Author Topic: When your homecooking costs more than a restaurant  (Read 12462 times)

remizidae

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 34
When your homecooking costs more than a restaurant
« on: September 03, 2017, 10:35:35 AM »
So I made a homemade dessert the other day, and it was okay. I would say 6/10, happy to eat it but will not make it again. And then I started thinking about how much it cost.

Ingredients:
    Apples--3.00
    Rhubarb--3.50
    Almonds--3.50
    Sage--1.00
    Yogurt--1.00

Total: TWELVE DOLLARS! (Plus butter, brown sugar, an egg, and bread crumbs, but those are cheap things I always have.)

We could have gone to some of the best restaurants in our city and split a dessert made by a chef for $8-10. Or gone to 7-11 and gotten two ice cream sandwiches for $2. Eating out would have been cheaper.

Now, I'm sure you're thinking of all the things I did wrong here. I didn't have to pick a recipe with fancy ingredients like rhubarb and sage, and I could have gotten the almonds at Costco instead of Whole Foods.

But the broader point is, don't assume that you are being as frugal as you can be by cooking at home. Pay attention to the cost (in time and money) of homecooking too. And consider how recipes can be tweaked to make them cheaper. I tend to slavishly follow recipes, but I could have made this one with an extra apple instead of rhubarb, dried sage instead of fresh, and peanuts instead of almonds. Very similar result for less money.[/list]

RetiredAt63

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6878
  • Location: Eastern Ontario, Canada
Re: When your homecooking costs more than a restaurant
« Reply #1 on: September 03, 2017, 10:39:15 AM »
That is an interesting ingredient list - what was the dessert? Recipe?  How many servings will you get from it?  4? 6? 8? 10? And really, you need to compare apples to apples, not a home-made baked (?) dessert to ice cream bars.

Rhubarb is a spring harvest, I only see it in the grocery store then.  And it is expensive.  The rest of the time people use frozen.  It is really easy to grow in a cold climate.
« Last Edit: September 03, 2017, 10:41:37 AM by RetiredAt63 »
The measure of civilization is how people treat one another.

http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/meetups-and-social-events/ontario's-own-camp-mustache-2017/ - MEET US THERE!

WhiteTrashCash

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 747
Re: When your homecooking costs more than a restaurant
« Reply #2 on: September 03, 2017, 10:45:04 AM »
If you want to be fancy, then expect to pay fancy prices. If you want to save money, eat simpler. You cannot have it all and FIRE. You have to pick and choose. That's just how it is.

farfromfire

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 220
Re: When your homecooking costs more than a restaurant
« Reply #3 on: September 03, 2017, 11:07:43 AM »
I disagree WhiteTrashCash (and I believe you've said the opposite in the past as well). Many fancy foods can be made on a budget, as long as you are smart with where you buy the ingredients (OP, I promise you the restaurant doesn't buy ingredients at WF). I just made a two layer chocolate cake with filling, ganache, and marshmalllow fondant cover for under 10$/16 servings. Easily fits within our reasonable 4$/person/day food framework.

I don't understand how apples for one dessert cost 3$.

clarkfan1979

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1515
  • Age: 38
  • Location: Kauai & Denver
Re: When your homecooking costs more than a restaurant
« Reply #4 on: September 03, 2017, 11:41:53 AM »
For a treat, my wife and I will go to a taco place with fancy tacos for $5 to $7 each. They are over-sized and 2 tacos are a meal. No rice and beans needed.

We share our love of this place with another couple. However, the other couple claims, "You can make it at home this cheap."

I disagree. When make tacos at home, they are a little simpler. However, they are much cheaper than $5 to $7 each.

PizzaSteve

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 658
Re: When your homecooking costs more than a restaurant
« Reply #5 on: September 03, 2017, 12:08:10 PM »
When we look at food costs we factor in health and quality.  Restaurants often cook with higher (or at best unknown) levels of sodium, sugar and other ingredients that might end up costing you more via heath problems, weight problems, or alergy issues (hidden MSG, etc.).  That said, we enjoy eating out when we can appretiate something time consuming for us to produce or very high quality (e.g. super fresh fish or raw oysters, super complex or time consuming recipes, rare or hard to find wines, travel, etc.).
« Last Edit: September 03, 2017, 12:59:24 PM by PizzaSteve »
All posts are opinions of the author subject to independent verification by the reader.  No representations of fact are asserted regarding commercial products or services.

Pizzasteve prefers to avoid excessive critical debates.  In the event of a post, no need to reply or quote if you disagree. I am posting information meant to stand on its own and hope to avoid back and forth debating.

Cpa Cat

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1452
Re: When your homecooking costs more than a restaurant
« Reply #6 on: September 03, 2017, 12:47:23 PM »
I think this is one of the main reasons that people will often come here and post about how they can't possibly get their grocery bill down.

They think they're making great choices, and they must be saving money by cooking at home, but it reality, they have no idea what their price per meal and price per serving is.

GuitarStv

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 9316
  • Age: 36
  • Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Re: When your homecooking costs more than a restaurant
« Reply #7 on: September 03, 2017, 12:58:07 PM »
If you need fresh herbs, grow them in your garden (otherwise use the much cheaper dried stuff).

Rhubarb is a ridiculously easy weed to grow around here.  We grow it, harvest it in the spring, and then freeze it for the rest of the year.  When you buy things out of season they become stupid expensive . . . so don't!

What quantity of apples/almonds did you use?  I suspect that you were buying small quantities of these items which makes them much more expensive than when you get 'em in bulk.

