Thursday, February 26, 2009

Eating Out Cheap?

I love to go out to eat. What is not to love? Someone else does all the shopping, the cooking, and most importantly, the clean up for the family meal.

I will tell you what is not to love, the price. Even cheap dining out is costly compared to the alternatives. 

With a family of six, where the children are quickly aging out of the free meal brackets, eating out cheap is practically an oxymoron. In fact, the last time the entire family went out to eat we ate at Cici's. It cost us about $25, even though we used a coupon and only drank water. $25 dollars may not seem like all that much, but let's compare it to the alternatives. 

One alternative to going out for dinner is to buy ready made food at the grocery store. Instead of going out for pizza, ready made pizzas could be purchased.  Aldi  has ready to bake (not frozen) pepperoni or cheese pizzas for $6.89. I'm not sure the exact size of these pizzas, but they are very large. They are bigger than my baking stones. Two of these will feed my family, and usually leave a few leftovers. Less than $14 to feed the family is cheaper than going out, and there is usually enough for my husband's lunch the next day. Not bad, but we can do better.

The next alternative is to make your meal at home. Keeping with the pizza example, let's look at the cost of  homemade pizza. Pizza is pretty easy to make. Dough can be made in the bread machine, and pizza crusts can be made ahead of time and frozen. My favorite dough recipe is mixed by hand. 

Pizza Dough

An easy an delicious start to homemade pizza.

See Pizza Dough on Key Ingredient.

I normally double the above recipe, and make two thick crust pizzas on my baking stones. 

We make our pizzas with all kinds of different toppings, but for comparison, let's price out a single topping; pepperoni. 

flour $0.52
oil          .10
yeast     .07
sugar  negligible
salt      negligible

tomato paste  $0.39
spices                 negligible
cheese                3.29
pepperoni          1.00

Total cost = $ 5.37
Of course you have some time invested, and a little electricity, but the savings is huge! 

Reviewing the numbers for feeding a family of six pizza: Cici's - about $25. Buying ready made pizzas - about $14. Making it from scratch - less than $6. 

Personally, we are trying to tighten our budget.  If we are eating out on a regular basis,  we are fooling ourselves if we think we can do it cheaply.  Going out to eat must be reserved for special occasions. It is nice, but it sure isn't cheap. 


  1. Why is recognising such simple common sense so hard for many of us. We make an additional saving when the subject of eating out or takeaways comes up. After we have talked about the pros and cons and usually decide to stay in and make it from scratch, we add the money we would have spent to our money pot where we usually put our change each day. Margaret

  2. Great post! Thanks for sharing your cost comparisons. I linked to you on my blog, hope that was okay! :) I agree with you on this...our family dinners when we eat out are rarely less than $25 too. Even with a coupon!

  3. Thanks for the dough recipe. I think that even I can do that!

  4. WE have pizza and movie/game night each Friday complete with homemade pizza. :D

  5. One of our favorite projects is to each make personal sized calzones, but we always buy the dough prepackaged. This sounds really easy - I'll be making it myself from now on. Thanks!!

  6. I think the key to saving money on groceries to have a few quick convience meals that taste good. You could use italian bread cut horizontally for crusts to make this faster but still cheaper than take and bake. We make these on english muffins for quick lunch pizzas.

  7. My pizza dough recipe is the most popular recipe on my blog. We make pizza at home a lot. I love your recipe too! I just don't normally have patience for yeast.

  8. My mom does this in her food processor. She actually spends one day a week making a whole ton of pizza dough and then freezing them in reasonably sized balls. That way, throughout the week, she can just buy the ingredients she needs from the deli/produce section & thawing the dough while she is out/the morning before to make all kinds of different pizzas


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