Whether fast food cost less than cooking at home has been debated many times. Those who think fast food is the clear winner believe that time, convenience, and the like or dislike of cooking should be included in the debate. On the other side of the debate are those who say you cannot quantify such factors, but you can quantify the actual cost of goods purchased and the additional health care dollars that regular fast food eaters use up.
There is a lot of cheap fast food available, but you can also buy equally inexpensive ingredients to cook a meal. So the debate goes on and on because the real issue is not which is cheaper, it is which you prefer. What we eat is a lifestyle choice. If you choose cooking over eating out, you still want to save money on the food you buy and limit the time it takes to prepare it. Plan what you and your family will eat for the week. It does not matter how cheap something is if you do not have a plan for how to use it. Buy staple foods (also called pantry items) like beans, pasta, canned and frozen vegetables, and broths. There are many pantry checklist available online; one worth viewing is Real Simple's Pantry Staples Checklist. For the best time to stock your pantry, check out the Best Time to Buy…at Frugal Living. Team up with good friends or family members who live nearby to share meals. Each person can prepare one meal item for all to share. Cook just enough food but not too much. If you cook too little food, you will probably buy junk food to help you fill full. If you cook too much food, it will probably go to waste, unless you know for sure that someone will eat the leftovers. Purchase food items that can be used for several different meals. Leftover ingredients are huge waste of money. Check out the fruit and veggie vendors located in many downtown metro areas during the workweek or the farmers' market on the weekend. Make meals that require the fewest ingredients, but do not skimp on nutrition and taste. Log onto the Internet (WebMD and Eating Well) for inexpensive but nutritious food ideasCooking can be just as inexpensive as eating cheap fast food. And, if you plan your meals ahead and shop smart, you can save even more money.