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Why Eat at Home?

Check out Richly Reasonable’s small tour de force, In or Out Burger? Cruising the Internet in search of some material for a post, she ran across an article from an apparently disinterested source claiming that a McDonald’s hamburger costs no more than a burger made at home.

Breaking out the calculator, she begs to differ. This lady is an accountant, and so her results are a bit more credible than my English-major math. You need to see what she concluded.

There are many benefits to eating in. IMHO, the financial aspect amounts to the least part of the matter. The fact is, if you’re even a halfway decent cook, home-cooked food tastes better. I like the occasional grilled hamburger, but I can’t stomach a McDonald’s…eewww! A McDonald’s patty doesn’t even taste like meat to me. Put it inside a flavorless balloon-bread bun and slather it with institutional garnish, and what have you got? Not anything you’d want to put in your mouth.

Also, even though you don’t know where your groceries have been before you get them, at least you do know how the food was stored and prepared after it arrived in your kitchen.

My ex- and I used to eat out all the time—three to five times a week. After I left him, I took up with SDXB, who had been a multi-award-winning investigative reporter. He refused to eat in restaurants, partly because he was famously frugal but mainly because he had once done a series on what goes on in the restaurant kitchen. Because of what he learned in that project, he simply would not eat in restaurants.

I spent several years with this man, who loved to cook. The result was that I came to dislike restaurant food. The truth is, it’s not very good! Now I still enjoy eating in a few restaurants, but, with the exception of one family-run Mexican joint, they’re way too expensive to enjoy more than once every month or two.

It’s a matter of breaking a habit. When you start fixing your own meals with real, unprocessed food, you discover that most restaurant and junk food is not very good, just as you realize, six or eight weeks after kicking the soda-pop habit, that sicky-sweet soft drinks don’t really taste very good or, a year after quitting cigarettes, that tobacco smoke stinks.

Once that particular light dawns, the cost is irrelevant: today I wouldn’t drink a glass of pop if it was free and I had to pay for water. Nor, given a choice, would I prefer to eat out than in.

7 thoughts on “Why Eat at Home?”

  1. Also, fast food isn’t that fast. Plus you have to drive there. We had a coupon for a free McD’s frappe. We got it on the way to somewhere…and even so, I was amazed by how long the process took.

    Get that rice cooker, Funny!

  2. @ frugal scholar: Yeah, that’s true, too. To my mind it’s a hassle to go out to eat, even to a good restaurant. You have to get dressed, drive there, get parked, then often wait in line. Then wait to get the menu and sit through the daily sales pitch. Then study the menu. Then order. Then wait some more until the food comes. Then wait for the bill. Then wait for change. Then trudge home.

    Meanwhile, consider the ambience. In family restaurants, you get to listen not only to your own kids but to everyone else’s brats yowling and banging the silverware on the table. You get to listen to the morons at the adjacent tables yapping away on their cell phones while their mates try to wrangle the brats. You get to overhear personal conversations that you REALLY don’t want to hear.

    Starting in the late 80s and early 90s, restaurant designers decided “upscale” and “edgy” meant high ceilings with no sound-insulating tiles, unadorned walls, and hard furniture. The result is that even in a nice restaurant the sound of normal adult conversation reverberates into an ear-splitting cacophony. Add Muzak or, gawd help you, live music into the mix, and you have to raise your voice to be heard by your dinner companion. If you’re like me and you don’t enjoy shouting over your food, then you shut up and just sit there through the meal, your ears ringing.

    There’s an appeal to this? Please, someone explain: what IS it?

  3. Putting a stop to eating out 4-6 times a week was the best thing I ever did for both my wallet and my health — dropped 25 pounds *like that.* The food tasted good at the time, but besides my affinity for French fries, I now know the rest of it really didn’t please my palate.

    Now, the only restaurant we occasionally splurge on (and enjoy) is our local sushi joint, which has excellent food.

  4. We stopped eating out a while ago, too, because we like our own cooking better than restaurant food. Like you, we get take-out from an excellent an authentic Mexican restaurant once in a while. We also have sushi now and then because we don’t want to learn how to make it. Since we cook at home now, we buy better ingredients and still spend a lot less money on food compared to eating out. Now, if my wife would pay me for cooking, serving, and cleaning up I would be looking at some serious money.

  5. Hello, just found you…..

    Of course the biggest reason to eat in (at lest when it comes to a fast food hamburger) is that any hamburger I make, is surely going to tast a thousand times better than burger King or mcds. So I never eat at fast food or chain restaurants. I do however, save my pennies for non chain, really really good restaurants, as i like gourmet food byt dont cook it well. Fortunately, where I live its restaurant week and I plan on taking advantage..

  6. I’ve never been hooked on eating out or drinking soda, in fact we only ever went out to one or two noodle restaurants once every several months growing up, so I’m still able to enjoy the occasional meal out and my special root beers once a week or some such.

    I guess it’d be better if we avoided it entirely but I’d like to enjoy the convenience on occasion. And it’s odd, but as much as I enjoy plain water, there are times that I truly crave something sweet.

  7. @ Nicole & Money Obedience: for sure, sushi is one of the things that’s hard to fix at home, unless you live some place where extra-fresh fish is available. At inland venues, the finest fish goes to restaurants, and grocery-store customers get the “fresh defrosted” stuff. About the only place that consistently has excellent fish here is Whole Foods, and even there, I probably wouldn’t use it for sushi.

    I like certain ethnic restaurants, a good sushi joint, a decent noodle restaurant (only one that I know of here), and the occasional very expensive fine cuisine sorta place. Generally, if I can make what they sell at home, I don’t eat there.

    @ Revanche: one does occasionally crave a soda. O’course, because they’re full of caffeine, there’s a reason we end up craving the stuff. I look for caffeine-free drinks, like 7Up or root beer, which won’t leave your body waiting for another caffeine fix. 😀

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