Why do so many people think eating out is a waste of money?

Eating out is like the devil to financially savvy people. I can't believe how bad of a reputation its gotten, when in reality it hardly makes a difference to your finances. Here's the math on a hypothetical situation:

You can get a decent lunch deal for $10-15. I don't mean Maccas or any other fast food - I mean a freshly prepared chicken salad, or butter chicken, a few plates of sushi, or even some lamb tandoori. At an average of $13 a day for 5 days, you're out $65 a week for buying lunch.

Now subtract the total cost of 5 days worth of raw ingredients to make the meals yourself. You're looking at least $20. Factor in another $15 for electricity and water used for cooking/cleaning. To make your own lunch for those 5 days, you would spend around $35.

Congratulations - you're saving $30 a week by eating in. That's about the average person's full-time hourly wage. How long would it take you to prepare the meals yourself, heat them up, and clean up afterwards? Probably more than an hour.

For someone on hourly pay with a busy lifestyle, accounting for overtime rates, that extra hour could've been spent at work which would yield you at least $45. So accounting for time (which is just as valuable as money), you're almost better off buying your lunch if you can do it strategically.

Feel free to neg me if you own 7 houses by the age of 23 by giving up your avo on toast.


  • +129

    your calculation is just for a single person living a single life.

    • +5

      Yep - everyone's situation is different so it always depends. Point is that the generic hate that gets spewed for eating out is unfounded. It's nowhere near as simple as the financial gurus make it out to be.

      • +21

        It all comes down to what is cheaper in the long run. Of course one should consider opportunity cost and their earning capacity.

        I'm genuinely concerned for a lot of people here. I was raised in a very frugal culture, but now that I have a high paying job those ways don't make financial sense. There are only so many hours in our lives and large opportunities to maximise one's enjoyment of them once we break free from our obsessions with scrimping and saving.

        • +36

          Not sure how much scrimping and saving is really happening on this site. More commonly it seems to be unchecked spending - the exact opposite!

          • +3

            @spillmill: More money than sense

          • +4

            @spillmill: @SlavOz Save even more if you stop eating, then within a couple of months - permanent savings.

          • @spillmill: I think it's more people like to buy something for alot cheaper than normal. They're not necessarily frugal or cheap but don't like paying more if it's unnecessary.

      • Oh and you've got it all figured out eh? That's why so many people think that eating out is a waste of money, but you have some sort of secret knowledge that makes them all wrong eh? Lmao you act as if other people are obnoxious about eating out but you're being exactly that. You're such a math genius everyone else is wrong! Why didn't anyone think of the TIME it takes to cook?! Wow what a revelation! No one in the history of the planet ever thought of adding in the time it takes to actually cook food when they were comparing eating out vs coooking at home. No one! You are the first! Well done, I bet you've also cured cancer in your spare time too!

        • +2

          Sounds like he did hey.

        • +1

          Calm down sir

      • +15

        Just make a bigger batch when you make dinner. Then lunch takes next to zero prep time.

        My lunch is, 100% if the time, leftovers from last night’s dinner. The time to chop two potatoes rather than one, or to chop an extra onion, is next to nothing.

        Then heating it up at work takes far less time and hassle than going out to get lunch or ordering it and having the delivery guy get lost finding the office.

        Given my food is made up from whatever cheap seasonal veggies are $2/kg, plus additional stuff I grow in the garden, lunch is basically free.

        • +2

          I estimate my lunches cost less than $2 a pop

    • +2

      and the calculation for a single meal ($10-$15). The calculation for preparing it could cover 2 meals a day. Breakfast is a scam

    • +10

      One thing no one seems to think about is the benefit of heaps of time saved. Cooking can take an hour or more, heating up your meal takes a minute. To get back that one hour, I'll spend more.

      But when you cook and you use good ingredients, you will notice that your health will be better than when you eat out. There is something about home cooked food.

    • +1

      If you go out for dinner you have to drive, order, wait and drive back home…. all time wasting. It is longer than preparing, washing dishes.

    • +4

      His calculation is for someone who doesnt regularly make lunch….

      When you get better at it, you learn to use left overs, you learn to efficiently use combinations

      You definitely don't use 15 in electricity/water

      I make two big wraps twice a week, it averages out $5 a wrap.

      My work mate home made lunch is basically last night's dinner… leftovers… so $0

  • +68

    Feel free to neg me if you own 7 houses by the age of 23 by giving up your avo on toast.

    If you do not comment under your forum topic, no one can neg you.

