Thinking about cooking your own food to save money? I’m here to say that always cooking your own food is a suboptimal use of your time. Instead, use the time you would have spent cooking to make more money instead.
Some readers get apoplectic if a household of three is spending $1,500+ a month or a household of four is spending $2,000+ a month. Yet, look at what the rich and powerful do. California Governor Gavin Newsom was spotted in the middle of the pandemic eating at The French Laundry, which costs about $500 per person.
If you want to get rich, you might as well follow what the rich do.
People Who Are For Cooking Your Own Food
Here are some comments from my household budget posts that show how angry people are about my food expenditure assumptions.
“Who pays $2,100 month for food! That’s so ridiculous. Maybe they’re buying all the avocado toast”
“HOW much are they spending on food in a month?! Oh, just as much as some family’s entire income. Cool.”
“$70 a DAY for food for 4 people????? They’re spending $500 a week on food???? I spend $60 a week for 1 person!!!”
“I’m literally upset if I spend more than 10 bucks a day on food. Spending around 30 is legit luxury.”
“And 70$ a day on food? What kind of spread are they spending on? These kids need to learn what a grilled cheese sandwich tastes like. I’m all for good food, but have these people heard of coupons or Aldi?”
The greatest irony is that over 70% of Americans are considered overweight today. Meanwhile, ~40% of Americans are considered obese. Yet today, 82 percent of the meals Americans eat are prepared at home, according to research from NPD Group Inc.
Cooking Your Own Food Is Unhealthy
Like yo, if 70%+ of Americans are overweight and will likely die earlier than they should as a result, perhaps these food budget complaints have no merit. Perhaps cooking your own food is not only a suboptimal use of time, it is also unhealthy!
Add on the fact that the typical American has less than $100,000 saved for retirement, and maybe we definitely shouldn’t care what other people think when it comes to how much we spend on food.
These articles, which are sometimes syndicated, have been read by millions. Therefore, the feedback is a true reflection of the American public majority who aren’t very healthy.
In this article, I’m going to argue why cooking your own food more than 50% of the time to save money is a suboptimal financial decision. I’m sure I’ll get a lot of complaints, but hear me out. Remember it’s always good to see the other side.
Why Cooking Your Own Food Hurts Your Finances
1) Your time is valuable. It doesn’t make much sense to come home from a long day’s work and spend an hour cooking a rubber chicken dinner. You should be using this time to unwind, play with your kids, or work on your side hustle.
Calculate how much you make an hour. Now multiply that hourly rate by how long it takes you to cook a meal. This is the true cost of your meal.
2) Your marriage is valuable. Unless you make cooking together a fun activity, spending time cooking while your partner is doing something else, like sitting on the sofa watching TV, may be harmful to your relationship. In fact, the person slaving over the stove might start resenting the partner who is doing something else.
Do not underestimate the level of resentment the person doing most of the household activities may have for the one who isn’t. Resentment is one of the key reasons for divorce!
3) Your toddlers grow up quickly. Let’s say you come back from work at 6 pm after leaving the house at 7 am. Your young children leave for school at 7:45 am (partner drives) and go to bed by 8:30 pm. After not seeing your little ones all day, do you really want to then spend more time away from them by cooking once you get home? Of course not.
A loving parent would muster up his or her remaining energy to spend time with their children. Besides you’re not going to willingly invite toddlers into the kitchen while cooking over a hot stove due to the risk of injury.
4) You aren’t a professional cook. The reason why you go to a doctor when something is wrong is that the doctor has had years of specialized training. You may be able to self-diagnose by Googling, but it’s probably better to see someone who treats big boils all day long. Not only are you losing an hour of your time preparing a meal, but your meal won’t taste as good as one prepared by someone who professionally cooks meals for a living.
5) You’re too generous with the ingredients. If most people eat at home to save money and also believe that cooking at home is healthier, there has to be a problem with the way we cook given most Americans are overweight. Home cooks are likely adding too many unhealthy ingredients to their food preparations.
It’s obvious we’re cooking and eating too much food as well. At least with food delivery and restaurants, they portion out their meals so you don’t eat too much. They’ve got their profit margins to protect.
6) You might feel pain. Think about all the times you’ve sliced a finger, felt your eyes burn chopping onions, or splattered boiling water on your hand when you dumped ravioli into the pot too enthusiastically. Ouch! Some injuries take weeks to heal. Feeling pain, even if it’s only once out of every 10 times you cook, isn’t a very good value proposition.
7) You need your hands to play and earn. Sometimes, you might feel way more than just pain when you cook. You might injure yourself to the point of immobility. If you slice your index finger, you won’t be able to effectively swing a racket or a bat for at least a couple of weeks. What if you accidentally pound your thumb while you’re pounding meat? Any type of work that requires typing will be extremely uncomfortable. If you slice a tendon, your manual labor job might be at risk.
