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Dinner Parties: Not so frugal

Written by Brett McKay

Last night, Mrs. Frugal Law Student and I had some guests over for dinner. We had a great time, but one thing my wife and I agreed on was that it cost too much in time and money.

My wife is a mean cook. One of her specialties is homemade pizza. She makes everything from the sauce to the dough. So, she decided to make a pesto pizza and a tomato sauce pizza for our guests. While I posted earlier on how dinning out can save you time and money, this was an exception. Making the pizzas was an all day affair for my wife. God bless her heart. She had to go to the grocery store and buy all the ingredients. Then she had to come home and start making the sauces.

She came and picked me up early from law school, so I could help out. That trip cost her 45 minutes of her time. I get home and start doing laundry and picking up around the house. My wife starts working on the dough. The dough didn’t come out they way it should have and we had 15 minutes before the guests were going to be here. So, I had to make a quick trip to Albertsons to buy some ready made pizza crusts.

The food turned out great and our guests were pleased as punch. But our troubles did not stop when they left. The kitchen looked like a pizza bomb had gone off. Sauce and flour were everywhere. Plus, there were a ton of dishes. It took us a little over an hour to get the place cleaned up.

So, dinner parties, while fun can be time consuming. Plus it was kind of expensive because my wife used fresh ingredients for everything (Pine nuts for pesto sauce are pricey!) My wife and I decided the next time we invite people over, we’re going to do it pot luck style, and that we make something that isn’t so money and time consuming.

Do you all have any ideas to make dinner parties more affordable?

Is it cheaper to eat out than to eat in?

Written by Brett McKay

That’s the question posed at Getting Rich Slowly. JD discusses that trend that many Americans are starting to dine out more because 1) it saves time, and 2) prices at restaurants are starting to go down (examples: the proliferation of $1 menus at fast food restaurants.)

But does dining out really save time or money? This calls for the scientific method.

As an experiment, Rob Cockerham spent all of February 2004 “eating in”, consuming only food from grocery stores. He calculated that he spent $11.55 per day on food and drink. (If you subtract alcohol, he spent $8.65 per day.) He spent 48 minutes per day preparing food.

During March 2004, Cockerham ate all of his meals in restaurants. He spent an average of $20.08 per day. (He also left just over $1 per day in tips.) But it didn’t just cost more money to eat out:

The big surprise, for me, was how long it took to eat out. It was easy, when I was eating in, to whip up many meals in less than 8 minutes, but it was almost impossible to get my food that fast when eating out.

There you have it, “eating in” not only saves money, but saves time.

I wasn’t surprised that it’s cheaper to save money; however, I was surprised that it saves time. But looking at the big picture it makes sense. At home, I can whip up a mean egg sandwich in less than 10 minutes. If I wanted the same thing at Sonic, I would have to drive 5 minutes to the restaurant, take 2 minutes to pick what I wanted even though I already knew I wanted an egg toaster, order, wait 5 minutes for my food to get there, take 2 minutes to scarf it down, and drive back home in 5 minutes. Total time: 22 minutes.

Sadly, my pathetic excuse for opting for the Sonic egg sandwich is that I hate cleaning up after cooking. It only takes two minutes, but I irrationally think that those two minutes are depriving me of study time. So, I go to Sonic instead, which ends up being the more irrational choice.

Lesson: Don’t eat out, when you can eat in. It is not only financially unfrugal, it completely unfrugal with your time.