FINate

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 691
Re: When your homecooking costs more than a restaurant
« Reply #8 on: September 03, 2017, 01:02:13 PM »
That is an interesting ingredient list - what was the dessert? Recipe?  How many servings will you get from it?  4? 6? 8? 10? And really, you need to compare apples to apples, not a home-made baked (?) dessert to ice cream bars.

Rhubarb is a spring harvest, I only see it in the grocery store then.  And it is expensive.  The rest of the time people use frozen.  It is really easy to grow in a cold climate.

+1 You really need to compare the unit price of each dish. Doesn't make sense to compare the cost of, say, 4 servings to splitting a single serving.

Cranky

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 713
Re: When your homecooking costs more than a restaurant
« Reply #9 on: September 03, 2017, 01:30:51 PM »
I'm stuck on the idea of putting sage in an apple crisp. That sounds awful.

But I planted sage 10 years ago, and now have a lifetime supply every year. And rhubarb is something that people give away in the spring.

Home cooking is cheap, but you've gotta be mindful of what's in season, and what's pricy.

remizidae

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 34
Re: When your homecooking costs more than a restaurant
« Reply #10 on: September 03, 2017, 02:26:22 PM »
That is an interesting ingredient list - what was the dessert? Recipe?  How many servings will you get from it?  4? 6? 8? 10? And really, you need to compare apples to apples, not a home-made baked (?) dessert to ice cream bars.

I compare it to the ice cream bars because the ice cream bars would have been better, not to mention cheaper! I would say my dessert was about 5 servings, so $2+ per serving. It was a rhubarb and apple pudding from the cookbook Plenty More.

remizidae

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 34
Re: When your homecooking costs more than a restaurant
« Reply #11 on: September 03, 2017, 02:27:59 PM »
If you need fresh herbs, grow them in your garden (otherwise use the much cheaper dried stuff).

Rhubarb is a ridiculously easy weed to grow around here.  We grow it, harvest it in the spring, and then freeze it for the rest of the year.  When you buy things out of season they become stupid expensive . . . so don't!

What quantity of apples/almonds did you use?  I suspect that you were buying small quantities of these items which makes them much more expensive than when you get 'em in bulk.

I don't have a garden. You're right that I was using a small quantity of apples and almonds. But buying in bulk would not have been a great option either, because I don't typically eat those things (and limited storage space).

remizidae

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 34
Re: When your homecooking costs more than a restaurant
« Reply #12 on: September 03, 2017, 02:34:00 PM »
I think this is one of the main reasons that people will often come here and post about how they can't possibly get their grocery bill down.

They think they're making great choices, and they must be saving money by cooking at home, but it reality, they have no idea what their price per meal and price per serving is.

Yeah, I think you're seeing my point more than a lot of the other replies. As a rule of thumb, homecooking is cheaper than restaurant cooking. But you can spend a lot of money on food while cooking at home, too. And it's hard to keep track of how much home cooking costs, because you're often using a small fraction of a lot of ingredients you already have. The only reason I was able to (roughly) see how much this recipe cost is that I had to go out and buy a bunch of new ingredients.

Chesleygirl

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 485
Re: When your homecooking costs more than a restaurant
« Reply #13 on: September 03, 2017, 02:37:36 PM »
Although it costs $12.00 to make the dessert, you need to break it down to cost-per-serving.

If a dessert makes 8 servings, then your cost per each serving is $1.50.  If you ordered a slice of pie in a restaurant, it would probably cost a lot more.

Christof

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 497
  • Age: 41
  • Location: Germany
Re: When your homecooking costs more than a restaurant
« Reply #14 on: September 03, 2017, 03:29:09 PM »
I compare it to the ice cream bars because the ice cream bars would have been better, not to mention cheaper! I would say my dessert was about 5 servings, so $2+ per serving. It was a rhubarb and apple pudding from the cookbook Plenty More.

Can't remember the last time I paid $2 for a dessert including tip at a restaurant. Sounds more like a candy bar at a gas station to me....

RetiredAt63

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6878
  • Location: Eastern Ontario, Canada
Re: When your homecooking costs more than a restaurant
« Reply #15 on: September 03, 2017, 04:41:02 PM »
It can be expensive for home cooking the first time you make something, simply because you may be buying a bunch of ingredients.  But the things you only use a little of (baking powder/soda, herbs and spices) get used over and over, so cost per use is low.

Recipes - sage in a rhubarb/apple pudding sounds odd.  Sage is a savory herb, not a sweet one.  I use sage in turkey stuffing.  Now if you had used cinnamon/nutmeg/ginger, that would be a great pudding.  If you are trying a new recipe, it is often a good idea to Google recipes and see what ingredients they have in common.  If only one calls for sage, it is not a standard ingredient.

Apples - there are eating apples and cooking apples - cooking apples tend to be sold by the bag and are a lot less expensive.  I am curious which apple variety was used.  And rhubarb, like GuitarSteve said, is easy to grow in areas where there are cold winters - otherwise it is an expensive ingredient.  I like rhubarb and grow it, but if I had to buy it I doubt I would cook with it much.

So, takeaway, think of your ingredients as things that need to be chosen for cost and appropriateness.
The measure of civilization is how people treat one another.

http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/meetups-and-social-events/ontario's-own-camp-mustache-2017/ - MEET US THERE!

WhiteTrashCash

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 747
Re: When your homecooking costs more than a restaurant
« Reply #16 on: September 03, 2017, 06:14:38 PM »
I disagree WhiteTrashCash (and I believe you've said the opposite in the past as well). Many fancy foods can be made on a budget, as long as you are smart with where you buy the ingredients (OP, I promise you the restaurant doesn't buy ingredients at WF). I just made a two layer chocolate cake with filling, ganache, and marshmalllow fondant cover for under 10$/16 servings. Easily fits within our reasonable 4$/person/day food framework.

