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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Monday, April 25, 2011

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Top Ten List of Take-out Food That is Cheaper to Make at Home

Frugal Kitchens 101

Busy families often turn to take-out foods under the misguided perception that the food in inexpensive and a rather good value.  Don't get me wrong as I'm not against take-out foods.  What concerns me is not considering take-out food as part of the overall food budget.  If someone budgets $150 per week for grocery shopping then picks up take-out twice and eats lunch out daily their actual food budget is more in the line of about $225.  The problem is take-out being a spur of the moment, I'm too tired to cook thing can seriously put a huge dent in your pocketbook.  The worst part of this is there is no mental connection that take-out food really is part of your total food budget.  This week's Frugal Kitchen 101 focuses on my top ten list of take-out foods that can be made cheaper at home and quite often just as fast.

My top ten take-out foods that can be made cheaper at home are:

  1. burgers -  In general take-out burgers from fast food chain restaurants are cheaply priced but a very poor value nutritionally.  They are laden with salt, sugar and fat.  These burgers can be easily made at home not only cheaper but better in nutrition with the key secret to the burger patty is thin and frozen.  Other take-out restaurants often offer take-out burgers, usually of higher nutritional quality than the chain restaurants but they come with a higher price tag.  These burgers can be duplicated at home for less than half the cost. 
  2. hot dogs - The simple hot dog usually goes for somewhere around $1.50 and nine times out of ten it is the smell of them cooking at the hot dog cart that draws you in to buy.  Each weiner costs about 20¢, the bun 22¢ and toppings 5¢ for a total of 47¢ to make at home.
  3. soups - Soup is a rather popular take-out food especially amongst the lunch crowd who haven't realized brown bagging it is cheaper.  Take-out soup costs roughly $2.50 per bowl or higher.  Ready-to-serve commercially canned soup cost about $1.79 while homemade soup comes in at about 30¢. 
  4. salads - The average individual take-out salad costs about $2 but some are as high priced as $7.  The main ingredient in these salads is iceburg lettuce, a lettuce that is nutritionally poor and really only good for its crunch.  Toss in a couple of tomato wedges (not even a full tomato), a few pieces of cucumber and onion then a packet of chemically and fat laden salad dressing for a salad that costs about 40¢ at most in ingredients and takes less than 5 minutes to put together and yet folks will pay $2 or more.  Did you know some take-out salads contain more fat than a burger?
  5. sandwiches - Take-out sandwiches are popular with the lunch crowd as well but most are high priced in comparison to homemade.  Consider the assorted sub that costs about $5 can be made at home for about 60¢ then brought to work and warmed up just as the take-out sub. 
  6. French fries - French fries are just popular plain and simple but did you know you are getting more than you think with many take-out fries?  Sugar is added to help with that golden brown colour and then there's the salt.  A large fry will cost about $1.50 but is about the equivalent to one extra large potato or two medium.  The raw ingredient cost in that large fry is about 10¢.  Consider that potatoes are usually priced at about 99¢ to $3 per 10 lb bag that would be enough to make 20 or more servings of large portion size fries.  French fries are very easy to make at home, they taste better and they are better quality than take-out fries without all the sugar and salt.
  7. onion rings - Onion rings have to be about one of the most overpriced take-out foods there is.  A large onion ring take-out will cost about $2.  If you count the rings there is likely about 20 of them or the equivalent to 2 slices from a large onion if that.  A large onion will yield about 6 slices so the take-out serving gives you one third of a large onion.  A large onion costs about 20¢ so one third costs about 7¢.  Add in the batter that would not even cost 3¢ so the onion rings they charge $2 for costs only 10¢ in raw ingredients.  Onion rings like French fries are extremely easy to make at home.
  8. pizza - Take-out or delivery pizza may or may not be expensive as far as price.  Where we live delivery pizza costs about $30 but with specials at our vacation home costs about $20.  Large take-out pizza go a low as $9.99 but the toppings are limited.  Pizza consists of dough and toppings.  The dough is the ultra cheap ingredient coming in at a cost for homemade pizza of 32¢.  Adding in the price of sauce and toppings a homemade pizza can easily come in at under the $2 mark so even that $9.99 pizza is looking rather expensive.
  9. fried chicken - We do not buy much in the way of take-out chicken especially from the most popular chain where one of their secret coating ingredients is powdered milk that contains lactose which isn't good for those of us who are lactose intolerant.  One of our friends insists on bringing two buckets for the superbowl party.  I just about died when I found out two buckets cost just a little over $80!  Chicken has gone up in price but still making fried chicken at home either stovetop or in a deep fryer is considerably less expensive especially if the chicken is bought on sale.
  10. tacos - The most popular taco restaurant in Canada sells tacos for 99¢ which is over priced according to the lawsuit claiming the meat product used cannot even be claimed to be beef since it is only 30% beef.  While the price is cheap the quality is beyond cheap.  Other taco restaurants offering take-out are higher priced.  Even at the 99¢ price though, tacos are over priced with the raw ingredients coming in at about 40¢ and that is using 100% ground beef not a meat product.


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