Monday, September 30, 2013

On cooking dinner

One thing I notice with Rachel becoming busy with school is that much of our evening time is consumed with dinner.  Since I leave work early on Monday and Wednesday to "babysit" while she has class, I stay later on Tuesday / Thursday, so that the nightly routine those nights is something like:
  • Get home
  • Drink a beer
  • Get dinner ready
  • Eat Dinner
  • Clean up dinner
  • Feed the baby
  • Walk the dog
  • Some TV or internet
  • Go to bed
There are benefits to cooking dinner, like healthier eating, bonding time, or simply the joy of cooking.  But does it make economic sense?  Sounds like a problem for some napkin math.

I don't have any data, so we'll use some numbers that seem reasonable and make the math work easily (the Missouri S&T method).  Let's assume the two of us typically spend $20 total to dine or carry out.  Sometimes we spend more at a restaurant, but we can spend less to carry out Chinese or KFC.  Let's say that a typical home-cooked meal costs us around $8.  Surely we spend more to grill steaks and veggies, but we also frequently subsist on Ramen and grilled cheese.  We can reasonably say that cooking a meal instead of ordering one saves about $12. 

Now, let's see how much time we are spending to save that $12.  I'll make up some magic numbers for long, medium, and short preparation times.  First, there's the trip to the grocery store.  Not every meal requires a trip to the store.  I'd say about one in three.  Each trip, including drive time, takes about on hour on average (big trips with baby in tow certainly take longer).  So, amortized per meal: about 20 minutes a meal for grocery store trips.  For convenience, I'll ignore time costs when not cooking, since typically I can grab something on the way home or have it delivered.

Long prep time
For elaborate meals, we might spend 40 preparing the meal, and 30 minutes cleaning up after.
[ 20 minutes + 40 minutes + 30 minutes ] X 2 of us = 3 man hours of labor
$12 / 3 hours = $4 / hour
One way to interpret this is to say that, by choosing to cook a complicated meal at home rather than ordering pizza, I am opting to take on an evening shift that pays $4 /hour.

Medium prep time
Let's say a typical meal is 20 minutes of prep and 20 minutes of cleanup.
[ 20 minutes + 20 minutes + 20 minutes ] X 2 of us = 2 man hours of labor
$12 / 2 hours = $6 /hour
Still not making minimum wage yet.

Short prep time
Let's say that we get a real system going, and meals average 10 minutes prep time, 10 minute cleanup, and we only have to spend 10 minutes at the grocery store
[ 10 minutes + 10 minutes + 10 minutes ] X 2 of us = 1 man hour of labor
So now we're making $12 an hour to prepare ourselves quick and easy meals.  Not terrible, but still less than our hourly wages (assuming Rachel will be making typical nursing wages).  And we're eating something no more complicated than grilled cheese and chips.

Does cooking your meals save money?  Yes.  Is it worth the time commitment?  No.  By ordering out and working extra hours in place of time spent on meals, you would come out ahead.  You'll have to find other ways to justify spending so much time in the kitchen.  Maybe you love cooking.  Maybe you do so in lieu of rent.  Who knows.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Hello World

I've been meaning to start a blog for some time now, and was finally motivated that Barbi started hers.  So, nothing fancy here.  No cheeky name or pink swirly font.  Just a place to put unorganized rambling thoughts, frustrated rants, interesting factoids, and unorganized rambling thoughts.  So stick around and you'll learn about me.  You might learn something about programming, or things you may have missed on Reddit.  You might even learn to love again.