How often do you eat out and how much money do you spend on it?
January 21, 2008 8:21 AM   Subscribe

How often/How much do you spend eating out, versus eating a home cooked meal? And what percentage of your net income do these categories end up being?

Sometimes, when I watch TV or read popular magazines/websites, I get the sense that for most people, eating out (or ordering delivery) outnumbers home cooking. Of course I shouldn't believe what I see in the popular media, but then, I also don't have anything else to base my assumptions on, except what I myself do.

So, my question is, how often do you eat out (order-in)? And how much do you spend on these activities, versus how much you spend on your groceries? Either actual numbers, and/or percentages would be fine. And also, if you feel comfortable sharing, how much of your net income do these categories take up? Again, percentages would be fine, if you don't want to share actual numbers, since I realize some people don't feel comfortable talking about money. Oh, and one more thing. When you do eat out, is it more of a special restaurant, or more of fast-food/chain store (Olive Garden, etc.)/local take-out place delivery type thing? Or a combination of both?

Thanks. I'm curious about this because when I think about my family and the people I know, eating out was a rarity and home cooked meals were the norm. But I just don't know whether we were just weird, or whether this was a norm that isn't reflected in the mass media.
posted by jujube to Food & Drink (37 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
The wife and I go out once a week, usually Friday or Saturday night. The bill usually ends up being around $40. The rest of the week we eat at home, and make our own meals to bring for lunch at work. Just adding up straight grocery prices, our weekly bill is something like $100. At 20 meals a week x 2 people, thats 40 meals at about $2.50 a meal.
posted by sanka at 8:28 AM on January 21, 2008

I haven't eaten out in several weeks. When I do it's usually because I'm very tired on my way home from work and just stop and pick up some fast food. I try to stay on a strict budget, and spend between 30 and 40 dollars a week on groceries (no more than 40). This is pretty easy to do since I live alone.

However, I do eat lunch at the cafeteria attached to my work (although I don't consider that eating out; some might). I limit myself to 20 dollars a week there, usually spending about three dollars a day for a meat and a side item. So overall I spend between 50 and 60 dollars a week on food.
posted by frobozz at 8:38 AM on January 21, 2008

Have you seen these two Cockeyed lists on eating in vs eating out? I linked to the last day of each, so you can see how much he spent on each, how much time, and so on.

There's also the kid factor - people probably eat out less when they have children, for various reasons, both financial and the hassle of bringing kids out to eat. There's also been a global trend in the last ?? years (40? 50?) towards eating out - "the proportion of the food dollar spent on food away from home rises to more than 46 percent in 2001, up from just 25 percent in 1955." Not to deny your childhood memories, but there are several factors at stake there - older people with kids, without, and younger people with and without probably eat out all at different rates, even without getting into the economics.

That being said, I wish I had time to eat out more often, but I take a lot longer to cook than Rob at cockeyed did. It takes me about 40 minutes to cook a meal, but I don't have to cook every night.

I eat 'out' almost every lunch, but I work in a very large institution with a cafeteria and an employee discount - it ends up costing me about $2.50-$3 for lunch, which is food I don't have to buy or prep at home.

There's also the 'I went to a friend's house and ate there' - money isn't exchanged, but eventually I'll have to cook for them. That happens with some frequency among my social group right now. As a result, I have no idea how much I spend on a week of groceries (it doesn't help that I pass a market on the way home and tend to pick up produce as needed.)
posted by cobaltnine at 8:42 AM on January 21, 2008

I eat out just about every week day for lunch and spend between $6 and $15 depending where I eat (ranges quite a bit where I go for food. Fast food probably only once or twice a month). Most of the rest of the time I eat at home. I live in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

Also, this seems kind of a chatty question and perhaps you should be looking for hard data instead of Metafilter data. I'm sure there's quite a bit of information out there on this.
posted by Green With You at 8:43 AM on January 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

I can't tell you as a percentage of my income, because income is a weird category for me. (I'm living partly on student loans.) But as a percentage of my total spending, groceries account for about 14% and non-grocery food for about 2%. That's probably skewed by the fact that I'm pretty broke and don't spend much money on things other than rent and food. Also, when I have a real, full-time job, I suspect I'll eat out more often.

