Headline:  Eating Out A Casualty of the Economy

Eating Out - A Casualty of the Economy
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image by Klearchos Kapoutsis

A recent news story, with the above headline, stated that restaurants should only expect to see  annual growth of less than 1% for the next decade due to the recession.

I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

Not that I have anything against restaurants or restaurant owners. I love local restaurants and quality flavorful food. What I don’t like is over-consumption just for the sake of it and the impact of the fast food nation on our collective well being. Eating out all the time is not healthy for your wallet or your waist line.

But isn’t it more expensive to make your own meals? Doesn’t it take more time to cook at home?

More expensive than what?

Of course, eating at home will increase your grocery bill. You’re actually eating at home so you need food to prepare.  But do the math.  If you eat out for lunch 4 days a week, even on fast food, you’re spending anywhere from $5-$10 each time. That could be $160 a month. Eating out on the weekends? Then add another $160 (more for a family or if you add some cocktails).  $320 or more that can easily supplement your current grocery budget to create healthy family meals.

How about the costs of obesity and it’s related diseases? One person featured in the story lost 30 lbs by not eating out and cooking at home. Those 30 lbs lost could save her thousands of dollars. For example, the different in medical cost for someone with diabetes for one year vs. someone without  is almost $11,000. (See this government study.)

Or it could bring her more in her paycheck each week because obese people tend to make less money than those who are normal weight, according to a recent George Washington University study.

As far as time goes, I don’t know how many people I have seen standing in line on a Friday night waiting 30 minutes to an hour for a table at the Olive Garden or TGI Friday’s. In the time spent waiting you could easily have a meal on the table and you wouldn’t have to worry about leaving a tip. 

I am all for the economy picking up. I just hope that the new habit of cooking and eating at home sticks around. While it may not be the bounce that the restaurant industry wants, it will be better for everyone’s health and budget in the long run.

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