How Overpriced Is The Olive Garden? The Post Where I Say “Hell No” To Takeout Pasta

It’s no secret that I dislike going out to eat. To be specific, I don’t like going out to eat just to order something that I could make as good at home, at significantly less cost. I don’t mean to dwell on this subject, but eating out is just such a colossal waste of money.  The absolute worst offender is anything pasta related, including a favorite restaurant of my wife and daughter; The Olive Garden. Look, it’s not The Olive Garden’s fault that they garner such hate from me, it’s just that taking a family of four there for dinner can result in a bill approaching $100 after food, drink, tax and tip.

You’ve seen how cheap pasta is, haven’t you? I can buy a jumbo sized box for less than the change in my pocket at the end of the day.

I was being pushed hard for a trip to The Garden on Saturday night. I was just about to give in, when my kids mentioned they didn’t actually want to GO out to eat, they wanted Vonnie and I to go, and bring food back to them. At least by dining at the restaurant I could at least partially explain the insanely bloated price on the fact that we’re paying for the service, but the thought of overpriced, take out pasta completely blew my mind.

Instead, I got in the car and headed to the grocery store to get a few supplies. I was going to recreate our usual meal at Olive Garden, at budget price.


Once I got home, I started water boiling, a pan heating, and popped the cork on a bottle of wine. It was time to get to work. First up was a Caesar salad (Vonnie had mentioned she was in the mood for one), and a glass of Riesling. I took a sip of my own glass of wine as I got to work in the next course.


I seasoned four chicken breasts, and dropped fettuccine into the boiling water. Just as Vonnie needed a refill on her glass of wine, I was ready to deliver the main course. Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo and a bread stick for three of us. Just a chicken breast with a side of sauce and a bread stick for Tori.


When we were done eating, each family member remarked on how good the food was. They didn’t mind one bit that we hadn’t actually gone to The Olive Garden. Before I could be completely satisfied, I needed to know how much money I saved.

Eating In:

  • Caesar Salad Mix: $3.74
  • Chicken : $6.44
  • Alfredo Sauce: $1.88
  • Fettuccini: $1.28
  • Garlic Bread Sticks: $2.34
  • Robert Mondavi Riesling : $9.90

Total: $25.58

Eating Out:

  • Chicken Alfredo (3 x $12.99) : $38.97
  • Kids Meal (which is what they charge us for Tori’s meal) : $5.69
  • Bottle of Riesling: $29.00
  • Tip (20%) : $15

Total: $88.66

A savings of over $63.  The request to go out to dinner was a request of pure convenience. What could be more convenient than having someone go buy the needed ingredients, create and serve a delicious meal? The whole process from the time I pulled out of the driveway to go the grocery store to when the dishes were washed and put away was about 85 minutes. On a Saturday night, I challenge anyone to have dinner at a busy restaurant for less time than that door to door. The only one that had to even do anything was me, and to save $63, I didn’t mind one bit, especially since there was enough left over to take to work for lunch on Monday!


Have you ever tried to recreate similar food to your favorite restaurant at home to save money? Did it turn out? How much did you save?

About Travis

31 Responses to “How Overpriced Is The Olive Garden? The Post Where I Say “Hell No” To Takeout Pasta”

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  1. Nice comparison, I’ve always struggled with my love of Italian food, because, like you, I know how cheap pasta is. That said, I almost always order a ravioli dish when I go out for Italian because I’ve tried to make them myself and it’s almost always a disaster 🙂

  2. I don’t eat out much (because of cost, not because I can make it better myself, because I usually can’t), but when I do go it’s because of the dining experience. To me, the olive garden isn’t my idea of the dining experience so I can see how you feel it’s a waste of money. Plus I’ve seen your pics on fb and know you are a good cook, so I’d eat at your house any day of the week!

  3. I heard an eating out tip that I really like, only eat out for things you can’t cook for yourself at home. Your Saturday night pasta dinner is a great example. Just takes a little effort and I’m sure tasted a lot better!

