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Real Money: Fast Food Versus Home-Cooked Meals

b_250_0_16777215_00_images_obgrabber_2014-01_2ca53fdb8e.jpgABC News (NEW YORK) -- Evelyn Molina of Miami has a confession to make: She eats out a lot. Molina, who runs the mommy blog Mommy Mafia, is living life in the fast food lane.  “I just feel like it takes so much time,” Molina said about cooking dinner. For her family, that means a lot of Chinese takeout for dinner and chicken fingers for her son Nick’s lunchbox.

But constantly getting takeout food means spending lots of money.  Molina and her husband, Nick, spend about $300 a week on fast food.

In fact, according to the new World News “Real Money” poll, two out of three people believe that they are spending too much on food. But is fast food really faster?

ABC News asked Bradley Herron, executive chef of The Genuine Hospitality Group and currently at the Miami hotspot Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, to cook up a little “Real Money” challenge.

Herron whipped up dinner with Evelyn Molina while ABC News hit the Molinas’ favorite drive-thru Pollo Tropical, three miles away with husband Nick Molina. The mission: Determine which is faster — home-cooked dinner or fast food.

While Evelyn Molina’s husband ordered a full chicken and rice and beans, she and Herron cooked fish and vegetables. So who won?

Nick Molina clocked in at 31 minutes while Evelyn Molina clocked in at 22 minutes.  And the cost: $22 for the drive-thru and $12 for the home-cooked meal.

“I underestimated the amount of time I actually spend to go pick something up. My mind said it was 15 minutes but really it was double that. And turns out I spent more money than they did,” Nick Molina said.

Herron shared the following tips below:

Tip 1: Buy whole instead of pre-cut. Buying those premade bags of carrots can cost two to four times more.

“You’re getting double for the same price,” Herron said.

Tip 2: Buy in season.

Whether it’s fruits or vegetables, “they are going to be cheaper because there are a lot of them,” Herron told ABC News.

Tip 3: Download free coupon apps like Flipp and Ibotta.

Tip 4: Choose fast-cooking foods like grains.

“Grains are really small and they cook fast,” Herron said.

Tip 5: Slice everything extra thin.

“By cutting it thin, it’s going to cook quick,” he said.

Tip 6: Cooking fresh is always faster than thawing frozen food.

Herron also said that you cut clean-up time by working closer to the sink and washing as you go.

By cutting their fast food habit by two dinners a week, the Molinas can save $2,227.68 this year!

“It was actually so easy that I could do it again,” Evelyn Molina said. “I’m amazed. I’m really amazed.”


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