I don't understand how apples for one dessert cost 3$.

I stand by what I said. I know many ways to make meals less expensive, but some meals are not within reach if you want to FIRE. You have to give some things up to reach your goals. You can choose to either be really fancy like people in the movies, or you can choose to accept reality, make some sacrifices, and get rich. That's just how it is.

Goldielocks

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4787
  • Location: BC
Re: When your homecooking costs more than a restaurant
« Reply #17 on: September 03, 2017, 07:10:03 PM »
HI!  I put in here the Canadian best prices... I don't actually buy apples right now because they are not quite in season and very expensive, even at lower cost stores.   Dairy and eggs are expensive here, too compared to USA.

The basic comment that OP made is that you need to calculate the price of your favorite recipes per serving.   So true!  I did this for the 10 common recipes at our house, and it really helps to see where one ingredient is a huge cost to the overall dish, and helped me to understand how expensive produce really is most of the year. 

I think this is the same recipe (Plenty More).   

Esme Old Fashioned Pudding
--
This hot and sweet pudding, with its super-crusty almond topping, is normally cooked for hours in an Aga using windfall apples. Savour this romantic image even with my real-world adjustments. With thanks to Esme Robinson for remembering this from her childhood, and for letting me shake up the old school with the addition of rhubarb and sage. --

100g unsalted butter, softened  (Approx 1/3 cup butter $0.78; don't substitute as butter gives a ton of flavour to the topping)
160g dark muscovado sugar (WTF?  okay, just use brown sugar $0.25) 
100g ground almonds ($1.28 to $1.68 per 100 g  yes, canada sells in lb and kg! I have to do a lot of math here when I shop...)
1 egg ($0.27 each)
700g cooking apples, peeled, cored and roughly grated (550g)  @ $1.30 per lb, =$2.00
250g trimmed and sliced rhubarb, cut into 2cm pieces  (Free?  or $2)
50g demerara sugar  (?why why with the special sugars?  $0.25)
40g fresh breadcrumbs (Free or from the stale bread sliced ends, $0.20 Buy day old bread and make your own, lasts a long time in your pantry)
10g sage leaves, roughly chopped  (Sage lasts forever, tiny amount here... maybe $0.15 for dried? I find fresh too powerful to use in just about anything... I grew it one year and developed a dislike for fresh)
250g Greek yoghurt (Make own for $1.25; buy for $3)

Serves 4-6
Price:Total: $4.45 CDN  to $9 CDN
Price per unit (assume 5 servings)  $0.90 to $1.80


So,  I would say that a combination of shopping choices and / or using the cost of the larger package, even though a smaller amount was used, may be the culprit. The restaurant dessert would NOT have a topping with 100% almonds instead of flour or oatmeal crumbs, plus greek yogurt plus a lot of fresh fruit, as they need to make money, too.    Also, funny, is that the intro describes using windfallen (scrub / free) apples is the traditional way to use this dish.

From the costs  breakout above, it is easy to see where the costs came from.

I recommend using white sugar in the fruit, brown in the topping, dried sage, and something other than greek yogurt for the creaminess (sour cream or creme fraiche is classic for fruit desserts).   Watch out for produce seasonal pricing, and substitute a different fruit or more apples, use a granny smith green apple instead for the rhubarb if local supply is pricey.   Find recipes that use EITHER expensive fruit OR Greek yogurt OR Almonds, etc.   Oh, and regift that cookbook to someone who likes to spend money and would love to see "different" recipes.

TLDR:  One expensive ingredient per dish is all that is needed to show off, and it will cut your cooking costs dramatically.  Get to know what the expensive ingredients are....
« Last Edit: September 03, 2017, 08:02:12 PM by Goldielocks »

RetiredAt63

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6878
  • Location: Eastern Ontario, Canada
Re: When your homecooking costs more than a restaurant
« Reply #18 on: September 03, 2017, 07:53:20 PM »
Goldielocks, great analysis.  I find Bulk Barn is great for odd quantities.  And small quantities of things like dark brown sugar.

Maybe those specialty sugars are common in the UK - it looks like a UK recipe?
The measure of civilization is how people treat one another.

http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/meetups-and-social-events/ontario's-own-camp-mustache-2017/ - MEET US THERE!

PizzaSteve

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 658
Re: When your homecooking costs more than a restaurant
« Reply #19 on: September 03, 2017, 08:55:12 PM »
I disagree WhiteTrashCash (and I believe you've said the opposite in the past as well). Many fancy foods can be made on a budget, as long as you are smart with where you buy the ingredients (OP, I promise you the restaurant doesn't buy ingredients at WF). I just made a two layer chocolate cake with filling, ganache, and marshmalllow fondant cover for under 10$/16 servings. Easily fits within our reasonable 4$/person/day food framework.

I don't understand how apples for one dessert cost 3$.

I stand by what I said. I know many ways to make meals less expensive, but some meals are not within reach if you want to FIRE. You have to give some things up to reach your goals. You can choose to either be really fancy like people in the movies, or you can choose to accept reality, make some sacrifices, and get rich. That's just how it is.
I hope this is meant to be a tongue in cheek comment. 

With an investment in cooking skills and an understanding of local, seasonal ingredients, one can eat like a prince on a pauper's budget.  Home made foods can rival the finest restaurants without spending much.  For example, making your own stock is cheaper and makes soup 1000% better than any purchased soup.  Another example is wine.  Get out and meet some farmers, make friends and you can second pick vineyards for free grapes.  We make fabulous wine for almost free.  A rose we made last year from free grapes from a friend (Grenache, Syrah, Mouvedre, Viognier) wpuld rival any Bandol rose (go for $20 and up).  A friend dives for abalone and sea urchin (uni) and we eat his harvest with relish.  Price fresh abalone in a restaurant and you think it must be unobtainable.  Make a friend and you gorge on it.  Final example.  We buy ripe avacado by the bag for $1 and make guacamole for pennies.  Just need to find a grocery with excess ready to either sell fast or they will throw em out.  You want them to be over ripe.  Cut off the brown spots...who cares.  Similar deals are often found on 'damaged` apples.