8) Food delivery apps are in abundance. Since 2009, there have been a plethora of new food delivery apps to use. These apps have effectively infiltrated your city’s best restaurants and now offer every type of food you can think of. You want artery-clogging, artisan double cheeseburgers? They’ll be at your doorstep in 45 minutes or less. You want a quinoa salad with a side of celery? No problem. You can order as healthy as you want. Stop using the excuse that food delivery is unhealthy. To not take advantage of technology would be a shame.
9) Going out to eat spices things up. Food is one of the best ways to bring people together. Not only can you take your partner out on a romantic date, but you can also invite your family and friends out to bond. If you pay for the meal, the other side will greatly appreciate it and may potentially provide a much greater reward in the future.
10) No need for cleanup. Not only do you not have to spend time preparing your food, by ordering delivery or going out to eat, but you also don’t have to spend time cleaning up after yourself either. Less cleanup means less money spent on sponges, more room for trash, and a longer life for your furniture.
11) No need to spend as much time grocery shopping. Nobody loves to grocery shop. It’s all about coming up with a list and getting in and out as quickly as possible. Grocery shopping is like doing a chore because you’ve got to drive to the grocery store, look for the items, wait in line at the cash register, and then drive home. Hopefully, you don’t get an annoying door ding in the parking lot or a ticket either.
12) You’re not out there winning business. If you are in a marketing or sales role, then it should be your mission to go out to eat with as many clients and prospective clients as possible. Your firm should pay for all your meals and entertainment outings. If you want to save money, order extra and bring leftovers home.
Even if you have to pay for the food yourself with a dining rewards card, you should actively take interesting people out each week who can boost your network. We’re in one of the biggest bull markets of our lifetime. Now is the time to press as much as possible.
13) You fall into a scarcity mindset. One of the most important ways to get wealthy is by adopting the abundance mindset. If you constantly think that by spending time getting groceries and cooking at home will help boost your net worth, you’ll develop a scarcity mindset. Once you have it, it’s difficult to break out. You’ll start shouting at the internet and blaming other people for why you’re not wealthier, rather than take action to earn more.
Below is a chart that highlights the median and average 401(k) balance by age in America versus my recommended 401(k) amounts by age. Take a guess who has the scarcity mindset versus the abundance mindset? To build wealth, you’ve got to aggressively go out there and earn. Think bigger!
Cook At Home In Moderation
By cooking at home, you can only save so much money. Yes, cooking is great if you enjoy cooking and are a great cook. If you are a stay at home parent, then, by all means, develop your cooking skills to provide for your family.
But even if only a few of the items pertain to you, I still say it’s better to spend more time ordering delivery or eating out, than it is to cook at home. There are plenty of health conscious restaurants and vendors today too. And whether you spend 51% bringing food home or 80%, that’s up to you.
As you get older, your number one goal should be to win back as much time as possible to do the things that bring you the most happiness. To build wealth, you also want to allocate your time where you can earn the most amount of money.
For example, let’s say I spend one hour preparing food a day. If I decide to completely eliminate cooking, I will free up 365 hours a year. With so much extra free time, I could write 182 new articles, which would fill up more than a year’s worth of content. Damn, I’m never cooking again!
If you want to cook at home, do so during the holidays. No homemade meal feels better than during Thanksgiving or Christmas. Now those are special times where cooking at home is absolutely encouraged.
Cook for joy or cook for love. But don’t bothering cooking your own food for the main purpose of saving money. Instead, cultivate an abundance mindset to build your fortune. Your time is extremely precious, especially if you have children and the older you get.
Update 2021: Cooking at home to save money is obviously more beneficial now because we’re all stuck at home more often due to the pandemic. However, I would still encourage you to utilize this time at home to build an online business or look for new consulting or employment opportunities. Within the privacy of your own home, you can take more risk exploring new opportunities.
Recommendation To Build Wealth
Now that you know the downsides of cooking your own food, it’s time to put your new wisdom to good use. Sign up for Personal Capital, the web’s #1 free wealth management tool to get a better handle on your finances.
The more you can stay on top of your finances, the better you can optimize your finances. After you link all your accounts, use their Retirement Planning calculator. It pulls your real data to give you as pure an estimation of your financial future as possible using Monte Carlo simulation algorithms.
I’ve been using Personal Capital since 2012. In this time, I have seen my net worth skyrocket thanks to better money management.
Readers, do you think spending $5.5/meal, three times a day, is an outrageous sum of money for food? What are some other reasons why it’s better to order take out or delivery, or go out to eat instead of cooking at home? Do you think building your wealth by saving money on food is the wise way to go? Why do most Americans recommend preparing food at home when most Americans are overweight and not financially fit?