    • +25

      Unless they open your profile and neg all your comments in chronological order.

      Shout out to all my neg stalkers! Red is the colour of love. 😘

  • +21

    Times 50 weeks of your working year, plus the drink that would likely go alongside that lunch. It adds up.

    • +2

      So does the opportunity cost. The cost per unit of time is an intensive property extendable to any time span. So the specific time span isn't actually relevant.

      • +10

        Yeah because instead of making lunch for tomorrow you could be making gains on wallstreet. Please.

        • LMAO

    • My thoughts too. I take lunch to work every day (occasionally buy lunch) but from my observations it's not just lunch. It's a drink, oh and breakfast on the way to the office, then a coffee or two, maybe a snack (healthy or otherwise), I'd guess some people I work with are spending $100 a week for the sake of convenience.

      • +1

        I spend that on lunch give or take $20.

        Coffee from home, never drinked or smoked.

        Also near another $100 on dinner once a week. The groceries for $200

        $400 on food but it is our vice.

      • +4

        Drinks are the easiest part man. Just drink water, or stock up on your owns cans man!

        • -10

          Yep, people can smirk at me for irresponsibly eating out everyday but I also drink water almost exclusively. I'm amazed at how someone can think they're spending their money responsibly by not eating out yet they're happy to buy soft drinks. Same goes for chewing gum, potato chips, and even most refined carbs (white rice). You're throwing your money away for empty calories and virtually zero nutritional value.

          Hence, responsible spending when it comes to food is a lot more nuanced than simply "eat at home to save money". There are way more factors than that.

          • +1

            @SlavOz: Yea I don't even drink coffee or alcohol. Save even more money when I add in cooking at home.

    • Just don't buy a drink with lunch - as I have never

  • +6

    You sound like a millennial. Wish there was more people like this that way houses would be more affordable

    Best part of eating out is the extra msg on your fish taco straight from the Mekong delta cooked in raw aluminium pans washed by some eager kitchen hand

    • +79

      MSG is perfectly safe and delicious. It's reputation was tarnished by a very deliberate marketing campaign.

    • +2

      Mekong fish is delicious. And MSG is in far more than you realise - hope you don't eat doritos.

      • +37

        Username checks out

        • +5

          GOLD.!! +1

    • +3

      You must be one of those people that think Chinese food gives them headaches too? Lol naive

      • They love deep fried and fatty dishes.

        • +2

          That they do … and yet on average they are far healthier than your average caucasian

  • +39

    Does dumpster diving count as eating out??

    Asking for a friend

    • +12

      only if the dumpster lid remains open

      • +22

        That would make it al-fresco dining.

        • +1

          Is that your only joke?

          • +2

            @spillmill: I upvoted and acknowledge your comment being a reference to their username and not some random insult.

            • +1

              @Andard: Cheers, about 50% got it, it seems.

              • @spillmill: Those are good odds for the Ozbargain community.

    • +2

      Provides it's not your own dumpster, why not??

  • +17

    $30 hourly wage after tax being say $44 per hour before tax, almost $90k per year. Average OzB income seems pretty high

    • +2

      Nope, I'm on less than $80k salary and have a HECS debt too. After tax, my fortnightly pay works out to be around $29 an hour.

      • +3

        I agree it’s closer to $80 as I simplified my example. But I still wouldn’t call $29 ph after tax average especially if that includes HECS repayment.

        When you’re older and you’re balancing a family budget I think you’ll be looking at the numbers differently…

      • +15

        I wonder if Bill Gates even has a kitchen. Just making himself a coffee is going to cost him several $million in lost work time. Bill, if you’re reading this, for Chrissake mate, take SlavOz’s advice and do your sums and eat and drink out 24/7.

    • Pretty sure everyone on here is on their 300k salary…. :P

      • This isn't Whirlpool. Average here is much higher?

        • Oh, my mistake, what is the figure then?

  • +191

    At "$15 for electricity and water" per week, split down the middle you're using 36,000 litres of water and running a 2kw electric cook top for 15 hrs straight…. I'm not sure how you cook but you're doing something wrong.

    • +4

      I thought that too!

    • +45

      Yeah, but like…when I rinse rice I like to really rinse it…

      • +13

        Rinsing washes away some of the nutrients for which I paid.

        • +7

          No, you’re supposed to save the rinse water for a bath later. I hear rice water is very good for the skin.

          • +2

            @ATangk: It's advertised in some SK-II products, and they're like premium stuff. So it must be good.

        • Rinsing uses calories, which costs me more in food.

