I just read a news article about why people choose to eat out several times a week instead of cooking at home. I couldn’t help but notice the $30 tab that the article cited as the amount it would cost to cook a meal at home for TWO people. Is this a special-occasion meal, or do people eat like this every day? As health insurance brokers, we hear reasons every day for why people “can’t afford” their insurance premiums. While I truly sympathize with people who are struggling to make ends meet and living a no-frills lifestyle, I have to take exception with the idea that it costs $30 for a home-cooked meal for two. I like to cook, but I don’t always have time, and I’m not always that inspired. I know how easy it is to just go out to eat. But my husband and rarely do so. We know that the food we cook at home is generally more nutritious, and definitly less expensive than what we’d get at a restaurant (a fast-food dollar menu might be less expensive, but what it lacks in nutritional value more than makes up for the savings). I frequently make a giant pot of lentil curry and brown rice, which usually lasts us three meals (total cost, about $10). We have a tiny garden in a very small suburban backyard, and it supplies us with swiss chard, zucchini, spinach (e-coli free), tomatoes, and fresh herbs all summer long, for very little money or effort (we spend about 2 hours all summer actually working in the garden). We don’t eat Ramen Noodles or cheap junk food, and we don’t spend hours clipping coupons. We eat good, nutritious meals that we cook at home, and we spend about $300/month on food, including $150/month to have organic fruits and veggies delivered to our door.
So I’m a bit skeptical about eating out being less expensive than cooking at home, unless your idea of home-cooking is prime rib and lobster every night of the week. But I think that eating out is one of the big drains on a lot of peoples’ finances. I’m not a scrooge, and I love going out to dinner with my husband. And since we do it so rarely, it’s always a real treat. If people are eating out three times a week, it would tend to become a bit boring, and probably also contributes to the ever-expanding waistline of the American public. In Colorado, when people need to buy their own health insurance, their eligibility is determined by their health status, including their weight. So it seems that if people were to eat at home more often (cooking large quanities and freezing most of it solves the lack of time and motivation excuse), not only would they save money, but their health would improve. This means that they would have extra money to be able to pay health insurance premiums, would also be more likely to qualify for coverage, and would have overall lower healthcare costs.