I completely disagree that cheap, poor quality food is essential to financial independence in any way.  if one is too lazy to learn cooking skills (kniw bow to substitute ingedients, break down your own meat, make own sausage, etc.) or find local fresh food from local farmers and such, well thats your choice.
« Last Edit: September 03, 2017, 08:59:34 PM by PizzaSteve »
All posts are opinions of the author subject to independent verification by the reader.  No representations of fact are asserted regarding commercial products or services.

Pizzasteve prefers to avoid excessive critical debates.  In the event of a post, no need to reply or quote if you disagree. I am posting information meant to stand on its own and hope to avoid back and forth debating.

TheAnonOne

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1224
Re: When your homecooking costs more than a restaurant
« Reply #20 on: September 03, 2017, 09:47:20 PM »
If you want to be fancy, then expect to pay fancy prices. If you want to save money, eat simpler. You cannot have it all and FIRE. You have to pick and choose. That's just how it is.

I can't imagine that $12 vs $9 for an occasional treat would delay FIRE by even a day.

Goldielocks

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4787
  • Location: BC
Re: When your homecooking costs more than a restaurant
« Reply #21 on: September 03, 2017, 11:13:45 PM »
PizzaSteve,

I think the poster meaning was different from how you took it:  " some meals are not within reach if you want to FIRE."

I took this to mean that you don't try to eat fresh raspberry dessert in the winter, abalone in the mid-west,  rack of lamb when the fish is free, that sort of comment.

The OP's recipe book appears to be meant to delight a foodie with foods that are not in season at the same time, and have several expensive and unusual ingredients and pairings without regard to freshness or cost.   (or in your terms "skill at cooking" "understanding", etc.)

 I would agree with the poster that "some meals", "some ingredients" aka "some cookbooks" are not intended for the person trying to save money....  one needs to eat seasonally and thoughtfully.

Kyle Schuant

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 170
  • Location: Melbourne, Australia
Re: When your homecooking costs more than a restaurant
« Reply #22 on: September 04, 2017, 01:08:38 AM »
One of the key things in eating well and cheaply at home is local, seasonal fruits and vegetables. In Australia, for example, mangoes grow up north in the summer; so here in the south in winter they'll be expensive. In the summer they'll be cheaper, but whatever time of year they'll never be as cheap as apples and stonefruit, which are grown in our state.

Most regions you'll find will have a webpage with local and seasonal fruit and vegies. For example, here in Melbourne it's just turned spring. I google "Melbourne spring seasonal fruit vegetables" and get as the first result,

https://sustainabletable.org.au/all-things-ethical-eating/seasonal-produce-guide/

so now I know what to look for in the shops. And I can plan menus around that. You don't do your financial investments just by buying whatever stocks are cheap on the day and hoping for the best, nor should you just buy whatever fruit and vegies are cheap and try to make a meal of them. You plan.

Learning to eat frugally is like how you might wonder how poor people live with $X a week budgeted for transport, or electricity, or food or whatever. They learn strategies the well-off have never had to. In time you'll learn that it's not necessary to spend $12 on ingredients for a dessert.
Athletic Club East - curing iron deficiency

RetiredAt63

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6878
  • Location: Eastern Ontario, Canada
Re: When your homecooking costs more than a restaurant
« Reply #23 on: September 04, 2017, 06:29:18 AM »
And the counterpart to eating local food in season is not eating standard (for your area) food when you do go out.  I never order anything in a restaurant that I can make at home.  Restaurants are for trying new dishes (before you spend on new ingredients/equipment), different ethnic cuisines, etc.  Then if you find something you love, you can start to learn how to cook it at home as well.

For people just starting to cook at home, there are lots of basic cookbooks - ones aimed at students are good, because they assume zero knowledge and minimal cooking equipment.  Thrift stores/Kijiji/Craig's list are good places to get cooking equipment.  The library and second-hand book stores are good places for cook books.
The measure of civilization is how people treat one another.

http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/meetups-and-social-events/ontario's-own-camp-mustache-2017/ - MEET US THERE!

Laura33

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1466
  • Location: Mid-Atlantic
Re: When your homecooking costs more than a restaurant
« Reply #24 on: September 04, 2017, 09:18:53 AM »
Part of the issue is just the quantities involved, e.g., I need to buy a tub of almonds if I need 1/4 c., or a whole packet of sage for a few leaves.  For things like almonds it's fine, because they keep, but I hate buying a $2 packet of sage and throwing half of it away two weeks later.  So one of the things that I try to do is group recipes together that use those same extras -- for ex, if I want to do lettuce wraps, which require about half a bunch of cilantro, maybe I'll also do fajitas and guacamole to use up more of it.

Of course, then you have to combine that with the seasonal issues (I haven't made guacamole in a couple of months, because avocados have been $1-1.25 each). 
Laugh while you can, monkey-boy

RetiredAt63

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6878
  • Location: Eastern Ontario, Canada
Re: When your homecooking costs more than a restaurant
« Reply #25 on: September 04, 2017, 09:42:23 AM »
Laura33, no Bulk Barn or equivalent for dry goods?  I can buy as much or as little of an ingredient as I want.  Fresh herbs are an issue, I agree - for some my grocery store carries plants, and I try to baby them along in the house all winter until my garden can produce again.  My rosemary started looking sad and I rooted cuttings, they are happy and the mother plant is dead (it was definitely sad).

