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Old 02-18-2020, 09:52 PM
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PSA: you can't make it better and cheaper at home.


OK there may be a couple of outliers here, but virtually all of you who think you're the outliers are not, you're just deluded. You can't make it "better" and "cheaper" at home.

You say you can make it "better", most of the time you mean you can make it "more to your personal taste", the majority of the time the restaurant will be better for most people. You will never hear about it because nobody will tell you, it's an agreed upon lie that everybody will tell their friends.

You can't make it cheaper. The supermarket benefits from economy of scale and puts together a decent version that counting in all the costs of ingredients you'd have to buy piecemeal, wastage, and a reasonable rate of "opportunity cost" for lost time, the supermarket version is cheaper.
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Old 02-18-2020, 10:13 PM
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Sure you weren't aiming for the pit? This seems pitty.
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Old 02-18-2020, 10:17 PM
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I'm only cooking for myself. How is "more to my personal taste" not "better," exactly?
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Old 02-18-2020, 11:00 PM
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You say you can make it "better", most of the time you mean you can make it "more to your personal taste", the majority of the time the restaurant will be better for most people.
This obviously depends on your skills and that of the restaurant. There are a lot of bad restaurants out there, and many good amateur cooks too.

Quote:
You can't make it cheaper. The supermarket benefits from economy of scale and puts together a decent version that counting in all the costs of ingredients you'd have to buy piecemeal, wastage, and a reasonable rate of "opportunity cost" for lost time, the supermarket version is cheaper.
Wait, we are talking about the deli counter at the supermarket now, not restaurants? Sure, those can be cheap. But even then, it's more expensive than buying ingredients for the same dish at the same supermarket. Because when you buy a cooked meal, you are paying for someone's time to cook it, wastage (cooked meal typically doesn't keep as long as the raw ingredients), and "opportunity cost" of other things they could be selling using the same floor space in the supermarket.
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Old 02-18-2020, 11:22 PM
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Let's say I'm a professional chef.

Are you telling me I can't go home and do exactly what I do at work a little better, supposing I put my mind to it? Are you saying my house is cursed or something?
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Old 02-18-2020, 11:45 PM
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There are so many variables to the OP's statement that it makes absolutely no sense.

For instance, I am 100% confident that MOST people would prefer the hamburger I cooked to the one they could get at McDonald's. I'm also willing to bet that the majority of Dopers here could do the same.
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Old 02-19-2020, 12:13 AM
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If "better" for you means "healthier," then you can probably make it better at home 90% of the time if you try.
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Old 02-19-2020, 12:26 AM
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Most restaurants and fast food places don't mind sharing their recipes. No skin off their noses. Technically they are not 'lying' or leaving things out: 'you want the recipe? here's the recipe!'

It NEVER tastes like the restaurant version. NEVER. It might be a big fail, or just ok/good/excellent, or you make it Your Very Own Version, but it won't taste like restaurant food.

I had a recipe for Thousand Island Dressing, the original recipe, and followed it to the letter, and it stunk. Spent quite a bit assembling the ingredients.... Way too onion-y, way too pickle-ly. Bottled dressing, I tried several versions, many were vastly superior to my sad made-at-home version.

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Old 02-19-2020, 12:27 AM
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Of course you can make it cheaper at home. What a dumb statement to say you can't. You don't typically go buy all new ingredients for every damned meal. You have an inventory of items at home, you know like flour, sugar, spices, rice, potatoes, fresh vegetables, bread, buns, etc.

