Today I picked yet another topic many of our Evolutis clients bring up when we talk about healthy eating. There’s a debate whether cooking home or eating fast family meals out drains the family budget more. Which side are you on? I stay with those who stick to home cooking to stay healthy and save money so they can enjoy the benefit of feeling better, being healthier and spending more on other experiences, may that be out-of-school activities for the kids, family holidays or a treat night for mum and dad.
According to Bord Bia, Irish people spent nearly a whopping €8bn on food outside the home in 2017, and the report was done before holiday season kicked in properly. Not only restaurants account for this massive spend, the report includes all food bought or ordered from takeaways, hotels, vending machines, pubs and coffee shops.
No doubt this is great for the foodservice sector and potentially saves time in home-cooking for the customers. However, I think it will also have a damaging effect on family relationships, weight management, overall health and fitness and the family budget.
Some of you may argue the last point, so I decided to compare a few options to show you why I think the excuse “it’s cheaper to eat on the go or order a takeaway, than cook at home from quality food” is not valid.
The JUST EAT effect
Just Eat advertises itself as the go-to app when you get hungry to have food delivered to your door from any of the local takeaways. You only need to tap your smartphone screen a few times, pay then wait. They even used the tagline “Don’t Cook, Just Eat” which basically gives every person who is not interested or lazy to learn more about food an excuse to not even try. I think it’s sad and also profit-oriented.
I compared a Kebab, a Chinese, and an Italian takeaway restaurant as examples and picked three meals to compare with similar home-cooked foods in terms of cost. Let’s not talk about the difference in nutritional value, there isn’t enough space for that here.
The kebab place offers a basic 9” pizza with two toppings or a Donner Kebab for €6. If you want your pizza to be more exciting, you will pay at least €7. However, if you can agree on one type of pizza between two or more of you, you can order the 12” for €12.
If you fancy proper pasta dishes, you can order from the Italian. A standard Spaghetti Bolognese is €8.95, or €12 in a meal, the 9” pizza is €10. A standard Chinese or Asian dish is also around €10. You’ll pay €1.20 for a can of soft drink anywhere.
Let’s do the Maths.
Let's suppose you are a family of 4, two adults and two kids. Your cheapest option is to agree on one massive pizza plus some drinks from the kebab place, including delivery you will probably brush the €20 mark. If your family is more particular and you would go for multiple dishes, you can easily spend over €30, depending on what you fancy that day. For one meal. I let that sink in.
Ronald McDonald to the Rescue
The picture is not much brighter if you decide to pop into the nearest McDonalds branch. True, you won’t need to wait for delivery, your meal will be with you within a few minutes of ordering. However, on average you’ll spend €7.50 on one meal. Multiply that by 4 and you are, again at the €30 mark.
If you’re able to stick to the EuroSaver option, you may be able to bring that down to €4 per person and only eating small bits, but the total cost will still be beyond €12 with drinks and you will likely end up hungry within a few hours.
Benefits of Home-Cooking
I have looked at prices in Tesco to make up a few meals and calculate their costs.
Meat and Veg
Very simple meal, all you need is meat of your choice, vegetables and seasoning. You can never go wrong with it and can cook up some rice if you need some carbs.
Your biggest spending will be the meat: 4 slices of Irish Beef Strip Loin steak is priced at €11.79, Irish Pork Loin Chops cost €3, Turkey Breast steaks are €5 (4 slices). This shows that you can pick your meat by how much you’d like to spend.
Whatever is your choice of veg, you won’t be spending more than a few euros for the whole family. Together with simple seasoning like salt, pepper, garlic and other spices of your liking plus the fat you’re cooking it in your spend might come to €5 for the sides.
I’ll let you do the Maths. (Steak and veg, the most expensive option is approx. €16.80 for four.)
Very simple and very popular dish.
500g of Irish Round Steak Mince is €4, 4x400g tin of Tesco Italian Chopped Tomatoes are €1.95, 500g of wholegrain spaghetti is €1.09, a kg of carrots is €1.49, one onion is €0.21, a 3-pack garlic is €0.79 and 12 beef stock cubes is €1.
Based on the recipe and Tesco prices here's the Maths: €3.2 + €1 + €1 + €0.15 + €0.21 + €0.2 (garlic and stock) = €5.76. Spaghetti Bolognese for four.
It’s something for those who like Asian flavours but keep it a little healthier than a heavy curry.
5 chicken breasts €6.99, onion €0.21, a jar Thai green curry paste is €1.99, Light Coconut Milk is €0.84 a can, 150ml fish sauce is €2.29, 2 limes are €2, 900g frozen green beans are €0.80, Tilda Pure Basmati Rice is €6.99 for 1 kg.
€5.6 + €0.21 + €1.99 + €1.68 + €2.29 + €2 + €0.2 +€1.4 = €15.37 for four servings. However, I calculated the full price of the curry paste and the fish oil here, which means for another 9 times you cook this meal, the price will be €11.09. The average cost is €11.50 for four person.
Don’t get me wrong. I totally understand that sometimes you may be exhausted, you have way too much on your plate or just simply have no inspiration to cook. That’s ok, we’ve all been there. Make sure you choose an eating out option which still helps you achieve your goals.
However, if you tend to brush off any suggestions with the excuse that it’s more expensive, this is your wake-up call. With careful planning and a little more time spent in the kitchen you can save up to 65%! I think that’s impressive!
Not sure how to get started on your kitchen mission? Get in touch and ask any questions!
David Knowles is the founder of Evolutis, Dad x 5 & wannabe singer songwriter!