It's all individual choices, cilantro tastes soapy to me so I don't use it.  I love ripe sweet peppers, but they have been expensive lately, so I am eating brassicas and other local vegetables instead.  And of course every vegetable tastes better with butter (or cheese).
The measure of civilization is how people treat one another.

http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/meetups-and-social-events/ontario's-own-camp-mustache-2017/ - MEET US THERE!

Laura33

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1466
  • Location: Mid-Atlantic
Re: When your homecooking costs more than a restaurant
« Reply #26 on: September 04, 2017, 11:59:47 AM »
Laura33, no Bulk Barn or equivalent for dry goods?  I can buy as much or as little of an ingredient as I want.

Well, the only place I have found with bulk bins is Wegman's -- and if I go there, I am far more likely to drop more on prosciutto and lovely fruit tarts than I would save on almonds.  ;-). So for me, it's safer to stick with whatever Aldi's offers, in whatever size they have available.

And on-topic, I am annoyed that the recipe my DH specifically requested this week calls for one pear, and Aldi's only had them in 3-lb bags.  Guess it's time to look up some pear recipes.
Laugh while you can, monkey-boy

RetiredAt63

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6878
  • Location: Eastern Ontario, Canada
Re: When your homecooking costs more than a restaurant
« Reply #27 on: September 04, 2017, 02:27:06 PM »
Laura33, no Bulk Barn or equivalent for dry goods?  I can buy as much or as little of an ingredient as I want.

Well, the only place I have found with bulk bins is Wegman's -- and if I go there, I am far more likely to drop more on prosciutto and lovely fruit tarts than I would save on almonds.  ;-). So for me, it's safer to stick with whatever Aldi's offers, in whatever size they have available.

And on-topic, I am annoyed that the recipe my DH specifically requested this week calls for one pear, and Aldi's only had them in 3-lb bags.  Guess it's time to look up some pear recipes.

Ouch - shouldn't pears be almost in season now?

We have a chain called Bulk Barn, where you can buy in bulk, or in tiny.  No fresh produce or meat, just dry bulk.  I loved it when DD was small because I could rent fancy cake tins there.
http://www.bulkbarn.ca/en/Home
The measure of civilization is how people treat one another.

http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/meetups-and-social-events/ontario's-own-camp-mustache-2017/ - MEET US THERE!

PizzaSteve

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 658
Re: When your homecooking costs more than a restaurant
« Reply #28 on: September 04, 2017, 03:50:06 PM »
@laura.  a lot of stuff freezes pretty well.  we often take stuff like sage and either make a pesto and freeze, or just chop it up and freeze.  a pinch of fresh sage, pulled out of a zip lock frozen bunch, is usually almost unnoticeable from using fresh chopped sage.  try that before tossing the extra.

I get that some ingredients are costly.  Heck, we've cooked many dishes from The French Laundry cookbook with foodie friends.  That said, cooking them at home is cheaper than a $1500 per person tasting menu meal.  :-).  Food is something we net save a lot on by cooking seasonal, at home for 90% (i reheat home made soups at work, surrounded by SF techies dropping $15/day, almost every day).   But we also splurge.  Costo prime meat (sirloin) is totally worth it to me.  I also took a friend out for a $60 lunch on me, last week.   My guest knew about our mustacian ways that have enabled me to occasionally be generous and he wanted to eat there. I have been encouraging him to save and invest.  Sometimes showing the fruit of the FI labor can help.  The markets have been good to all of us this decade.
« Last Edit: September 04, 2017, 03:52:50 PM by PizzaSteve »
All posts are opinions of the author subject to independent verification by the reader.  No representations of fact are asserted regarding commercial products or services.

Pizzasteve prefers to avoid excessive critical debates.  In the event of a post, no need to reply or quote if you disagree. I am posting information meant to stand on its own and hope to avoid back and forth debating.

MrsWolfeRN

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 365
Re: When your homecooking costs more than a restaurant
« Reply #29 on: September 04, 2017, 05:05:57 PM »
Shopping with your middle finger applies to recipes too. Search for recipes that use what you have or can get cheaply (the Allrecipes app lets you search by ingredient, or just Google it). Skip over the ones that call for something expensive that you can't substitute.

Cranky

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 713
Re: When your homecooking costs more than a restaurant
« Reply #30 on: September 05, 2017, 05:35:33 AM »
Some ingredients are expensive, but that doesn't make them cheaper at a restaurant than at home.

I like to cook, and am not much interested in restuarant food, so sometimes I splurge on a special ingredient - I hunted down a bottle of rose water this winter, for instance. It's still cheaper for us to eat at home than to go out.

Plus, I find that "fresh" food that isn't local/in season is not usually all that great anyway. I grew up eating fish that my dad and grandfather had caught and cleaned that very day, and was "shocked" to find that there really is no wonderful seafood in the midwest. Fresh makes a difference. So, I don't bother. I don't order that at restaurants, and I don't waste my money on it at the store.

iowajes

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 5219
  • Location: United States
Re: When your homecooking costs more than a restaurant
« Reply #31 on: September 05, 2017, 07:13:48 AM »
Part of the issue is just the quantities involved, e.g., I need to buy a tub of almonds if I need 1/4 c., or a whole packet of sage for a few leaves.  For things like almonds it's fine, because they keep, but I hate buying a $2 packet of sage and throwing half of it away two weeks later.  So one of the things that I try to do is group recipes together that use those same extras -- for ex, if I want to do lettuce wraps, which require about half a bunch of cilantro, maybe I'll also do fajitas and guacamole to use up more of it.