Now, add to that the various frozen items you collect, especially on sale, and you can whip up a dozen different types of meals from what's on hand. You save at least 50% on meals by just maintaining a decent level of inventory. In fact, I'm willing to bet saving 75% isn't that unusual.
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Old 02-19-2020, 12:38 AM
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Of course you can make it cheaper at home. What a dumb statement to say you can't. You don't typically go buy all new ingredients for every damned meal. You have an inventory of items at home, you know like flour, sugar, spices, rice, potatoes, fresh vegetables, bread, buns, etc.
Plus there's the savings on things you may grow yourself. At my place, it's just herbs and onions and strawberries, but I'm sure some foodie Dopers also grow their own veg.
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Old 02-19-2020, 01:04 AM
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Of course you can make it cheaper at home. What a dumb statement to say you can't. You don't typically go buy all new ingredients for every damned meal. You have an inventory of items at home, you know like flour, sugar, spices, rice, potatoes, fresh vegetables, bread, buns, etc.

Now, add to that the various frozen items you collect, especially on sale, and you can whip up a dozen different types of meals from what's on hand. You save at least 50% on meals by just maintaining a decent level of inventory. In fact, I'm willing to bet saving 75% isn't that unusual.
See post #4. Of course it's often cheaper to make something at home. You don't pay yourself for your own time & labor in preparing the meal, nor the cleanup afterwards.

If you go out, there's a chef or cook, waiter or waitress, busboy, etc. who all gotta get paid.
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Old 02-19-2020, 01:06 AM
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Are you saying my house is cursed or something?
Well, we weren't going to say anything....
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Old 02-19-2020, 01:22 AM
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Oh, hon. There's alot of foods I make better than restuarant versions.
Granted it's not 'lobster thermidor*' or 'pheasant under glass'.
But my Chicken and dumplings will make you cry.


*sounds like a car part.

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Old 02-19-2020, 01:25 AM
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Let's say I'm a professional chef.

Are you telling me I can't go home and do exactly what I do at work a little better, supposing I put my mind to it? Are you saying my house is cursed or something?
You can never go home.
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Old 02-19-2020, 02:33 AM
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I've scanned the thread a few times, and still don't know what PSA is, so I'll hazard that you can make it better at home, given I don't know what it is.
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Old 02-19-2020, 02:43 AM
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PSA= public service announcement
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Old 02-19-2020, 02:52 AM
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Some things don't keep. Like guacamole. You can either consume it immediately, let it get brown, or, if you're a supermarket or low-end restaurant, load it up with vile preservatives thai make it taste like the devil's semen. Fresh-made pure guac from a good restaurant is fine, but I can make it cheaper. The cheap stuff I can absolutely make better. But you gotta eat it while the eating's good.
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Old 02-19-2020, 03:46 AM
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Hasn't tried my sourdough. You'll have to take my word on how good it is, but as for price I can show you the sums - I can knock out a loaf at a quarter of the commercial price.

That said, if the OP was addressed to the general population, I would say they had a point. Thing is, it isn't - this is an unusual, self-selecting group, with plenty of so-called outliers in it.

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Old 02-19-2020, 04:00 AM
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Granted it's not 'lobster thermidor*' or 'pheasant under glass'.

*sounds like a car part.
Close. Thermador was an old-style electric wall heater commonly seen in bathrooms. (Photo.)
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Old 02-19-2020, 05:08 AM
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Some things don't keep. Like guacamole. You can either consume it immediately, let it get brown, or, if you're a supermarket or low-end restaurant, load it up with vile preservatives thai make it taste like the devil's semen. Fresh-made pure guac from a good restaurant is fine, but I can make it cheaper. The cheap stuff I can absolutely make better. But you gotta eat it while the eating's good.
So true, I made a portion of guacamole last night with a perfectly ripe avocado (40p) a fresh red chilli (5p) spring onion (5p) tomato (10p) coriander leaf (1p) half a lime (10p) salt, pepper and olive oil (2p max). By my maths that is 73p for a single portion that I guarantee is at least as good as anything I've ever had in a restaurant.

