Which is Better for Price, Speed, Taste, and Health: Cooking or Takeout

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In today’s world, choosing between cooking at home and ordering takeout through services like DoorDash is a daily dilemma for many. Each option has its own set of advantages and drawbacks, ranging from cost and convenience to taste and health implications.

  • Price: Home cooking generally wins, offering significant savings on ingredients and avoiding additional delivery fees.
  • Speed: Takeout is more convenient and quicker in terms of active time spent, but good meal prep can make home cooking more time-efficient overall.
  • Taste: Both have their merits, with home cooking offering more customization and potential for superior taste, while takeout provides consistency and variety.
  • Health: Home cooking is usually the healthier choice, giving you control over ingredients and cooking methods.

Below, we will look into each of these elements to help you decide whether to cook at home or rely on takeout. In each of the sections below, we will go over the benefits and drawbacks of each, and then give an example meal with both a recipe to make at home and a takeout order and compare the two options.

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Price: The Economic Perspective

Home Cooking: When it comes to cost, cooking at home is generally the cheaper option. Purchasing raw ingredients, especially in bulk, tends to be cheaper than paying for prepared meals. Additionally, cooking at home eliminates delivery fees, service charges, and tips that are common with takeout orders. For instance, preparing a meal at home might cost you around $10-$15 for multiple servings, whereas a single takeout meal could easily exceed that amount for just one. Grocery Coupons

Takeout/DoorDash: Convenience comes at a price. Not only are you paying for the food itself when you order takeout, but you're also covering the costs associated with delivery and giving some money to the service itself. These additional fees can add up quickly, making regular takeout considerably more expensive than home-cooked meals. However, deals and promotions offered by these services can sometimes narrow the price gap somewhat. Check out our Doordash Coupons

Example Meal - Sandwich:

Subway: ~$15 ($9 sandwich + $6 delivery/service fees)

Deli: ~$20 ($14 sandwich + $6 delivery/service)

Home-cooked: $10 (makes multiple sandwiches)

  • 1lb roasted turkey: $6
  • 1 large tomato: <$1
  • ⅓ head lettuce: $1
  • Hot peppers: <$1(come in larger jar, $4/16 fl oz)
  • Salt, pepper, mayonnaise: negligible price
  • Sandwich bread: <$1 ($3/loaf)OR
  • Nicer sourdough bread: $1 ($7/loaf)

If you’re thinking about ordering a sandwich for lunch, it could range anywhere from $8-10 from somewhere like Subway to around $15-17 if ordering from a nicer deli. Stacked on top of that, you’ll have a $2-6 delivery fee and a $1-3 service charge. That adds up to around $15 for a Subway sandwich and $20+ for something nicer. If you’re making the same sandwich at home, however, you can likely find the same ingredients for around $10-12, and have enough to make multiple sandwiches throughout the week.

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Speed: Time Investment vs. Convenience

Home Cooking: Cooking at home requires an investment of your time in meal planning, prep, and cleanup. However, with efficient recipes and meal prep strategies, the total time spent can sometimes be minimized. For example, a quick stir-fry or pasta dish can be prepared in less than 30 minutes. Batch cooking on weekends can also save time on busy weekdays. For an example of how you can cook a Crunchwrap better and faster than ordering from Taco Bell, you can check out this YouTube video by Ethan Chlebowski.

Takeout/DoorDash: Ordering takeout is undeniably quicker in terms of active involvement. With just a few taps on your phone, you can have a meal delivered to your doorstep, typically within 30 to 60 minutes. This is particularly advantageous on busy days or when you're too tired to cook. However, during peak hours, delivery times can be longer, and you might end up waiting as long as or longer than it would take to prepare a simple meal at home.

Example Meal - Stir Fry:

Peak-Hours Takeout: 45-60 minutes (2-3 active)

Non-Peak Takeout: 30-40 minutes (2-3 active)

Home Cooking: 25-35 minutes (20-30 active, multiple days’ food)

For this example, we’re going to assume a 45-55 minute delivery time during most peak hours and use this stir fry recipe as the home-cooked option. In addition to the 20-minute cooking time, you’re probably looking at about 10-15 minutes of cleanup and prep before and after. While this is more time investment than the couple minutes it takes to order on your phone, it will both be ready much earlier than delivery and can be made in as many servings as you like, potentially providing food for two dinners or even more. The choice when it comes to time is a matter of whether you have enough spare time to take a few minutes to save yourself the wait and hassle of takeout for multiple meals in the future.

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Taste: A Matter of Preference

Home Cooking: The taste of home-cooked meals can vary significantly based on your cooking skill and the quality of ingredients you use. Home cooking offers a higher ceiling for taste, as you can customize ingredients and flavors to fit your preferences. However, it also has a lower floor, especially if you're trying out a new recipe or lack culinary experience.

Takeout/DoorDash: With takeout, you have access to a wide range of cuisines and professionally prepared dishes that might be difficult to replicate at home. The consistency and quality are often reliable, especially from well-rated restaurants. However, the taste can sometimes be compromised during transit, and repeated orders from the same place can lead to menu fatigue.

Example Meal - Curry: Curry is a dish that can take a decent amount of skill to make properly, and can take some time to tune to your tastes, but once you find the right recipe and amount of spice for you it can be a lot better and more personalized than what you can order for takeout. The benefit of takeout, on the other hand, is that you know that you have a curry that is good enough without any of the tuning or skill requirements. It all comes down to how much you care about having the perfect taste for you, versus just having a good meal quickly.

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Health: Nutrition and Control

Home Cooking: Home-cooked meals are typically healthier, as you have complete control over the ingredients and cooking methods. You can avoid excessive use of unhealthy fats, sugars, and sodium, which are often found in restaurant dishes. Additionally, cooking at home allows you to incorporate more fresh vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains into your diet.

Takeout/DoorDash: While there are healthy takeout options available, they are often the exception rather than the rule. Many takeout meals are high in calories, sodium, and unhealthy fats. Even when choosing healthier options, the portion sizes can be large, leading to overeating. However, with careful selection and by requesting modifications, you can find healthy alternatives. Ultimately, the healthiness of takeout food comes down to where you order it from.

Example Meal - Burger and Fries:

Fast Food (McDonalds): 520 cal, 26g fat, 42g carbs, 30g protein, 1120mg sodium.

Fast-Casual (The Habit): 500 cal, 31g fat, 32g carbs, 21g protein, 1240g sodium.

Home Cooking: 315 cal, 10g fat, 22g carbs, 32g protein, 500mg sodium.

One of the staples of the “American fast-food diet,” hamburgers are often seen as one of the least healthy meals to add to your diet. But if you cook it right at home, you can get a better, healthier, and bigger burger than you would at any restaurant you might go to. At McDonald's, a basic quarter pounder with cheese has 520 calories, 26g of fat, 42g of carbs, and 30g of protein. If you make this healthy home-cooked burger, however, you can get a much better product with only 315 calories, 10g of fat, 22g of carbs, and 32g of protein. That’s almost a third of the fat, half the carbs, and all with even more healthy protein, not to mention nearly halving the sodium content.

Choosing between home cooking and takeout through services like DoorDash involves weighing the benefits and drawbacks of each option. Ultimately, the best choice depends on your circumstances, including your schedule, budget, and health goals. Balancing the convenience of takeout with the benefits of home cooking can lead to a more varied and satisfying diet.

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