      • Fellow Asian I see. :P

    • +2

      Must be cooking for community kitchen.

  • +44

    Wow you really have no clue about cooking or utilities lol out of touch much? Eating out is expensive as f***, the price of one 'lunch' could feed me for 3 days every meal, or every lunch for a full week. And that's just lunches, not counting the cost for breakfast or tea. Your '$65' is literally our weekly grocery budget for TWO people who will only eat name brand products, we don't skimp on quality or taste. Not that your average ozbargainer (rich middle-aged white men) would know anything about it, probably pocket change to them. If I was making a shit load of money (what the aforementioned ozbargainers would call 'comfortable' because their perspective has exited the atmosphere) I would eat out more, but still no more than twice a week. It really is damn expensive.

    • +17

      $65 a week for two people sounds like a low ball unless you're eating mostly cheap starch and counting your toilet paper sheets.

      There's no way $32 a week per person is buying you a balanced and healthy diet - ie nuts, fish, protein, bit of milk, quality beef, and multiple servings of fruit and veg per day. No chance.

      • +7

        I’m sure most people here have calculated cost per meal for their staple home made meals.

        At the high end for me, Atlantic salmon 600g $18 for 4 serves = $4.50, plus say another $1.50 for asparagus and rice.

        Pork roast shoulder is about $3 per serve for the protein itself.

        Sandwiches with deli meats somewhere between $2-3

        $65 sounds a bit light when you add fruit, nuts etc but really not too far off the mark. Also helps when you shop at places other than Colesworth.

        • I'd say staple homemade meals for the average Aussie family aren't exactly a good measure of good eating. We're pretty high when it comes to obesity, diabetes, heart disease etc.

          The real money waster is junk food. Potato chips and chocolate bars deliver no nutritional value (in fact they make you hungrier) and have a disgraceful mark-up. I'm still amazed at how many mums I see rolling a trolley full of crap who would still complain that 'living costs are too high!'

        • +7

          I’m sure most people here have calculated cost per meal

          That sounds boring.

        • +1

          That is literally what I eat restricting my calories 1200kcal a day. It gets boring after a while, and you'll want anything else but protein + rice + vege again.

      • +25

        lol joke. $15 for 5 days of utilities? That is just a couple of hundred shy of my annual bill in regional Australia where I only have one energy provider to choose from. This is for a 4 bedroom 2 toilet house, air conditioning (mostly 1 room at a time) and two mid-range computers.

        An average man needs about 56 grams of pure protein a day. Most meat are about 20-30% of pure protein so 200 grams of meat a day is sufficient. We'll count lunch and dinner for now because our breakfasts have negligible protein. So essentially each meal only requires 100 grams of meat. The meat I buy hovers between 12-22/kg so we'll average it out to 16 per kg. Thats $1.6 of meat per meal.

        500 grams of vegetables and fruit a day is considered balanced and healthy. We'll be generous and call it 6 per kg of mixed fruit/veg for some extra stuff. This is $1.5 per meal. Add in some rice/potatoes/carb (20c/ 100gram of potato for reference), some sauces and spice and we can call it $3.5/meal.

        I spend about 2.5 hours cooking and cleaning for 16 meals between my wife and I. At work and at home I take about 3 mins to reheat the meals. Altogether its 200 minutes to cook clean and re-heat 16 meals. This cost about $56, lets call it $65 including your incredible mark up in utilities. So factoring in time, bills and ingredients, cooking costs me $120 per 16 meals.

        If I eat out for 16 meals, it costs me at least 12.5 for some salty and/or oily take away sometimes without 100 grams of meat or even 200 dry weight of vegetables (seriously when eating out, pick two nutritious/cheap[i.e <$14]/filling). I'll probably die in 3 months if I restrict my eating out to <12.5 (regional Aus problems) so I'm going to have to say $17 per meal to get the same level of nutrition I do when I cook. This is $240 for 16 meals. Driving there, ordering the food, waiting for the food. Lets be generous and say 15 minutes per meal. That is 240 minutes per meal. 40 minutes more than I spend cooking at home myself. So factoring in time, bills and ingredients, eating out costs me $384 per 16 meals.

        In a year one of us has about 730 meals. We eat out maybe twice a week to satiate our cravings for food we cannot make at home. We'll call it 3 meals per person deducted every week thats leads to about 562 meals per person we cook ourselves. This leads to a saving of about 9,273 per person. At my approximate wage, to get this extra $9,273 post-tax and maintain my current savings, I would require a pre-tax raise of about $14,000. How many more hours of work is that again?