Good luck finding something as good, as cheaply when eating out.
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Old 02-19-2020, 06:22 AM
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All this time we've been buying groceries when it's cheaper to eat out? C'mon, kids, we're going to TGI Friday's!
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Old 02-19-2020, 08:57 AM
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Ironically, I'm reading this right after I ate the egg sandwich I made this morning. Egg, 15 cents. Slice of smoked Gouda, maybe 25 cents. Bagel, 99 cents. Salt, pepper and a little oil for the pan, perhaps 2 cents, for a grand total of $1.41. Yesterday's egg sandwich from the grill downstairs was $3.50. It's $4.75 if I want to add a slice of ham. That's what prompted me to make my own today. And, it took less time for me to make than it took to get my order yesterday. The Gouda was definitely a nice touch. Far superior to the American cheese on yesterday's sandwich.

OP, perhaps you are just incompetent.
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Old 02-19-2020, 09:55 AM
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Not only can my wife definitely make better food than restaurants, she can make better "supermarket food", like bread. And the bread IS very much cheaper to make than the "artisan type" bread you will get at a store. Now, you want to bring the cost of "personal time" into it? Sure, maybe. But this is not a "second job" to her, more like a hobby.

If you want to be poor, eat out for every meal. I've done both, and I know the cost of both.

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Old 02-19-2020, 09:58 AM
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There are plenty of things that can be made better and cheaper at home, at least in terms of monetary outlay. The difference is in effort. For example, homemade bread is dirt cheap. You can get a 25 lb bag of flour at Sam's or Costco for like $8, and a lb of yeast for $3. Water is effectively free in the quantities we're talking about. A gallon of vegetable oil is $4.50. 4 lb of sugar is $1.60. 3 lb salt is $2.40.

So a recipe making an 8.5x4.5 loaf takes 2.5 cups flour, 2.5 tsp yeast, 1 tsp salt and 2 tb oil. Scaled up, that's 91 loaves of bread (the flour is the limiting thing here) for $19.50, which is about 21 cents per loaf. You'll still have about 3 lb of sugar, half a gallon of oil, and about 6 oz of yeast left over for next time. Even if you assume that the loaves are half the size of a commercial one, that's still 42 cents a loaf which is much cheaper. And in all likelihood, your freshly baked bread will taste better than bargain-basement grocery store white bread.

Now the big question is how much effort and time does that take, and how do you account for that? It may be true that you can't make it cheaper if you account for your own time, but most people who are extremely cost conscious don't value their time nearly as much as their money (and vice-versa with more flush people). And you'd have to factor in the qualitative differences as well- what would similar quality bread actually cost?
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Old 02-19-2020, 10:13 AM
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I dunno man. I can make about 8-12 servings of spaghetti and meat sauce for the cost of one package spaghetti, 2-3 lbs hamburger, 2 jars of sauce and a few spices. Since I live alone, that's 4-6 days worth of meals.

No doubt it isn't as good as restaurant quality, but "good" is subjective. I make it because it does taste "good", it's going to be healthier and it'll cost me less in the long-run.
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Old 02-19-2020, 10:16 AM
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Ironically, I'm reading this right after I ate the egg sandwich I made this morning. Egg, 15 cents. Slice of smoked Gouda, maybe 25 cents. Bagel, 99 cents. Salt, pepper and a little oil for the pan, perhaps 2 cents, for a grand total of $1.41. Yesterday's egg sandwich from the grill downstairs was $3.50. It's $4.75 if I want to add a slice of ham. That's what prompted me to make my own today. And, it took less time for me to make than it took to get my order yesterday. The Gouda was definitely a nice touch. Far superior to the American cheese on yesterday's sandwich.

OP, perhaps you are just incompetent.
You're leaving out $0.05 of energy to cook and maybe $0.03 of hot water to clean up.
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Old 02-19-2020, 10:24 AM
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I happen to believe that everything tastes better if someone else makes it.
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Old 02-19-2020, 10:39 AM
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I like an obscenely thick Filet Mignon cooked perfectly rare. At home I can sous vide my filet for 4 hours, then sear it. It will be a perfect rare steak all the way through. A restaurant cannot duplicate this, nor could I without my sous vide unit and plenty of time.
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Old 02-19-2020, 10:45 AM
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I dunno man. I can make about 8-12 servings of spaghetti and meat sauce for the cost of one package spaghetti, 2-3 lbs hamburger, 2 jars of sauce and a few spices. Since I live alone, that's 4-6 days worth of meals.

