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With inflation, is it cheaper to eat in or dine out?

Rising inflation may be flipping traditional wisdom on its head, as it’s becoming cheaper to dine out than cook at home — at least some of the time.

While inflation has slowed a bit in recent months, prices of grocery staples haven’t dropped. Compared to the same time last year, egg prices were up 43 percent in October. Butter and flour prices are up 26.7 percent and 24.6 percent, respectively. Chicken and turkey have also risen by 17 percent since last October.

And while grocery prices have gone up around 11 percent over the past year, restaurant prices haven’t increased as much. In fact, rising inflation led some Americans to book a reservation for their Thanksgiving feasts rather than face the cost of cooking the meal.

But the same ingredients getting more expensive in the grocery aisles are getting more expensive for restauranteurs too. One reason menu prices aren’t going up as fast as grocery prices is because restaurants are trying to offer more deals to get people in the door. Restaurant owners told Marketplace they’re worried if their menu prices rise too high, people will stop eating out entirely.

Of course, whether or not you can save money by eating out depends on where you go. Fancy steakhouses won’t be less expensive than cooking at home, but fast food and smaller, independent restaurants could save you some cash. Some fast food and casual restaurants have been doing their best to lure customers in with value menus offering a meal for less than $10.

It’s also difficult to make direct comparisons because grocery costs vary across the country and the number of people you feed (and if you want leftovers) makes a big difference when comparing costs.

But just because a meal out might be cheaper now doesn’t mean that will last. As inflation eases, some grocery prices could drop and restaurants facing rising costs for labor may be forced to raise prices and pass those costs onto diners.

Nexstar’s Addy Bink and Alix Martichoux contributed to this report.

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