Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Food Cost Analysis

Over the weekend we made a lot of different types of meals, none of which I took any pictures of, so I decided to do something a little different with the food we ate.  Lately all you hear about is how bad the economy is, so I decided to see if my cooking is cheaper, equal to, or more expensive then going out to eat at McDonald's (or Subway, or Taco Bell, etc.).

In this analysis I broke down each meal we ate, as well as our salad (we eat one with pretty much every meal) and our milk (people scoff at the price of organic milk, but if I could afford to buy all organic, I would in a heartbeat), by ingredients, the cost of each ingredient, and then the total cost per serving.  I have done a lot of rounding to make the numbers easier to calculate, but I always rounded up (possibly making the food more expensive, but not by much).  Also, I almost exclusively buy Walmart brand food, so if the prices of certain things seem low it may be because you are comparing it to the outrages prices of Hy-Vee (which is my other grocery store option).

I will start with the cost of our milk.  We buy one gallon of Horizon Organic Skim Milk per week.  Each gallon is $6.00 after tax.  So that breaks down to $0.86 per day, and there are 2 meals we drink milk at per day, so that is $0.43 per meal.  So at dinner, we can each have a glass of milk for $0.21.
MILK=$0.21 per serving

Now I will figure out how much our side salad costs.  I used to buy the pre-bagged salad, but I have just recently started buying heads of lettuce and making my own.  It is MUCH cheaper this way.  I have totaled the cost of the salad for as much as one head of iceberg and one head of romaine would make (which is about 16 side salads, 2 weeks worth).
Iceberg lettuce= $1.50, Romaine lettuce= $1.50, tomatoes= $3.00, cucumbers= $2.00, croutons= $1.50, bacos= $2.00, almonds= $2.00, cheese= $2.00, onions= $0.50, dressing= $2.50.  Total= $18.50

SALAD= $1.16 per serving

Friday night meal: Stuffed Chicken Shells (makes 4 very large servings)
Large Pasta Shells (half box)= $1.00, 3 large chicken breasts= $3.00, 8 oz. mozzarella cheese= $2.50, 2 cans Cream of Chicken soup= $1.50, one box of stuffing= $2.00, half pint of sour cream= $1.00, spices= $0.50.  Total= $11.50.
STUFFED CHICKEN SHELLS= $2.89 per serving

Saturday night meal- FREE! Much thanks to Chris and Heather for making us really yummy cream cheese and chicken enchiladas!

Sunday night meal: Homemade Basil Pesto Pizza (makes 4 servings)
Pre-made pizza crust= $2.00, half pound Italian sausage= $1.50, half bag of pre-cut pepperoni= $1.25, small can of sliced black olives= $0.75, green pepper= $0.75, banana peppers= $0.50, red onions= $0.50, pesto= $3.00, 8 oz. mozzarella cheese= $2.50.  Total= $12.75
BASIL PESTO PIZZA= $3.19 per serving

Monday night meal: Spinach and Feta Stuffed Pork Tenderloin, Roasted Red Potatoes, and Green Beans with Bacon and Onions (makes 4 servings)
Hormel Always Tender Pork Tenderloin= $7.50, 6 oz. feta cheese= $2.50, one package frozen, chopped spinach= $1.00, gravy packet= $1.00, 1.5 pounds red potatoes= $1.50, spices for potatoes= $1.00, half pound green beans= $2.00, 3 slices bacon= $0.75, whole yellow onion= $0.75.  Total= $18.00.
Stuffed Pork, Potatoes and Green Beans= $4.50 per serving

So it looks like eating at home is cheaper than eating at McDonald's or Subway (if you're trying to be all healthy).  All three types of meals ended up being around $5.00 per serving (if you added in salad and milk), which is pretty cheap in my opinion.  I know I didn't add in the wine I drank while cooking, the water I used to wash the dishes, and the electricity I used to cook with, but it still seems to be a significant savings.  I had never really thought about any of this until recently when the possibilty of losing your job is more real than ever.


  1. Great job Courtney. I do appreciate all the analysis, and it does show that cooking at home is cheaper. Also, each of those meals gave you more than one serving, so that also saved you time on your next meal. I would thing that for going out, you'd also have to include in the gas it cost you to get there....so your home cooking is also saving more that way too!

  2. Nice analysis poopy, you also have to factor in that you are a fantastic cook!