No doubt it isn't as good as restaurant quality, but "good" is subjective. I make it because it does taste "good", it's going to be healthier and it'll cost me less in the long-run.
There are lots of recipes that are more complicated than spaghetti. Some require lots of training and skill to make properly, sushi being the most obvious example. So when I eat out, I avoid something like spaghetti, which I could make at home and stick to the more complex dishes where the chef's training is apparent.
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Old 02-19-2020, 10:51 AM
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There are so many variables to the OP's statement that it makes absolutely no sense.

....
I like some stuff I make, some stuff restaurants (even fast food ones) make, some stuff my friends make. "Better" is IMHO too subjective to be the basis of a meaningful discussion. Which (again IMHO) this is not.
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Old 02-19-2020, 11:01 AM
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Some things I make better and cheaper (in my own opinion, because it's to my taste) at home, and some things I leave to others.

OP is way too general.
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Old 02-19-2020, 11:06 AM
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Sorry you didn't grow up with good home cooking. Everybody should have a dish they feel that no restaurant can make as good as their mom/dad/uncle/aunt/grandma/grandpa/etc. And, yes, it's far cheaper to cook at home, providing you know how to manage inventory, and my family's food budget easily reflects that. The four of us going out to eat usually will rack up around a $50-60 bill at a perfectly average restaurant. Eating at home, I budget for $20 per day for all meals, max, and often it's closer to $15.

There's a reason my blue collar immigrant folks almost never ate out (and, frankly, none of my friends parents in a similar situation), because what they could put out at home was much cheaper and healthier than what you'd get at most restaurants. Going out to a restaurant was only for special occasions and even take out food was rare (I literally never remember my parents ordering delivery, because they'd rather drive the couple blocks and pick up the food themselves and not have to pay a delivery charge and tip the driver.)

I mean, sure, there's plenty of stuff I prefer from restaurants and might end up being cheaper, especially when it comes to ethnic cuisine, where I don't have the food knowledge, and might not have the stock of items and need to buy something in bulk that I will only use once in a month or two and end up throwing out. But for the day-to-day meals I eat? Oh hell no, it ain't cheaper to eat out.

And there's a lot of stuff I simply cannot even get at restaurants here even if I wanted to. Nobody has a good Hungarian goulash soup, one of my staple recipes. I'm not even sure where I can get chicken paprikash around here anymore (though Epicurean Hungarian, when it was around, did do a decent job that wasn't altered for local tastes [like it was served skin-on, bone-in, like it should be, none of this boneless skinless crap]). That's the nice thing about cooking at home. You make it how you like it, not how that particular restaurant's clientele likes it.

If it makes you feel better to think we're all delusional, go ahead. I'll be here cooking food almost everyday as I love to cook, eating food I love to eat, and not feeling guilty about eating out all the time and spending much more money than I need to.

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Old 02-19-2020, 12:06 PM
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I like an obscenely thick Filet Mignon cooked perfectly rare. At home I can sous vide my filet for 4 hours, then sear it. It will be a perfect rare steak all the way through. A restaurant cannot duplicate this, nor could I without my sous vide unit and plenty of time.
Sure they could, but nobody does because the market for that sort of steak is very small, and it can't be done to order.

Sous vide started in restaurants, FWIW, and is still super-popular for a lot of uses in higher-end ones. They just typically don't use it for steaks, AFAIK.

Although... that could be interesting for a restaurant to sous-vide a bunch of steaks to the various donenesses, and just sear them/grill them to order, kind of the way some do the first-frying on french fries in the morning, and just do the second frying to order.
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Old 02-19-2020, 12:20 PM
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Sure they could, but nobody does because the market for that sort of steak is very small, and it can't be done to order.

