Last week I stopped at the local grocer to buy some foodstuffs, and decided I wanted to pick up some eggs. Imagine my shock when I saw that the cost of a dozen large eggs was $3.75. The last time I’d bought eggs, which was probably 2 months earlier, I had purchased a dozen extra large eggs for $1.75. I asked a guy working in the area about the cost and he told me a lot of chickens had been slaughtered because of bird flu and that raised the price dramatically. I decided not to buy eggs at that time.

S'Links Memphis Dog
Doran via Compfight

Later, upon reflection, I started to think that maybe I’d been a bit too hasty with that decision. When all is said and done, even if I’d eaten 2 eggs by themselves, the cost of my overall meal would have only been 62 cents. Sure, it’s more than the 29 cents those same 2 eggs would have cost me before but really, is that a killer of my finances?

As someone who’s written about ways to save money by making big meals on the weekend and storing them for the week, I know the value of spending a little bit of money up front to save big money on the back end. I also know that many of us don’t calculate how much we’re spending per meal that we’re eating at home, thus don’t compare it to the price of meals in restaurants or fast food.

For instance, let’s take a look at hot dogs. The kind I like costs $4.50 for a pack of 10. Up front that looks like a lot of money, but when I break it down, it’s 45 cents a dog. If I have 2, it’s 90 cents. If I add bread (my favorite comes with 30 slices of bread and costs $1.99), the cost has “jumped” to $1.03. With the cost of condiments being negligible, at best I get to eat 2 hot dogs for around $1.10. By contrast, the cost of one hot dog was $5.50 when I went to a football game about a month ago (I didn’t buy it) and I knew what I’d get; a salty piece of meat smaller than what I bought on a stale bun.

That’s an interesting cost comparison isn’t it?

Let’s look at hamburger next. Right now, a pound of 80% hamburger costs $3.99. If I decided to measure out a quarter pound, each one would cost a dollar. If I put that on bread, the total cost of my meal without condiments comes to $1.13; a Whopper costs around $4 a shot right now. Even if I decided to make a half pound burger, the cost is still almost half the cost of the Whopper, and I can get at least 2 meals out of it.

I hear you now saying “but those aren’t healthy foods”. Okay, let’s take a quick look at salad; how about a grilled chicken salad?

First, the lettuce. Since romaine lettuce is a little healthier we’ll start with that. At my store, I can get 3 large stalks of that for $2.50. A pack of shredded carrots costs $1.99. I like shredded cabbage and that costs me $1.99. I love beets on my salad, but since I don’t know anything about raw beets I buy a large can of beets for 99 cents. The last item I’ll pick up is a rotisserie chicken that’s already cooked that costs $4.99 and is a pretty good size. The total cost here is around $11.50. By the way, if I went to the farmer’s market I could get all of the vegetables in bigger quantities for less money than at the store, which would save more money.

Chicken Caesar Salad
Creative Commons License Prayitno via Compfight

Since I only need one stalk of romaine lettuce for my salad, I’m going to make sure everything else measures out as if I’m making 3 meals out of it. The stalk of lettuce costs about 83 cents. A 1/3rd of the carrots and cabbage is 66 cents each. The beets come in at 33 cents. The chicken comes in at $1.66. This means my salad came in at around $2.50, not including the salad dressing. No matter what kind of salad dressing you put on it, the cost will still be way under $3.00 per salad. The last time I thought about ordering a chicken Caesar salad at a restaurant it cost me $7.99. Based on that, I got 3 salads for the same money and they’re probably bigger than the one at the restaurant.

The main idea I’m trying to get across is that you have to look at how many potential meals you can get out of your investment when it comes to spending money on groceries if you’re on a budget. If you’re paying $8.99 a pound for a rib eye steak, you might save money when compared to going out to a restaurant but that’s still one pretty expensive meal. However, if you bought a slab of beef brisket for $10, brought it home and put it into a crockpot, then mixed a few things with it later on, you would create upwards of 10 meals, possibly more.

If you look at it that way, then it allows you to calculate whether the cost of buying organic or favorite brands of items instead of generic is really cost prohibitive or, in the scheme of things, more affordable than you might have thought.

Of course, if you want more tips on saving money on food by using coupons, which could knock more dollars off your budget, take a look at this interview I conducted with Lauren Greutman (who was recently on the Dr. Oz Show), and then think about clicking on and checking out the book at the top left of this page to learn more.

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