        Yeah, nah. Don't know what you're on about.

        • -33

          Mate you aint saving $10k a year by eating at home, forget about any logic you thought you had there. Even if I ate out for both lunch and dinner my yearly cost would only be about $7.5k. And if you honestly think ordering a meal and picking it up takes 15 minutes you obviously don't know the market. If the place is in walking distance to your home or office you can easily pick it up during your daily exercise so you haven't really wasted any additional time.

          • +13


            Mate you aint saving $10k a year by eating at home

            You're right, I'm saving about 18,000+ between my partner and I. Even more when we include some guilty pleasures like ramen or junk food.

            forget about any logic you thought you had there


            Even if I ate out for both lunch and dinner my yearly cost would only be about $7.5k

            Right, gotcha. Because only without logic you'd be able to spend 10.3 per meal every day of the week and get nutritious, filling meals every single time.

            And if you honestly think ordering a meal and picking it up takes 15 minutes you obviously don't know the market

            Yea I really don't know the market in your logic-less scenario. Where can I find nutritious and filling meals <10.3 that take less than 15 minutes to prepare

            If the place is in walking distance to your home or office you can easily pick it up during your daily exercise so you haven't really wasted any additional time

            Except when its not. I am not sure how many places sell nutritious, filling, <10.3 meals that are near to people's offices there are in Australia at all.

          • +1

            @SlavOz: Mate, you would be a real hit at the parties.

            • +1

              @nub: Ozbargain parties where people talk about the latest ways of saving 10 cents here and 30 cents there?

          • @SlavOz: I love that you account for travel time as part of your daily exercise, do you run to the restaurant and back again? belly full of butter chicken or lamb tandoori as you run home? ahahaha would love to see that

      • Wife manages to spend ~$600/week on groceries (two adults, one child), plus some (relatively cheap) eating out on top of that.

        • +2

          Seriously, I can’t imagine spending that much a week on food! Christ. I have Vegemite on toast, not caviar.

        • +7

          that's an outrageous grocery bill. you eating eye fillet and flathead every night?

          • @tanniesjunk: Sadly not. I have no idea how that money gets spent.

            • +4

              @ely: i know you've got to pick your battles with the missus but that's seriously got to warrant a convo! We aim for $150/ week with 2 adults and 2 young kids.

              Hopefully you're at least using discounted GC's to save 5% - maybe that's the first step!

              • @tanniesjunk: Been using the discounted GCs for years :) $150/week for two adults and two kids seems incredible in the other direction that's ~$1.8 per person per meal! I'd probably spend close to that just by myself :D

        • +10

          Sure there isn’t a trip to the pokies on the way?

          • +3

            @Melong: Not unless the pokies take Woolies gift cards :D

        • How old is the child? Nappies and other baby products are hugely expensive. If it's a mid-aged toddler, that extra toilet paper and packaged snacks for their school lunch everyday can add up.

          • @SlavOz: Old enough to only wear nappies to sleep (1x nappy/day = not particularly expensive). Childcare is staggeringly expensive, but includes lunch, snacks etc, so that's not included in the groceries expenses.

        • My wife spends 350 - 400 per week. All brand name. 2 adults, small child and baby. 600 is blowing my mind.

        • +1


          • @Dr Prepper: It's an option I've spent a lot of time considering, trust me. Kids complicate things though, you want the best for them and shit's got to be pretty bad in other ways before divorce is the best option for them. Wife spends heaps, but mainly on food/household expenses TBH, not random handbags, expensive clothes and whatnot. In spite of the insane food expenditure we can still easily pay all of our bills, and she's recently started some part time work after ~8 years out of the job market so relatively speaking we're rolling in cash these days.

          • +2

            @Dr Prepper: "Honey, I've consulted with OzBargain and they have advised me to file for divorce."

      • wow talk about being ignorant…

        You're not getting $32 of good ingredients in $100 of store bought lunch

      • +3

        My wife and I are vegetarian. We average around $70/week including condiments and household items (toilet paper, detergent, etc).

        The trick is to go to the fruit and veg shop and buy whatever is in surplus. Yellow squash is $2/kg? It’s squash week. Beans are $3/kg? Beans week! Yay!

        The stupidest thing anyone can do (even worse than eating out) is to buy the same produce every week regardless of season.

    • +2

      Your '$65' is literally our weekly grocery budget for TWO people who will only eat name brand products, we don't skimp on quality or taste<<
      we spend $220

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