I almost never eat at traditional fast food places like McDonalds. Very occasionally, I'm caught out at lunchtime without a packed lunch and will go somewhere fast-food-ish like Chipotle. I would say I eat out maybe once every other week. When I do, it's usually at a locally-owned ethnic restaurant or a one-step-up-from-a-diner neighborhood place.

My main challenge is lunch. I've made a conscious effort to start packing lunch when I'm going to be away from home for the day, but it is very easy to spend a lot of money eating lunch out every day.
posted by craichead at 8:45 AM on January 21, 2008

We eat out way, way more than we should. We both usually grab a muffin or bagel at Tim Horton's for breakfast, and something quick for lunch while at work; we hardly ever bring our own lunch. It's just too convenient not to. At dinner, we're usually both wiped from the 12 hour day (2 hours commuting, 9+ hours at work) and eat out for dinner about 3 times a week, plus again at least once on the weekend. Nothing extravagant, each dinner out usually costs $30-$40 for the two of us, but its definitely more than we'd spend if we cooked ourselves. It is also a social event, and is how we spend time with family and friends. We know it's excessive, but since we're in the two income no kids bracket, we justify it knowing that it's simply how we choose to spend our discretionary money. We both make quasi-decent cash, nothing spectacular but enough that this habit isn't really hurting up (except maybe on our waistlines).
posted by cgg at 8:46 AM on January 21, 2008

We eat in most of the time. 2 adults, 1 child, 1 infant on expensive hypoallergenic formula, 3 squares per day plus snacks. It comes to about $2-$2.50 per meal per person on average, but it's probably less because the grocery bill may also include toiletries and other non-food items. Eat out meals cost substantially more.

For me, home-cooked meals were pretty much always the norm. Going out was pretty special. In this area, an entree can run from $8 to $20 at "family" restaurants.

I bring my own lunch nearly every day and even though I'm aghast at the rise in cost of, say lunchmeat (which for some unknown reason has gone up 15-20%), at my local mega mart - a weeks worth of lunchmeat for two is equivalent to one moderately priced lunch special for one.
posted by plinth at 8:48 AM on January 21, 2008

I'm a lazy single guy who doesn't mind cooking but hates to clean. I also have an aversion to leftovers so I eat almost every meal out or something ready to eat from the market (the Central Market or Whole Foods deli counter). When I go on health kicks and money saving kicks, I'll buy a bunch of stuff but will end up throwing a lot away since it will go bad before I eat it so any money saving usually is offset by throwing out stuff that went bad.

When in a relationship, I tend to date women with the same philosophy about the kitchen.

I haven't done the math, but obviously I'm spending a lot more money than if I prepared everything at home. And clearly, I could be eating healthier if I had 100% countrol of the food, but I try to eat well (no McDonalds, etc).

Certainly, I'm the outlier, but I think the reason the media tends to portray eating out as the norm is that it tends to be more exciting than eating at home. Or at least can be portrayed as exciting -- conflicts with waitstaff, new restaurant experiences, etc versus the home "had meatloaf again" type storylines.
posted by birdherder at 8:51 AM on January 21, 2008

Most weeks I cook 5 dinners (for 2-3 people). I really like to cook and make things more from scratch than sauce out of a jar kind of meals. And I try to buy a lot of produce and not too much chicken, which is getting really expensive. We've been keeping a casual calculations on cost per meal and it's been less than £5 a person, per meal. Weekend "small meals" are part of the grocery tab so basically included in the £5.

(Don't convert that to dollars, things are just more expensive here in England and a better comparison is that it's like $5 a person, per meal.)

As a percentage of income this constitutes about 10%

Take away or restaurant meals 2 times a week and with drinks and all I'll say I spend £15 per meal for myself.

