The Cheapest Way to Shop for Dinner

Buying pre-made meals may be easier for those who want quick dinner options, and in some cases they can be cheaper than making the same dish yourself.

Here are some dishes that may actually be cheaper to buy at your local grocery store or at a restaurant, followed by some basic dinnertime favorites and treats that are cheaper when homemade.

Cheaper Prepared Foods

Pasta in a box and sauce in a jar can be fairly cheap, but when you factor in good meat and cheese, making a tray of creamy chicken Alfredo pasta big enough to feed four can get expensive. Taking advantage of economies of scale, by buying already-prepared, heat-and-eat meals from large grocery chains can be cheaper and easier than making the same dish at home, and they’re pretty good, too.

Pre-made price: We recently bought a tray big enough to feed four for $13 at Costco (Stock Quote: COST).

Cost to make it at home: About $17 considering $6 for skinless, boneless chicken breasts, $2 for pasta, $5 for plenty of cheese and $4 for heavy cream based on pricing at Safeway (Stock Quote: SWY).

Rotisserie Chicken

A whole chicken fresh off the rotisserie can be the highlight of a healthy meal since only a bit of seasoning and perhaps a tiny rub of olive oil is needed. But grocery stores make these juicy birds in bulk, so it can easily cost you less to buy one ready to eat.

Pre-made price: Costco fans say you can get a whole rotisserie chicken for as little as $5 at their favorite store.

Cost to make it at home: $6 or so for the chicken alone, plus extra seasonings.


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