Some people enjoy the kitchen. They are creative in the kitchen. But some people get in the kitchen when it is essential. This heightens the debate about which is better between eating out and cooking at home.
We are going to deconstruct the two camps in this debate. The side that says let the experts cook, and I enjoy good food, and the camp that says that you should cook for yourself to have much control over what you eat.
To properly understand which one works for whom, we will examine this issue through finances, lifestyle, and health.
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Most people eat out and eat at home at the same time. For instance, most people have their lunch away from home. They carry their lunch or eat at a restaurant close to their office. On the other hand, most people mostly have breakfast and supper at home.
However, because of lifestyle differences, some individuals eat out most of the time, and others eat at home most of the time. Those who mostly eat out might reason that eating out is more convenient, while those who eat at home argue that it is cheaper.
Whatever side you are on, we want to dig deeper and extract the nuance in each argument.
Eating out has its benefits, including:
Eating out is very convenient. Whether traveling or running errands, you can find a good restaurant where you are and have a meal. Consequently, if you carry your lunch, you enjoy a similar convenience. You can have your lunch wherever you are.
In addition, eating out has the convenience of not having to prepare the food yourself. You walk into a premise and order what you want. It is upon the business to do all the grocery shopping, plan for cooking energy, and hire professionals to cook. For you, all you get is ready food.
Eating out gives you variety. Every business that sells food has to find its unique selling proposition, meaning that every business’s offering differs from the next. All these are options you can choose from.
When you are eating out, you can have Chinese food, Indian food, West African cuisine, etc. It is up to you to pick. While cooking for yourself, you might be limited to only food you can prepare. But when eating out, you can have any food you want.
Eating out allows for more social experiences. When you eat out, you go to a new location outside your house and hang out with friends and family.
There are even restaurants set to deliver unique meal experiences, such as having the chef cook right before you while performing cooking tricks. This improves the social experience of eating out.
Eating out gives you control of what you eat because you can choose where and what to eat. There are eating-out options to cater to every budget. If you are being frugal, food kiosks sell affordable meals. If you want to spend your money, five-star hotels and high-end restaurants are there to serve you. It is upon you to choose.
As much as eating out has its advantages, it also has its drawbacks. These include:
If you are eating out on a stringent budget, you will not enjoy the curated experiences that make eating out a memorable experience. The businesses you eat out at (on a stringent budget ) do not have the best of the best chefs, cooks, and servers.
If you have a tight food budget, you can cook at home because you can use affordable ingredients to improve the quality of food on a budget.
While regulations are put in place to ensure that businesses that deal with food are keeping with sanitary guidelines, the system is not bulletproof. There might be some oversight at times. When such regulations are overlooked, they pose health risks.
While eating out, you get the food ready. You do not get to dictate the ingredients used and the quality of the ingredients, while if you are cooking at home, you have much more control over the ingredients you use and their quality.
Businesses that sell food are designed to make you spend more and more with them. Hence, they curate their businesses to promote impulse buying, which might affect your budget.
For instance, you might walk into a premises planning to have a particular meal. However, upon walking in, you see something different on the menu that was not on your mind, but it is much more expensive, but because of impulsivity, you go with the more expensive meal. This starts eating into your budgeted money.
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Let's now turn our gears to cooking at home. Cooking at home has the following advantages:
Cooking at home presents many opportunities to save on costs. When shopping for your food, you can bulk shop, which tends to be cheaper than buying individual products.
Secondly, you can take advantage of offers, discounts, and coupons. In addition, you can do price comparisons and shop for specific food products in stores, selling them cheaper.
For cost-conscious individuals, cooking at home allows them the flexibility to save much more.
Cooking at home allows one to express themselves through their food.
While cooking at home, you can combine whatever ingredients you want and create your meal. At home, you can go as wild as your imagination allows, while at a restaurant, you will have to go with what is on the menu.
While cooking at home, you shop for your ingredients. You buy the quality that works for you and your preferred variety. At a restaurant, you do not get to shop, and the choices over what ingredients are used in your meal are limited.
Cooking at home gives you more flexibility when it comes to dieting.
If you want to take on a specific diet, you can easily do that at home. As much as there are diet-suited restaurants, such as exclusive vegan restaurants, sometimes the diets are so niche that it might be much more hectic to find places that serve your specific diet.
In addition, while cooking at home, you have more control over your portion sizes. You can calculate the calories you need to ingest better while preparing your food at home than when eating out.
Cooking at home has its advantages but also a few challenges. These include:
Cooking at home is time-consuming. You have to meal plan, shop for all your ingredients, start prepping the meals, then cook each meal. This is a time-intensive activity. If you have a busy life and barely have time to sit and have a few hours to yourself, cooking might not be for you.
Cooking is a skill. While culinary skills can be learned, not everyone is interested or willing to work to grow their culinary skills. If you are not good at cooking, you will not enjoy good food and might prefer to outsource your food preparation through eating out.
Cooking at home requires planning. If you plan well, the home cooking experience is much better. However, the cooking experience might not be as endearing if you fail at planning.
Cost is a significant factor when looking into eating out vs. cooking at home. To start with, people earn differently, hence their lifestyle is much more different.
For instance, the recommended budget for food is 15% of your income. Everyone has a different budget, depending on how much they make.
If you are earning Ksh100,000, then your monthly budget would be Ksh15,000. That means you have a budget of Ksh500 per day for food. This Ksh500 can go a long way when cooking at home, but it can also be budgeted so that you can eat out.
However, Ksh500 limits the places you can have meals outside your home. These might not be the nicest of restaurants.
Nonetheless, you can choose to do it hybrid by cooking some meals at home and eating out sometimes. You can go on a frugal spending expedition when shopping for food, taking advantage of every way to save money. Then, the money you save can be used to eat out every once in a while.
It is important to ensure you stay within your budget when deciding how to spend on food. Food is one of the impulsive decisions that can throw you off your financial goals and savings. It requires discipline and commitment.
Conduct a personal audit on how much you spend on food, how you spend, and where you spend, and then adjust that accordingly to fit your earning capacity, lifestyle, and financial goals.
Food is a crucial part of how healthy or unhealthy one is. However, there is no clear winner as to which is healthier between cooking at home and eating out. It comes down to what you decide to eat. Someone who eats a salad at work might have a healthier lunch than one who has potato fries and sausages at home.
Eating out can tempt one to consume fast foods that are not the healthiest, but eating fast food is a choice you make.
To the extent that the food you take will influence health comes down to individual choices rather than where they have their meal.
Admittedly, cooking at home gives one more flexibility and control if they want to control their diet, ingredients, and portions. And eating out predisposes one to have meals that can have excessive calories, more sugars, more salt, and other additives.
Nonetheless, being healthy and eating healthy is a personal decision that can be made to work, whether eating at home or eating out.
The important thing when deciding where to eat comes down to personal preferences.
If you have the time to prepare meals, and it is something you enjoy, you can go ahead and make meals at home, but if you are time-constrained and/or do not enjoy cooking, you can choose to eat out at places that suit your lifestyle.
Closely tied to lifestyle is finances. You have to be conscious of how you spend on food. Strike a balance between your spending and financial goals, and figure out how that works for your lifestyle. You might have to make some sacrifices to make it work.
Finally, the most important consideration is your health. Health is the greatest asset we have as human beings, and it should be treasured. Whatever lifestyle and budget you allocate to food, you should ensure that health is a priority.
Nevertheless, do not be hellbent on one or the other; each opportunity has its pros and cons, and life is found in the balance. Therefore, figure out what gives you more balance and have fun because food is meant to be enjoyed whether you cook at home or eat out.