This takes up about 10% of my income

I usually buy breakfast and lunch from the work canteen, which is quite cheap at about £5 a day.

So that's another 10%

Geez, I spend a lot of money on food, and I'm bet I'm underestimating! (Oh and I'm not including alcohol. Let's call that part of a separate "entertainment" budget :P)

From a cultural perspective, I've been living in England for over a year and I cook a lot more here. Mostly because I've discovered I like to cook, which was partly spurred by how expensive it is to eat out here.
posted by like_neon at 8:53 AM on January 21, 2008

My husband and I eat dinner out about 1x per week, usually on the weekend and nearly always sushi. Cost ~$50-70 for both of us. We also have breakfast at a local cafe 1-2x per weekend, usually ~$12 for both of us. We never eat fast food except for the occasional Starbucks.

Other than that, breakfast/lunch/dinner are all cooked at home. We spend ~$350-400 per month on groceries.
posted by lemonade at 8:54 AM on January 21, 2008

My own dining habits have varied over the years.

When I was growing up, my family ate out (or had take-out) fairly frequently, no doubt abetted by the fact that there were a dozen decent restaurants within easy walking distance. This probably set a template for me, as I've always been more disposed to eat out than other people around me.

At various times during my life when I've hunkered down to save money, I'd eat out rarely (1x or 2x/month) and fairly modestly. But during my single years, I've always gravitated towards eating out a lot more than that (as much as 5x/week); since I work at home, this was also an excuse for me to get out of the house. Plus the fact that cooking for one felt like a disproportionate amount of work.

These days, my wife and I eat out together 2x or 3x/week, although that can vary a fair bit depending on how busy we are. She has an office job and has lunch out sometimes; I have lunch on my own 1x/week or less.
posted by adamrice at 9:05 AM on January 21, 2008

The wife and I eat out probably 3 times a week and I buy lunch almost every day. So probably somewhere around $110-120 a week.

Damn, I gotta stop eating out so much.
posted by electroboy at 9:14 AM on January 21, 2008

Single, worked in the city - ate out three meals a day, cooked in perhaps one dinner per week.

Married with kids in the burbs - eat out or order in dinner about twice per week, one really nice splurge of a fancy meal at the best restaurants in the area about once every other month. I still eat almost every breakfast (except weekends) and every lunch out. If we had healthier delivery options it might be even more delivered meals per week.
posted by caddis at 9:15 AM on January 21, 2008

We used to eat out probably three times a week at a cost of $40-$70 per time (sometimes more ... ouch). I bet we spent about as much eating out as we did on groceries every week. Last fall, we moved to a new house that's less convenient for eating out (we used to be in walking distance of restaurants, now we're not), and we just kind of stopped. I'd say since then we probably eat out 2 times a month. Usually one of those times is a $12 grilled pizza from the bakery down the street and the other time is at a nice restaurant. We don't eat fast food.
posted by robinpME at 9:17 AM on January 21, 2008

AskMe is a bad source of survey data, since (a) it's self-reporting, (b) you know nothing about the demographic data of the respondents, let alone the larger population, and (c) it's total chatfilter.
posted by mkultra at 9:37 AM on January 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

I eat out or eat takeaway (usually pizza) maybe once every other week, but now is kind of a dead time for me. When I have an active social life, it's more like once or twice a week (often two meals the same day).

My grandparents rarely eat out. In fact, I don't think my grandfather has eaten out even once in the past five years. Even if they're on a long trip, they pack food and eat in the car. My grandmother does eat out sometimes, but maybe once every other month or so... she considers it a Big Deal.

My mom eats out maybe once a month or every other month, usually for work-related functions or while traveling.

Most of my friends eat out all the time. I know several people who eat out three meals a day, 360 days a year (and the other 5 or 6 days are things like Thanksgiving where they get invited to eat with other people who do the cooking). Also a lot of my friends will skip breakfast, eat lunch out (not cafeteria, actual out), and then have something microwavable or easy to cook for dinner.