Sous vide started in restaurants, FWIW, and is still super-popular for a lot of uses in higher-end ones. They just typically don't use it for steaks, AFAIK.
I've heard that a number of professional kitchens do exactly that. They bring the steak up to temp and hold in the sous vide for until they need it and then finish them on a grill or under a salamander or whatever. Speeds up the whole process.

ETA: For example here's a Reddit thread where posters discuss various ways their restaurant uses sous video for steaks.

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Old 02-19-2020, 12:24 PM
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I just made a wild mallard pizza on Sunday night. The duck cost $30 for the hunting licence divided by the two dozen ducks I shot this year but let's say it cost me $1.5 for the pound of meat we got off it. It was 6 cups of flour, 0.25 cups of sugar and a yeast packet for the dough which ran about $4 total for 3 pounds of dough. I put about a dollar worth of mushrooms and a dollar worth of olives and lets say a dollar worth of cheese and another dollar worth of sauce. So the large pizza cost me about $7 from which I was able to feed 4 people. I can't buy Domino's that cheaply and I certainly can't get a wild game pizza from any pizza place around here so I would say that meet the requirement of cheaper and better.
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Old 02-19-2020, 12:28 PM
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Salad. Eat half, toss the rest, it's still cheaper and better.
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Old 02-19-2020, 12:35 PM
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Apres ski?
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Old 02-19-2020, 12:36 PM
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I've heard that a number of professional kitchens do exactly that. They bring the steak up to temp and hold in the sous vide for until they need it and then finish them on a grill or under a salamander or whatever. Speeds up the whole process.

ETA: For example here's a Reddit thread where posters discuss various ways their restaurant uses sous video for steaks.
You get to watch them cook from your table?

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Old 02-19-2020, 12:54 PM
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You get to watch them cook from your table?

Damned muscle memory (auto)typing!
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Old 02-19-2020, 01:02 PM
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It's like some internal slide rule where you have to factor in health, time allotted, finances, allocation of effort, beer, and giving a damn.

I try to eat food that hasn't been heavily processed. Lots of fruits and vegetables and fish three times a week. Tuesday after the aqua fit class, I have about 45 minutes to drive home, cook and eat or I will be taking my nightly dose of medicine on a full stomach which doesn't work very well.
I take my lunch to work almost every day, but sometimes I forget and sometimes I would just like to go out and eat with a co-worker.
Some Sundays, I do meal prep. Some Sundays I put my feet up and drink beer and watch baseball between naps. Both days are important to me. The scale slides.
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Old 02-19-2020, 01:10 PM
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I just made a wild mallard pizza on Sunday night. The duck cost $30 for the hunting licence divided by the two dozen ducks I shot this year but let's say it cost me $1.5 for the pound of meat we got off it. It was 6 cups of flour, 0.25 cups of sugar and a yeast packet for the dough which ran about $4 total for 3 pounds of dough. I put about a dollar worth of mushrooms and a dollar worth of olives and lets say a dollar worth of cheese and another dollar worth of sauce. So the large pizza cost me about $7 from which I was able to feed 4 people. I can't buy Domino's that cheaply and I certainly can't get a wild game pizza from any pizza place around here so I would say that meet the requirement of cheaper and better.
You gotta hook me up with your free shot guy.
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Old 02-19-2020, 01:18 PM
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I don't see how you come to this conclusion. A restaurant has to charge enough money to make a profit after buying ingredients, renting space, and paying a chef and front of house staff, while someone making a dish at home only has to pay for ingredients. Yeah, restaurants can get some deals because they are buying in bulk, but there's a huge amount of overhead they have to bake in to their cost. Supermarket deli counters (which seems to be the example you're using) can cut some costs, but they're also cutting the quality. "Opportunity cost" isn't relevant, it's blatantly obvious that no one saying they can make things cheaper at home is valuing their dinner prep time at professional rates. As far as better, for an individual 'more to my personal taste' is equivalent to 'better', so I'm not sure why that wouldn't count. And in other case, the 'better' is things like 'no preservatives' or 'less salt'.

