. Here are a few suggestions.

    Breakfast - Cereal and milk or scrambled eggs with cheese and toast. Add a banana or fruit yogurt as a side.

    Lunch - Grilled cheese sandwich, turkey sandwich, canned soup. Add an apple and/or some celery and carrots as a side.

    Dinner - spaghetti and meatballs, chicken drumsticks baked or grilled with BBQ sauce, grilled chicken breast or baked pork chops served with frozen or canned vegetables and rice or a baked potato.

    Plan your meals in advance before you go to the grocery store, read the sale flyers and clip coupons!

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