Eating Quality Food and Saving Money

Last week I went out to eat with my girlfriend and two other friends of mine after my training for Young and Free was complete. As we sat down I glanced over the menu and was curious as to how much each dish cost. While looking around, I ordered a coffee and then proceeded to check prices of some of my favorite dishes. I was ready to dig into something tasty, and came across one of my favorite dishes, chicken parmesan. I then looked at the price. The price of the dish was $13.79. I thought about it for a while and decided to order another dish instead, but it got me thinking. How much would it cost to make a home cooked chicken parmesan meal, and how many people could I feed? Well, you're in luck because last night for dinner, I decided to do the math, and make the dish myself, and see how much it would cost me per serving. Here's what I discovered.

First off, if you are saying to yourself, "I can't cook", you're wrong. Chicken parmesan is not only tasty, but simple and easy to make. Unless you broil your chicken for an hour and char the life out of it, you can do this. Let's start with my shopping. One of the reasons I picked this meal last night was because I hit a sale on chicken. It was $1.30 off per pound yesterday, so it seemed like a smart option. I got three chicken breasts for $3.50. Not bad. I figure that three chicken breasts will feed three people pretty easily.  The other three ingredients I got were bread crumbs for $1.49, cheese for $2.69, sauce for $2.35 and eggs for $1.29. Those are the five ingredients needed to make this meal. Do you know how much that cost me? It cost me a grand total of $11.32. Not only was I able to make a good quality meal for myself, I saved money. I also had enough for leftovers, and could have fed two other people.

You may be saying, "Most of the time, Chicken Parmesan comes with pasta. You didn't have pasta". While I didn't buy any pasta yesterday, I could have bought it for about a dollar more. That still would have put me more than a dollar under the $13.79 I would have spent if I ate the same dish just a few days before. That dish, even with the pasta, cost me about $4.50 a serving. Did you hear me? For a measly four bucks and some change, you can make a tasty dinner, and not have to worry about expensive add ons like beverages, up charged side dishes or tipping a server. I don't know about you, but spending four dollars is a lot more pleasing to me than spending around twenty per dish when all is said and done. 

*side note, I had the potatoes left over from a previous shopping visit. This was the finished product.

What am I trying to say here? As someone who worked at a restaurant, I find that many people go out to eat multiple times a week when they could recreate the same dish in their own house for a fraction of the cost. I'm not implying that you should stop going out to eat. I love going out with friends to talk and to not worry about cooking. I really believe that is why many people go out to eat. Yes it's convenient, and yes it's a great way to get out of the house, but it can also be a pricey endeavor. If you're someone who is trying to pinch pennies, eating in is a great way to do that. Try and plan your meals according to the sales that are going on at the grocery store. I love chicken, so anytime it is on sale, I load up and freeze the leftovers chicken breasts for later use. It's a great way to save money. Buy produce, like potatoes or squash, because they stay fresh for a substantial amount of time. I had leftover potatoes with my meal, so I was able to use them at no extra charge.

Leave restaurant visits for special occasions and limit how often you go. Anymore than once a week is probably too much. If and when you do go out, try and see if there are any specials. Many restaurants will have a daily special set up, and you can save a few dollars. Have a set amount of money that you are willing to spend when you go out, and always remember to leave a tip for your server. A tip should be included in how much you are willing to spend. 

Chicken Parmesan is just one of the many meals I make at a fraction of the restaurant price. It's quick, easy and tasty. Cooking doesn't have to be a hassle, and in many cases it's not. If you have a few friends over for a meal, pool your money together and make a meal at home. You'll be surprised how far a few dollars can stretch.

What do you get when you go out to eat? Have you tried recreating at a cheaper price?

Seth P.

*Note: I also bought chips, salsa and cookie dough and kept my grocery bill under $20.*