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Is Eating Out Cheaper Than Cooking?

As grocery prices go up and restaurants struggle to hold the line on menu prices, dinner from the kitchen isn't necessarily the most economical.

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All across the country tonight, Americans will be asking one important question: "What's for dinner?"

For an increasing number, the answer will be on a restaurant menu rather than in their kitchen, according to a report released late last year by Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Since mid-2009, consumers have been spending more and more of their paychecks -- now almost 4.5% -- on dining out. While spending on grocery items takes a bigger slice of those paychecks, it has remained basically flat over the same period.

The choice of whether to eat in or dine out may seem obvious, but for people still trying to recover from the Great Recession, it's often not that simple. A closer look at the financial and time pressures families are experiencing helps explain why.


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