  4. Hannah says:

    The real worst offender in my opinion is Chipotle. My husband and I are big eaters, and we cannot split a burrito bowl. So we drop about $18 for a meal for us (and our son who eats a little meat). I can make the same thing at home, with leftovers for days for the same price. So four meals, or one meal. Chipotle is easy to recreate too.

  5. Michelle says:

    Love this! Going out to eat usually costs way more than just eating at home. Plus, you may have leftovers 🙂

  6. I hear you, Travis. I used to love going out to eat but now it just sounds like money flying out the window. Here’s the copycat recipe we use for Olive Garden’s Alfredo sauce. It’s very similar to the restaurant’s and I always get huge kudos on it when I serve it at parties.

    • Travis says:

      NICE, thanks Laurie! I have to admit that the jar alfredo sauce isn’t AS good as most restaurants, but it’s a “good enough” sort of thing to save $63. Thanks for the link!

  7. Ryan Smith says:

    I agree 100% why spend 100 bucks for something you can make at home for a little over 20 bucks. Great post!

  8. I like to go out mostly to be waited on and cleaned up after. Most things I can make just as well or better at home, except for our local Mexican restaurant. Their fajita seasoning is something I just can’t recreate!

  9. Mary says:

    Traditional Alfredo sauce:
    Beat raw egg with half n half salt pepper and curated cheese. Add hot cooked noodles. The heat will cook the egg. Yum.
    No I don’t measure. 3 minutes.

  10. Mary says:

    That would be grated cheese

  11. I don’t get ordering pasta at restaurants. The exception being really good ravioli. Then again, I don’t get eating at Olive Garden unless you’re going for the soup/salad/breadsticks. And even that’s now overpriced. I could swallow (so to speak) $5. Maybe $6, but I think at this point it’s up to $7.

  12. For me, the temptation to dine out often has to do with my energy level. The idea of not cooking and not cleaning up are at times irresistible. What strikes me about your meal preparation is that you took some shortcuts. Your salad, alfredo sauce, and garlic bread were all pre-prepared at the store. Of course it would have cost less to have prepared them all from scratch, but it would have taken so much more time and energy to do so. If “from scratch” cooking and a meal out were the only two options, a meal out would win. But this “shortcut meal prep” is a third option. Way cheaper than eating out, and way more appealing than cooking from scratch for those really tired days.

    • Travis says:

      Great point, Prudence……I think it’s a nice balance of convenience and cost effectiveness. I would agree, if I had to make the pasta and sauce from scratch, I’d be much more inclined to go along with the rest of the family and hop in the van!

  13. Jackie says:

    I make four equivalent to dominos medium pizza but better with ham and pineapple most Saturday nights. Here in the UK the cost for those would be £48 – or at very best on a buy one get one free £24.
    Cost to me? Around about £5 for the lot.
    I absolutely refuse to buy pizza. Even the kind in the freezer at the store cost from £2 – £5 depending on quality and can be made comparable for 50p – £1!

    • Travis says:

      Good comparison, Jackie – delivery pizza is stupid expensive – thanks for sharing!

    • Elizabeth Mary Jackson-Brench says:

      I agree, homemade pizza is amazing. Especially if you have young kids, I have a 8 year old and he loves baking pizza with me even my adults children do and they’re 18,18,21 and 22. And he gets to personalise his own pizza.

      By interest, have you tried making a chocolate pizza as a dessert (very nice!!) ?
      Gourmet pizzas are always a hit!!

  14. dawn fox says:

    My favorite meal at OG is the Steak Gorgonzola Alfredo. I am an accomplished cook and cannot replicate the dish. I willingly pay the $17 in order to have it. In our area, the average price for a sit down meal at what is consdered an inexpensive is around $11, so to me, OG seems about in the lower mid-range category, not expensive.

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