Of course, then you have to combine that with the seasonal issues (I haven't made guacamole in a couple of months, because avocados have been $1-1.25 each).

This is the argument places like Blue Apron use. It "saves" you money because you don't have to buy all the extra.
It fails for people who cook often and have well stocked pantries though.

We received a few deliveries when DH (the household's primary cook- I just boil stuff) was injured last year to "help" me (it's hard to mess it up when everything is planned for you).  Each delivery something was broken, and while the company gave us refunds or shipped an extra box in the subscription, every time, I was able to reach into the pantry and get what we needed.  Masa- we have it, pretty much any spice- got it, any type of vinegar- got that covered, need an herb- check the garden, etc

OurTown

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 511
  • Age: 48
  • Location: Tennessee
Re: When your homecooking costs more than a restaurant
« Reply #32 on: September 05, 2017, 08:13:26 AM »
Generally speaking, I don't put a spending limit on the grocery because in the fullness of time it will always cost less then going out.  However, I have done a few facepunch-worthy home cooked meals.  I recently wanted to make a crab & cheese casserole.  Instead of using imitation, I used real crab.  Lump not claw.  And I need 2 16 oz. containers, not one.  And I wanted some fresh mozzarella and sharp cheddar.  And I got all my ingredients from "The Fresh Market" not from the more mundane common grocery.  Cha-ching!!!

It was delicious.   

Roland of Gilead

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1565
Re: When your homecooking costs more than a restaurant
« Reply #33 on: September 05, 2017, 08:47:11 AM »
Some things just seem to be cheaper bought than homemade.

There is no way I could make a Costco rotisserie chicken for the price they sell them.  I mean you have to account for oven electricity and washing the pans afterwards.

Same goes for the gigantic pumpkin pie they sell, especially when it is $2 off.  It is around $5 for a pie that serves maybe 20 people.

Frankies Girl

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2501
  • Age: 117
  • Location: The laboratory
  • Typical Ghoul Next Door
Re: When your homecooking costs more than a restaurant
« Reply #34 on: September 05, 2017, 09:32:29 AM »
I make quite fancy stuff all the freaking time with ingredients bought for practically nothing. The idea that you have to give up on anything you enjoy to avoid spending too much money is false, you just have to shop better and plan better.

If you shop at places like Whole Foods for anything - that is just a giant facepunch right off the bat. That, along with buying generally expensive ingredients in the tiny convenience packets (like nuts or spices), and making things requiring fresh food out of season... yeah, facepunchy cooking.

For instance: I make pumpkin ravioli with browned butter, Parmesan cheese and roasted walnuts - gourmet AF - with pumpkin puree I bought on clearance for like 25 for a giant can because it was dented. I tend to find lots of these around October, so I stock up. Pies cost me under $2 and that's including the from scratch crust.

I shop the dented can section, ugly fruit & veggie sections, and the clearance sections and usually find stuff that is super expensive slashed to practically nothing. I get fancy cuts of meat, steaks, fancy cheeses... but mostly great deals on pantry staples.

Nuts are bought when they go on super sale, in bulk, then roasted in the oven and then frozen; they keep forever that way. You can even freeze butter. Most hard cheeses freeze well. I am pretty stoked about the number of things you can freeze if you're planning on using it to cook with.

I frequently have no idea what I'm talking about. Like now.

FIREd as of: March 6th, 2015!

Ting is awesome! Get $25 if you use my referral code: https://z0p1rd31m89.ting.com/

StarBright

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 919
Re: When your homecooking costs more than a restaurant
« Reply #35 on: September 05, 2017, 09:50:33 AM »
Some things just seem to be cheaper bought than homemade.

There is no way I could make a Costco rotisserie chicken for the price they sell them.  I mean you have to account for oven electricity and washing the pans afterwards.

Same goes for the gigantic pumpkin pie they sell, especially when it is $2 off.  It is around $5 for a pie that serves maybe 20 people.

Yes to the Costco chicken. I make a good roast chicken but have mostly switched to Costco at this point. For whatever reason Costco chicken bones make better stock than my roast chickens too.

Dicey

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6238
  • Age: 59
  • Location: NorCal
Re: When your homecooking costs more than a restaurant
« Reply #36 on: September 05, 2017, 10:01:15 AM »
My POV is that bread pudding is a dish designed to use up stale bread and old or extra milk and eggs. Taking a yummy, delicious frugal dessert and adding expensive ingredients seems silly to me. 

Also, your restaurant dessert comparison is skewed because you're not counting tax, tip and the likelihood that you're ordering it after a restaurant-priced meal.

If you want an expensive dessert, fine, but don't make a federal case thread out if it. Sheesh.
I did it! I have a journal!
A Lot Like This
And hell yes, I am still moving confidently in the direction of my dreams...

A Definite Beta Guy

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 475
Re: When your homecooking costs more than a restaurant
« Reply #37 on: September 05, 2017, 10:32:19 AM »
Like others have said, on a per serving basis, it's likely much less expensive than a restaurant. The closest restaurants to me have $10/plate meals at minimum, and I have to bust out some super premium stuff to get to that level. When I cook standing rib roast for my in-laws, that can get up to like $12/head. I suppose if I start throwing in crap like bacon-wrapped scallop appetizers I can start rivaling the $20/head that UMC people spend on mid-tier restaurants.

I tend to find meals are pretty cheap, unless I start getting really into rubs and marinades and sauces, which tend to add considerably to the per-serving cost. I limit myself on those because doing them every night will get pricey. Like, I'll probably make coq au vin this Friday, but I use a LOT of red wine to marinate, enough to add probably $2-$2.50 per serving. It tastes realllllllllyyyyyy good, and all the rest of it is just chicken leg quarters and staple veggies (celery/onion/carrot), but that damned red wine keeps me from doing it very often.

