Want cheap and healthy meals? Cook at home

family eating at table

USDA, Flickr. CC license.

Did you know that homemade fare is typically better for you than restaurant food? Recent research confirms that if you’re trying to save money while eating healthier, then stick close to your own kitchen.


  • Frequent dining out is with lower diet quality, more “empty calories” and higher diet costs compared to home cooking.
  • The most common culprits for restaurant meals: added fats and/or sugar, higher calories, and alcohol.
  • It’s cheaper to eat at home than at a restaurant. Food bills for those who cook at home are $273/month versus $364/month for those who eat out.
  • Home-cooked meals are healthier. Americans spend half of their food dollars on meals consumed outside the home, but only about 1 in 5 of those meals meet nutritional recommendations set forth by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


Studies done in 2011 and 2013 found that:

  • Individuals who eat at home more frequently (i.e., cooking dinner at home four to seven times a week) scored higher on the U.S. Healthy Eating Index. This index assesses whether someone gets the right combination of fruit, vegetables and other nutritional elements.
  • People who cook at home also spent less overall than those who ate out more often. This includes food consumed outside and at home.

Making a positive change

Cooking at home doesn’t have to be time-consuming or require advanced cooking skills. You can keep it simple by trying to ensure that every meal is composed of half of fruits and vegetables, one-quarter of whole grains, and one-quarter of lean protein.

Check out these websites for easy recipes to prepare at home:

– Mary Ligotti-Hitch, R.D., is a registered dietitian with the Beaumont Health Center’s Weight Control Center. Did you know the Beaumont Weight Control Center offers cooking classes for kids? Learn more about these free sessions for kids age 6 and up.



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