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Hamburgers: A Cost Analysis

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By Edited Sep 30, 2016 2 1

Do you hate cooking?

If you do, chances are that you spend a lot of money dining-out in restaurants. And if you're spending money in restaurant, there's a good chance that your spouse hassles you about eating expensive restaurant food instead of cooking at home.

 But is cooking at home really cheaper than dining-out?

 This article will challenge the myth that you can save money by cooking.

 Suppose, for example, that you're driving by an “In-n-Out” burger joint, and you're thinking of getting a hamburger. You have the choice of turning into the drive-thru, or driving to the store, and making yourself a burger at home. If you choose to buy a burger at the drive-thru, it will cost exactly $2.05 and will take about 10 minutes to purchase.

 Now lets explore the cost of cooking.

 First, you'll need to drive to the store, which costs money in gas. Then you'll need to spend about 20 minutes shopping for the ingredients. Next, you'll need to drive home, cook, eat, and clean-up. Here are conservative estimates for some of those costs, and the exact prices of the ingredients from my local store:

  •  gas $1.50 (estimate)
  • ¾lb hamburger $3.62
  • lettuce $1.29
  • Tomato $0.99
  • Onion $0.50
  • Thousand Island Dressing $2.39
  • Hamburger Buns (8) 2.89
  • Pickles $2.7
  •  Total = $15.97

Of course, you will have leftover ingredients, so its fair to subtract a little from this. However, the real cost of this hamburger is the labor to make it:

  •  Driving: 20 minutes
  • Preparation: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 10 minutes
  • Clean-up: 10 minutes
  •  Total = 55 minutes

 So if you assume your time is valued at $20/hr, this would add an additional $19 onto the total cost.

 That make the total cost of making your hamburger to $34.97!

 Also, this doesn't take into account electricity, natural gas, wear-and-tear on the car.

 And if that seems expensive, buckle your seat belt, because hamburgers are a very inexpensive recipe compared to most main dishes. I did a similar calculation on a recipe from the Internet called “World's Best Lasagna.” It had the following ingredients:

  • 3/4 pound lean ground beef
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
  • 2 (6.5 ounce) cans canned tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 12 lasagna noodles
  • 16 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 pound mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

I calculated the total cost of making this dish at $62.27 for the ingredients alone. And this price is for only the main course—no salad, no drinks, and no dessert! And it takes 3 ½ hours to prepare.

So, if your spouse ever hassles you about dining-out too often, show her this proof that eating at home is actually more expensive than eating in a restaurant. You can rejoice at being on the correct side of the argument.

Just beware that the costs to your relationship are not factored into my calculations.



Oct 13, 2014 9:28pm
Thumbs up for attempting to calculate the cost of eatting out vs cooking at home. I just have a question about the cost of making the hamburger, are you assuming you will use the entire thousand island dressing, pickles, and buns all in one go though? I'm sure some of those ingredients can be used for other foods in the future. Also, $20/ labour is subjective. I'm not sure if I can earn $20/ hr if I was to cook lol... anyway good article!
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