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We've all heard the advice that it's cheaper to eat a home-cooked meal than pay those pricey restaurant tabs. We keep hearing this, and all of my friends and family tend to agree. But I am firmly convinced that it's cheaper to eat out. Here's why:

1. Time is money: Unless you're one of those star chef wannabes, the whole dinner routine is an exercise in frustration. First there's figuring out what to eat and then pilfering through the kitchen to make sure you have all the necessary ingredients, which you usually don't. Then you drive to the grocery store, walk the aisles, stand in the checkout line, drive back home, lug the bags into the house, put them away and start to cook. By the time you've finished eating and putting away the dishes, a couple of

hours have passed. Plus, you're exhausted.

Every single person who does all this is spending time, and time is money. You could be doing anything else in the entire world with that time, maybe something more productive or beneficial to you, your family and your world. Takeout requires two minutes to order by phone and then 30 minutes of free time while you wait for the doorbell to ring. It takes one minute to toss or recycle the containers and you're done.

2. Can't copy for less: An Outback special of sirloin steak, baked potatoes and vegetables is about $10. Ten dollars! At most grocery stores, the same items would cost slightly more, but you have to take into account that it's all uncooked and unseasoned. Outback will have it ready to go at the curbside pickup, and when you get home it's hot and ready to eat.

3. More options for the kids: Most of us can cook maybe five things well. When ordering from restaurants, your kids get an opportunity to try a plethora of new foods, from Chinese and Greek to Italian and Japanese. It's an easier option over trying to cook something new and exotic at home after spending tons of time and money searching out those specialty ingredients, only to learn that the kids just hate it. Ordering from a restaurant allows everyone to choose something that is made well and tastes great. They get a much more varied diet and get to expand their palettes by ordering takeout. And, hey, if everyone hates it? Well, at least it wasn't your mistake.

It's probably a fact that spending time cutting coupons, monitoring weekly circulars and shopping here, there and everywhere will save you money. But not time. And time is not something that is easily replaced. So spend a few minutes searching for restaurant coupons, or better yet, looking for early bird specials and picking them up, taking them home and reheating for them dinner tonight.

Paula Sirois is a Florida-based writer who specializes in family life and frugal living for www.RetailMeNot.com — the No. 1 online coupon site in the world.