Could Catering Your Christmas Dinner Save You Money?

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KEY POINTS

  • Catering is often more expensive than home cooking.
  • If you're feeding a crowd for the holidays, you may find that ordering your meal is the cheaper alternative this year.
  • Restaurants and caterers can get better prices for buying food in bulk and may pass those savings on to customers. 

Believe it or not, it might.

It's hard to believe that 2022 is almost over. But before we know it, Christmas will be here. And if it's your turn to host, you may be in the process of planning out a dinner menu -- and wondering how on earth you're going to find the time to do all that cooking.

But maybe you shouldn't cook. These days, the cost of groceries is way up due to inflation. You may be better off having your meal catered than buying food and doing the cooking yourself.

When it pays to skip the cooking

Generally speaking, you'll spend more money on prepared food than on food you cook yourself. Ordering a takeout meal of noodles and vegetables, for example, might cost you $15, whereas the same amount of food might cost you $5 to make at home.

But in some cases, paying for prepared food can make sense. And when you're feeding a small crowd, sometimes, catering really can be the more cost-effective way to go.

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Restaurants and caterers buy food in bulk all the time. And we're not talking Costco-level bulk. We're talking bulk beyond that. 

Because of this, restaurants and caterers can get popular holiday items at a relatively low cost. And because they know how to prepare food efficiently, they can offer competitive rates on catered meals -- especially those with preset menus. 

Meanwhile, these days, you're going to spend more than usual to buy food at the supermarket. In October, the Consumer Price Index for food at home (meaning grocery store purchases) was up 12.4% compared to the previous October. So if you hosted Christmas dinner last year, this year, you might spend 12.4% more if you stick to the same menu.

That's why it pays to do some comparison shopping if you're hosting Christmas dinner. Tally up the cost of buying ingredients and compare that to what you might pay to have that meal cooked for you. You may find that a caterer actually results in a lower credit card tab.

Your time is worth something, too

You may do your research and find that buying your own Christmas dinner ingredients is still cheaper than having your meal catered. But if the difference in cost isn't all that significant, you may want to go the catering route.

Let's say that doing your own cooking will cost you $250, while a catered meal will cost $300. If that extra $50 saves you hours of cooking and cleanup, it may be worth spending. 

Plus, if you're self-employed, you can argue that the time you save by not cooking could translate into more work time -- and more income. That's not something you should discount.

Finally, perhaps you got roped into hosting Christmas dinner but you really don't like to cook. That, too, is a good reason to pay a little extra for a catered meal if the price is reasonable and fits into your holiday budget. 

After all, people commonly spend money on tasks they find unpleasant to deal with. So if you're just not into cooking and can afford to outsource it this Christmas, do it. 

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