Health & Happiness: Eating on a budget? How healthier meals could actually save you money

By Aloha Curves/Jenny Craig

If you’re like many Americans living in today’s busy world, you may have developed an all-too-familiar habit of eating out, whether you opt for fast food, restaurant meals or takeout. After a long day at work and tending to your never-ending to-do list, it’s hard to argue with the convenience of having somebody else prepare your meals.

You may have even rationalized to yourself that eating out doesn’t really cost that much more than meals prepared at home—or having healthy, ready-made meals on hand. And the meals don’t differ that much when it comes to healthiness, right?

Unfortunately, that is not the case. While it’s true that the cost of food in general can be pricey, eating out, on average, is substantially more expensive than if you were to prepare your own meals.1 What’s more, restaurant fare of all types has been implicated—for years—as a likely factor in our nation’s obesity epidemic.2

Here’s a look at how consistently eating out can potentially harm your budget and your health, and how eating healthfully might actually save you money in the long run.

There’s just no way around it: Food can be expensive.

And chances are, it eats up a lot of your budget. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2015, U.S. households spent an average 12.5 percent of their income ($7,023) on food. Of that, 43 percent, or $3,008, was spent on food outside of the home, such as in restaurants. In higher-income households, 11.2% of the total income was spent on food, while the amount of money spent on food outside the home totaled nearly half of the household food budget.

The cost of food is on the rise, particularly for restaurant meals.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service4 reports that in August 2018, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for restaurant meals was 2.6 percent higher than in August 2017. The CPI for store-bought food was also up, but only by 0.5 percent over the same time frame.

Looking ahead, the USDA says that the price growth of store-bought food may continue to stay low. It predicts that these prices will rise between 1 percent and 2 percent in 2019, and that restaurant prices will go up between 2 percent and 3 percent.

The cost of eating out may be higher than you think.

The average price for dinner in a full-service U.S. restaurant was $40.53 per person in 2013.5 In 2015, the average cost of a fast-food meal for one ranged from $3.86 to $14.6 Needless to say, that’s a lot of dough, especially if you’re eating out several times per week—which, research shows, may be the case. According to a 2016 Gallup poll7, 61 percent of Americans state that they ate at a restaurant at least once in the previous week; 16 percent ate out three times or more.

Poor food is a driver of poor health.

According to experts from Tufts University11, food is the top cause of poor health in America. They state that an estimated 700,000 deaths may be influenced by dietary habits each year, and that a wide variety of conditions—brain function, cancers, heart disease, immune function, obesity, stroke and Type 2 diabetes—are affected by diet. Their research also suggests that almost half of all U.S. deaths due to diabetes, heart disease and stroke are caused by poor diets.

For more information on how Jenny Craig can help you find your optimal caloric balance for weight loss, contact Aloha Curves/Jenny Craig at 503-356-5454.