This doesn't seem like a sustainable argument at all.
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Old 02-19-2020, 01:35 PM
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I disagree with the OP in pretty much every way. It's not just better because of my tastes, it's better because of feedback from guests and family. There are some things that I just don't make, like lobster bisque, so yeah, the restaurant version is going to be better than something I never make.
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Old 02-19-2020, 01:40 PM
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If I went to McDonald's every day I could probably spend under $70 a week. On the other hand I rarely ever spend more than $100 a week for food. But the real question is who wants to eat at McDonald's every day?
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Old 02-19-2020, 02:01 PM
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Huh. I'm probably spending $50-70 a week on food these days, and I'm buying at least a few things I consider "luxuries" (fancy mushrooms, exotic fruits, etc.).

I do most of my cooking from scratch at home. Of course, having food allergies is a big driver for that. The upshot is that I eat pretty damn good. Sometimes I do go out, either with friends (although a number of my friends prefer to stay in and have me cook) or because I just tired of my own cooking.

Like others have said - some things I just don't do at home and I'm sure a restaurant would do it better, often ethnic things I don't have much practice in. Other things I do routinely at home. Not always cheaper, because sometimes I do splurge on ingredients, but it certainly can be cheaper, and often is.
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Old 02-19-2020, 02:15 PM
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I mean, there's plenty of stuff I can't make better or cheaper at home. Last year I looked at five different recipes for restaurant-style pad thai, went to three different grocery stores to buy the ingredients from the highest-rated recipe, spent two hours making it. It was edible, but it was also a waste of time and ingredients, when everyone in my family, myself included, agreed that Pad Thai from a restaurant is way better than what I made.

And French fries? The cleanup is significant enough that I'm not gonna take the time to learn how to do them well at home; and we deep fry things so rarely that we'd spend a fortune on oil, not wanting to store the oil for reuse many months later.

For similar reasons, it's been more than a decade since I've done homemade doughnuts. Also, the amount of doughnuts you gotta eat to justify making a batch will make you sick.

I have no shame in any of that. But there's a lot of stuff that I can make at home in a way that plenty of folks will prefer to yer average restaurant version, and that's cheaper. I substitute my time for that cost, and I take way longer on the dish than a restaurant can afford to take. Making it is part of the pleasure.
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Old 02-19-2020, 03:08 PM
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Heck, I spend about $70 a month on food. Now, maybe I'm not eating as "well" as I would at a restaurant: That's totally subjective, after all. But I'm certainly eating cheaper.
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Old 02-19-2020, 05:11 PM
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Eating a baloney sandwich on white bread, or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or a Bar-S hot dog with some Kraft Mac and Cheese - that will fill you up for a while till you save up to eat a decent meal in a restaurant.

I've never made a decent salad for myself at home. Only bought salads, even the little $3 pre-made ones with a bit of chicken or ham cubes, nuts, cherry tomatoes - those are delish. The salad I try to make are limp, warm, icky, drowned in dressing. No hope . No hope at all. . I don't know why that is, but for $3 for a nice crispy varie salad, I'll pay for it!
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Old 02-19-2020, 05:20 PM
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Well, OK, if you aren't much of a cook (perhaps you are simply not interested in developing that skill, which is totally OK by me, it's not required).

Myself - not only do I make salads at home I enjoy I am now making my own salad dressing as well.

To each their own.
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Old 02-19-2020, 05:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thelurkinghorror View Post
If "better" for you means "healthier," then you can probably make it better at home 90% of the time if you try.
Diabetic-friendly ice cream, for example. Grocery options are notoriously limited but I finally found one I love.

Last edited by Skywatcher; 02-19-2020 at 05:23 PM.
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