Now the thing that really gets to me is that my grandfather will go on and on and on about how everyone wastes so much money... when he doesn't shop or cook or clean or garden or do anything involving food preparation. Even in the summer the grocery bill for just my grandmother and grandfather can be 80$ for a week, plus they get a lot of produce out of the garden (which my grandmother spends hours every day in) and then she has to cook everything (again, hours every day)... and in his mind this translates to "free", because he hasn't seen any of the money being spent and he didn't do any of the work. And then when anyone wants to eat out he spoils it for them, because it's so "expensive".
posted by anaelith at 9:44 AM on January 21, 2008

Eat out (or order in) over 50% of the time.
posted by Jezztek at 9:51 AM on January 21, 2008

I eat out almost every meal, and I would say I easily spend an average of $50 on food per day, sometimes a lot more. Really truly eating out, like on a date, I'll spend maybe $75 per person, sometimes a lot more. I would say that over 50% of my income goes to food.
posted by bingo at 10:02 AM on January 21, 2008

When I was a kid, we ate out maybe once a month, my mom made all the meals. Today my own family (2 plus 1 child) are bit better off financially and we probably go out to dinner with the kid in tow 2-3x a week. My wife and I have lunch together about twice a week, and I eat lunch out almost every weekday (to get out of the home office and see actual humans).

We spend about $100 a week on groceries, and probably about $150-200 on going out with my lunches included.
posted by mathowie at 10:08 AM on January 21, 2008

Groceries have been 14.61% of our spending for the last 12 months, and restaurants/dining account for 9.65%. (Thanks Bank of America Online Banking and ubiquitous debit card usage!)
posted by Rock Steady at 10:09 AM on January 21, 2008

More or less 3 times a week, ranging from $18 to $70...this $#@! wine bar that opened recently has been murder.
posted by everichon at 10:11 AM on January 21, 2008

My husband and I eat out about 3-5 times/week (lunch or dinner -- we work together from our home office, and about half of those are business meals), take out about once a week, have partially pre-prepared meals at home about 3-4 times/week (we use an organic grocery delivery service that also sells "meal kits"), and I cook from scratch the remaining few meals a week.

We have a fetish for local cheapie meals, so almost all of these meals out cost $18-30. We definitely spend an extra couple hundred bucks a week on "things that make meals more convenient". We love both the food and the time it frees us up for other things though :)
posted by stephthegeek at 10:11 AM on January 21, 2008

3 % of our combined income. From fast food to fine dining. From 3 to 10 times a month.

Our in house food budget came to around 7 %. And our household is well stocked, no premade stuff, we're pretty much all from scratch for everything.

I think we spent more on beer, don't remember the report that well though.
posted by Max Power at 10:14 AM on January 21, 2008

Married, two kids in school, both parents working, obsessive MS Money user; I can tell you exactly what we spent on food last year. Here's some rounding

Groceries - @10% of income - We eat in just about every meal and pack the kids' lunches
Dining Out (nice/date) - .45% of income - we only eat out about 6x/year, usually offset with gift money from parents (anniversary, birthdays) - and mostly go to really nice places - not worth it to waste time/money at places like Chili's IMO
Fast Food - .7% of income - during weekend activities/errands
My lunches out (hub doesn't eat lunch) - @1% - once or twice a week

This doesn't include meals out on vacation, which are included in the vacation category.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 10:15 AM on January 21, 2008

We have 3 kids. We eat out around once a week. A mixture of chain/fast food, and nicer places. Our groceries are about $500 per month and our eating out budget is about $80-100 per month.
posted by bove at 10:36 AM on January 21, 2008

We go out for a fancier meal (between $30-60 per person) no more than once a month. But I live in a land of cheap and delicious food, so we go out for meals costing less than $10 per person perhaps once a week.

