The Cooking vs. Eating Out Conundrum


This morning I was appalled to find that one of the web’s largest business discounters, Living Social, was running a coupon program on McDonalds. Amazingly enough I was not aware that the fast food behemoth was in desperate need of sales, since they are a pretty profitable company, mostly at the expense of our health. For $15 you could get yourself five Big Macs and 5 large fries.

Now, you could definitely argue at in poorer areas, this would be a much cheaper way to feed a family. If $15 could ostensibly feed a family of five, why would they need to step into a grocery store? After all, with the same amount of money, they would be able to afford less of the ingredients. The family would actually pay more for the meal if they had to make it themselves at home.

Don’t get me wrong. Hamburgers and fries are delicious! I have been a pescatarian since college and every so often I indulge my burger fix with garden burgers, bean burgers, veggie burgers, and more. But sometimes it isn’t about what will feed the same family for less money but “equal” food, but instead asking how they can feed their family of five for less money but more nutritiously.

Believe me, paying a little more for better ingredients is well worth the cost. The benefits are plentiful…a healthier lifestyle, decreased health care costs, longer lifespan. That seems reason enough to eat a little bit healthier, right?

Tonight, I prepared dinner for two. Obviously it isn’t dinner for five, but the ingredients I picked up could be scaled upwards at a discount. The foods I prepared were not all made from scratch — The bulk of the main course was frozen. However, it didn’t take long to prep, nor was it expensive.

I picked up the PF Chang’s firecracker shrimp and yakisoba noodles for about $6. The winter squash, zucchini, and yellow squash collectively cost me about $2. I sliced the veggies and used a microwaveable steam bag to prep them. The steamer was not necessary and the same effect can be achieved by using a zipper plastic bag or wrapping a plate with plastic cling. While the veggies were being steamed, I was focused on pan-frying the main course (no oil, just heat).

When the noodles were ready, I mixed the veggies in and scaled up the hearty portions for two to healthy portions for five (assuming some kids would also be eating). Then, I had a 2 bags of mixed salad tender greens (buy one, get one free at the market for $4) so I mixed it with some balsamic vinegar and olive oil that I already had. (Hopefully those are staples of all households!) I sliced a ripe Haas avocado on sale for about $0.89 and topped my salad. You can serve this meal with lemon water or just ice water to round it all out.

With these steps, youve now prepared a very healthy and nutritious meal, and not to mention more filling, for less than what the McDonald’s coupon would’ve bought.

I suppose if you still wanted to eat burgers, you can look up recipes for handmade black bean patties. It would probably require an egg (as binder), and some spices, to make the patties. Then you can load up on veggies and maybe even bake your own fries. Either way, feeding a family on a budget is certainly possible. I think you just need to know where to look and to plan ahead!

How do you plan healthy meals?

2 thoughts on “The Cooking vs. Eating Out Conundrum

  1. Yes this!!! I can not stand how people say its cheaper to just eat McDonalds than to eat healthy. That is so wrong!! Healthy doesnt have to be expensive. I have an entire list of meals that will feed my family of 4 (and have leftovers) that cost a total of $5 or less.


    1. Wow, healthy meals for 4 that are cheaper than $5?! That’s amazing. I think for a lot of families, and especially single young adults, it is difficult for them to conceptualize the idea of eating healthy whenever they step into a Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods and walk out with a bag of groceries that cost them upwards of $60-$70. I know that I’ve had my doubts, but careful shopping and planning can save a lot of money while keeping inches off of my waistline.


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