Well, that, and it's time-intensive to braise.

Thankfully, the herb garden produces some good stuff which produce a lot of flavor. Roasting potatoes with rosemary is delicious. I could have that every day.

faithless

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 55
Re: When your homecooking costs more than a restaurant
« Reply #38 on: September 06, 2017, 02:59:23 AM »

Thankfully, the herb garden produces some good stuff which produce a lot of flavor. Roasting potatoes with rosemary is delicious. I could have that every day.

Yeah, I think the most Mustachian thing I've done cooking wise is growing my own herbs. I pulled up a couple of paving slabs and grow in the gaps: rosemary, sage, thyme, mint and lemon balm, which are buy once, neglect for years kind of plants, and basil, oregano and parsley, which you seem to have to buy/plant new seeds each year.
No luck with chive seeds so far.

Saves me a fortune over buying little packs of fresh herbs, and you've always got them on hand so never need to pop out for them. Brilliant for adding to potatoes, pasta and roasts - and mojitos!

The other stuff I've tried to grow is a bit of a wash in terms of cost/taste/effort, except courgettes/zucchini, which are happy being neglected in pots.

A Definite Beta Guy

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 475
Re: When your homecooking costs more than a restaurant
« Reply #39 on: September 06, 2017, 07:53:43 AM »
I've had miserable luck with dwarf squash in a pot this year. They grow like crazy in the actual garden, but it dries out extremely quickly in the pot. I eventually just gave up.

Chives and rosemary and mint are all fantastic for pots. Mint for me is not very Mustachian, though....I only really use them for mojitos.

Dicey

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6238
  • Age: 59
  • Location: NorCal
Re: When your homecooking costs more than a restaurant
« Reply #40 on: September 06, 2017, 07:56:16 AM »
Be careful about ignoring mint. It's invasive as hell. Put it in a pot, keep it far off the ground and check for runners religiously. Your future self will thank you profusely.
I did it! I have a journal!
A Lot Like This
And hell yes, I am still moving confidently in the direction of my dreams...

RetiredAt63

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6878
  • Location: Eastern Ontario, Canada
Re: When your homecooking costs more than a restaurant
« Reply #41 on: September 06, 2017, 10:15:31 AM »
I tend to find meals are pretty cheap, unless I start getting really into rubs and marinades and sauces, which tend to add considerably to the per-serving cost. I limit myself on those because doing them every night will get pricey. Like, I'll probably make coq au vin this Friday, but I use a LOT of red wine to marinate, enough to add probably $2-$2.50 per serving. It tastes realllllllllyyyyyy good, and all the rest of it is just chicken leg quarters and staple veggies (celery/onion/carrot), but that damned red wine keeps me from doing it very often.

I can buy a cooking quality red wine for not a huge amount of money ($6.45 CAN at the LCBO for a Pinot noir).  If I wanted to do a lot of marinating I think I would head down to my local wine-making place and make my 28 750 ml bottles for $135 (using my saved bottles, of course) and end up with a nicer wine.
The measure of civilization is how people treat one another.

http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/meetups-and-social-events/ontario's-own-camp-mustache-2017/ - MEET US THERE!

ooeei

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1050
Re: When your homecooking costs more than a restaurant
« Reply #42 on: September 06, 2017, 02:25:07 PM »
Some things just seem to be cheaper bought than homemade.

There is no way I could make a Costco rotisserie chicken for the price they sell them.  I mean you have to account for oven electricity and washing the pans afterwards.

Same goes for the gigantic pumpkin pie they sell, especially when it is $2 off.  It is around $5 for a pie that serves maybe 20 people.

I saw an interview with someone high up in Costco where they specifically mention the rotisserie chicken and the hotdog combo as loss leaders that they keep around because it gets people in the door and they have sort of a reputation for them.

I still roast my own chickens because I like doing it, and fresh is better.

iowajes

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 5219
  • Location: United States
Re: When your homecooking costs more than a restaurant
« Reply #43 on: September 06, 2017, 02:43:18 PM »
I have heard that Costco loses a ton of money on the chickens.

But I'm not convinced hot dog + soda is a loss leader so much as just not a money maker.

Let's look at the price to BUY hot dogs at Costco. (And this is what they sell to customers at).
I had to use delivery zipcode 90210, because they don't deliver to any of the 8 other zipcodes I tried and that one popped into my head. Maybe it is more expensive than others, I don't know.

24 buns: 3.29
36 hot dogs: 14.39

So for 72 hot dogs (3 packs of buns, 2 packs of dogs) it costs: $67.43.  That is $0.94 cents a hot dog.  Which leaves 56 cents for the soda.  Fountain soda is CHEAP.   And that isn't Costco's cost for the food items, i'm just using their prices to compare.

Yes, there are staffing costs, but unless you want to tell me the entire food court is a loss leader on that (and it might be)- I'm not thinking the "famous" hot dog combo is losing them much.

MgoSam

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3474
  • Location: Minnesota
Re: When your homecooking costs more than a restaurant
« Reply #44 on: September 06, 2017, 02:54:00 PM »

So for 72 hot dogs (3 packs of buns, 2 packs of dogs) it costs: $67.43.  That is $0.94 cents a hot dog.  Which leaves 56 cents for the soda.  Fountain soda is CHEAP.   And that isn't Costco's cost for the food items, i'm just using their prices to compare.

Yes, there are staffing costs, but unless you want to tell me the entire food court is a loss leader on that (and it might be)- I'm not thinking the "famous" hot dog combo is losing them much.