We don't get delivery, eat any fast food, or go to any chain restaurants. We spend about $200/month on groceries, and another $100 per month on the wine/beer/etc. that we drink at home.
posted by desuetude at 11:43 AM on January 21, 2008

I live alone in a big city and destest cooking so: all breakfasts and lunches are eaten out and 3-5 dinners a week. At home, I usually have mid-range frozen stuff (thank Jeebus for Trader Joe's). So I spend 120-150 a month on groceries (including beer in) and the rest of my income on beer and food out.
posted by dame at 11:58 AM on January 21, 2008

I generally eat out for lunch 3/4 times a week, and eat in the rest of the time, with an occasional Saturday night.

Regardless, I still budget slightly more for lunch (eating out) than for groceries, but that also has to do with the fact that I am only cooking dinner half of the time.
posted by that girl at 11:59 AM on January 21, 2008

i make most of my food but spend an obscene amount on the best possible ingredients, going on special voyages to buy grass-fed beef directly from the rancher, $5/dozen pastured eggs at the farmer's market, mostly organic everything else, etc. i'm sure i'm not saving any money by cooking at home, but at least i get much better quality food.
posted by apostrophe at 12:20 PM on January 21, 2008

Back in Canada, I rarely ate out: maybe once a month. Nowadays, I eat out twice a day, everyday. I'm in Seoul, though, and eating out is both inexpensive and indispensably convenient. I spend about $400/month on food, with eating out consuming about $300 of that. Most of the time, I go to small, inexpensive restaurants, but on the weekend I typically shell out for something fancier at least once.
posted by smorange at 12:48 PM on January 21, 2008

Most of my friends (20somethings in a large city) eat out more than 50% of the time. People who make less cook a bit more, and also cohabitating couples. Even my friends who are really into cooking go out to eat twice a week or so. I personally compromise and eat frozen dinners ($3 each) for lunch a lot.
posted by herbaliser at 1:25 PM on January 21, 2008

Restaurant - once a year for our wedding anniversary. Food court (just in case you don't have them, that centre of a mall where there's 15 different vendors) - maybe 4 times a year. Subway, another 4 times a year, maybe. That's it. Family of 4, two adults, two teens. Australia.
posted by b33j at 1:56 PM on January 21, 2008

I eat out maybe once per month at work/with colleagues, two to four times per year with my husband, on special occasions. We eat takeout once every couple of months. All other meals are cooked at home. The only exception to that is while on vacation, we eat out once per day then. Married couple, no kids, in Germany.
posted by amf at 2:46 PM on January 21, 2008

Single unemployed person here. On average I eat lunch out a couple times a week, dinner once a week. I know a lot of people who love to cook or who are nutrition-oriented so they tend to cook for themselves. People who care about food or saving money seem to do a lot of home-cooking. Few people bring lunch to work but this is L.A. and in the media biz eating lunch with your co-workers is important.

I budget $125/week for groceries from the farmer's market and specialty shops. All top quality organic gourmet foodie ingredients. Plus $40/week for two lunches and one dinner, usually at ethnic restaurants where you can get a great lunch under $10 or dinner under $20. Never at chain restaurants like Olive Garden. I can cook better than they can.

$50+ or so once a month for a fancy restaurant meal with friends. More often around the holidays, of course.
posted by conrad53 at 7:39 PM on January 21, 2008

If you're interested in national data, here's a paper from the April 2007 [US] Monthly Labor Review. The full text is available for free.
posted by acridrabbit at 9:24 PM on January 21, 2008

I eat out three or four times a week for dinner ($15-$30 CDN including tip) and Monday-Friday for lunch. The reason being: I'm single, and I'd rather be eating out with friends than at home by myself.

Also - lunch is almost as cheap to eat out than for me to make my own ($4 vs $5).
posted by niccolo at 10:59 PM on January 21, 2008

At the moment I eat out maybe two times a week, including a weekly pub lunch at work. Last year (at uni) I spent 9% of my income on groceries and 9% on 'eating out', which for me includes any food that wasn't being bought to take home and put in the cupboard. (Another 4% went on alcohol, which may have included the occasional pub snack).

When I was a kid, we might have had takeaway fish'n'chips/pizza about 10 times a year, the rest was home-cooked.
posted by jacalata at 12:20 AM on January 22, 2008

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