You're also forgetting the cost of heating/cooling/storing/spoilage for the ingredients, the cost of the napkins, plates, cups, and other things, the cost of employing workers (also gotta include payroll, insurance), and the overhead (insurance, ect). Then you also have to factor in equipment and depreciation and many more things. I don't know how most restaurants figure it, but if you're selling an item for $1.50 and your cost of ingredients is around a buck, then yes you are losing money on each sale once you add in everything else.

FINate

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 691
Re: When your homecooking costs more than a restaurant
« Reply #45 on: September 06, 2017, 03:24:19 PM »

So for 72 hot dogs (3 packs of buns, 2 packs of dogs) it costs: $67.43.  That is $0.94 cents a hot dog.  Which leaves 56 cents for the soda.  Fountain soda is CHEAP.   And that isn't Costco's cost for the food items, i'm just using their prices to compare.

Yes, there are staffing costs, but unless you want to tell me the entire food court is a loss leader on that (and it might be)- I'm not thinking the "famous" hot dog combo is losing them much.

You're also forgetting the cost of heating/cooling/storing/spoilage for the ingredients, the cost of the napkins, plates, cups, and other things, the cost of employing workers (also gotta include payroll, insurance), and the overhead (insurance, ect). Then you also have to factor in equipment and depreciation and many more things. I don't know how most restaurants figure it, but if you're selling an item for $1.50 and your cost of ingredients is around a buck, then yes you are losing money on each sale once you add in everything else.

My understanding from a culinary arts class some years ago: The rough rule of thumb for restaurants is just under 1/3 of the price covers ingredients, a little under 1/3 labor, and again just under 1/3 overhead (rent, insurance, ...). Profit margins are thin, in the 2-5% range. Restaurants buy wholesale so they get ingredients for less but then they also need to make a profit, so an equivalent dish prepared at home will always be 1/3 the cost unless it's a loss leader.

Roland of Gilead

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1565
Re: When your homecooking costs more than a restaurant
« Reply #46 on: September 06, 2017, 05:03:52 PM »
How much is a medium onion cost, because you have not seen someone crank that onion grinder on their Costco hotdog until you have witnessed my wife at it.

A Definite Beta Guy

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 475
Re: When your homecooking costs more than a restaurant
« Reply #47 on: September 07, 2017, 09:09:05 AM »
I tend to find meals are pretty cheap, unless I start getting really into rubs and marinades and sauces, which tend to add considerably to the per-serving cost. I limit myself on those because doing them every night will get pricey. Like, I'll probably make coq au vin this Friday, but I use a LOT of red wine to marinate, enough to add probably $2-$2.50 per serving. It tastes realllllllllyyyyyy good, and all the rest of it is just chicken leg quarters and staple veggies (celery/onion/carrot), but that damned red wine keeps me from doing it very often.

I can buy a cooking quality red wine for not a huge amount of money ($6.45 CAN at the LCBO for a Pinot noir).  If I wanted to do a lot of marinating I think I would head down to my local wine-making place and make my 28 750 ml bottles for $135 (using my saved bottles, of course) and end up with a nicer wine.

From what I recall, I generally use economy wines that come out to 8.99 for 1.75 ML. But I entirely cover chicken quarters with red wine, which (again from memory) takes me about a bit more than half the bottle when I am making leg quarters for my wife and I. It averages out to about $5/wine, or $2.50/head. There's enough chicken left over (usually) for one more meal, so call it $1.67 per meal.

I mean, I'm okay with it once every 6 months (which is why I can't remember any of this crap off the top of my head), especially since the rest of the ingredients are cheap (French mirepoix, garlic, and chicken leg quarters). It'd add up if I start doing this once a week or something.

Chesleygirl

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 485
Re: When your homecooking costs more than a restaurant
« Reply #48 on: September 07, 2017, 11:16:27 AM »

My understanding from a culinary arts class some years ago: The rough rule of thumb for restaurants is just under 1/3 of the price covers ingredients, a little under 1/3 labor, and again just under 1/3 overhead (rent, insurance, ...). Profit margins are thin, in the 2-5% range. Restaurants buy wholesale so they get ingredients for less but then they also need to make a profit, so an equivalent dish prepared at home will always be 1/3 the cost unless it's a loss leader.

Do restaurants still put "loss leader" items on their menus?

Restaurant food has gone up so much in recent years. I haven't wanted to dine out lately after several negative experiences. My spouse and I enjoyed a Cuban restaurant for a while, but the waiter would always bring the check to the table while we were still eating and chewing our food, and try subtle ways to pressure us to leave, literally as soon as we started eating our food. He also refused to serve coffee or dessert after dinner, always saying "we're all out, sorry". So we do not go there anymore. I feel like restaurants cost too much to put up with that. I'd rather cook my own food. I saw a news report recently about some restaurant workers caught chopping food on the sidewalk behind the restaurant, in the alley, with dead rats nearby. My kitchen would be far more likely to pass a health inspection than a lot of these restaurant kitchens are.

Maenad

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 120
  • Location: Minneapolis 'burbs
Re: When your homecooking costs more than a restaurant
« Reply #49 on: September 07, 2017, 01:29:20 PM »
I grew up eating fish that my dad and grandfather had caught and cleaned that very day, and was "shocked" to find that there really is no wonderful seafood in the midwest.

While it is true that there's no ocean seafood in the midwest, there's TONS of freshwater seafood. My brother goes salmon fishing on Lake Michigan frequently, and if you spend any time in Minnesota, you'll have more panfish, pike, walleye, and bass than you can shake a stick at. Hell, we've even got freshwater snails that people make escargot out of.

I grew up on fresh panfish out of the lake in my backyard, so I understand the disappointment over what's in the stores and restaurants. But don't sell the midwest short, you just don't know the right people. ;-)