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​This cost comparison was prepared on April 10, 2007, by Chef Stephen Peck, Food Service Manager at Delaware Valley Job Corps Center, using data from the previous 12 months. At the time of this comparison, Chef Steve was using two large food vendors and two local providers.

Food Items Cost Comparison Table

Traditional Product​
(Heat n' serve)
Cost per Case Untraditional from Scratch Cost per Case1 Cost Savings per Case
Fried chicken $41.38 Baked chicken $11.60 $29.78
Fried flounder $37.95 IQF Pollack filet, baked $18.27 $19.68
Pizza pre-made, plain $41.90 Make our own pizza $24.84 $17.06
Soda, assorted flavors $27.50 Crystal Lite $37.77 -$10.272
Cola $27.50 Coke Zero $30.00 -$2.50

Notes from Chef Steve

Fried chicken vs. baked homemade

This comparison shows a $66.52 savings, multiplied by 12 months = $798.24 per case. Fried chicken at our center uses 12 cases, baked chicken uses 5 cases.

12 cases x $41.38 = 496.56 compared to 5 cases x $11.60 = $58.00 saving you $438.56 per meal. If this meal is served once a week for 52 weeks, you will save $22,805.12.

Fried flounder vs. baked pollack

This comparison shows a $19.68 savings per case. If you serve fish at lunch and dinner, at 2 cases per meal, the savings total is $78.72

Fish served 5 days a week, 2 times a day, 4 cases per day, 20 cases per week, then: 20 cases x $19.86 = $393.60 x 52 weeks = $20,467.20.

Pre-made pizza vs. "make your own pizza"

This comparison shows a savings of $17.06 per case. 52 pizzas come pre-made vs. 12 pizza crusts at 24 slices per crust per case= 288 slices

52 pre-made x 8 = 416 slices (8 case x $41.90 =$335.20), 288 slices x 1.5 case =432 slices (1.5 case x $24.84=$37.26) Pre-made cost $335.20 vs. semi-homemade $37.26 savings ($297.94 x12=$3575.28). (At a 400 student center served once a month).

Savings So Far on Three Popular Items
  • Chicken: $22,805.12
  • Fish: $20,467.20
  • Pizza: $ ,575.28
Totaling $46,847.60 in savings by changing the way food is prepared!

Staff-time Comp​​arison Table: Chicken

Unit Fried Baked Homemade
Quantity 12 cases of frozen fried chicken 5 cases fresh chicken
Manpower 1 staff member 1 staff member
Cookware 2 fryers, 2 baskets each 4 convection ovens
Preparation Time

5 minutes: cool, rinse, and clean;
5 minutes for seasoning;
10 minutes to pan

Cooking Time 7-10 minutes per basket in the fryer. One case every 10 minutes (4 baskets) 35-40 minutes
Total Staff Time 2 hours (12 cases x 10 minutes) 1 hour

Caloric Difference per Serving (Thigh and Drumstick)

Fried, breaded with skin Baked homemade, skinless
Nutritional Information 430 tota​l calories;
26.7 grams of fat
255 total calories;
11.29 grams of fat
Calorie Difference 40% more calories and 58% more fat than baked homemade skinless chicken 175 calories and 15 grams of fat less than fried chicken

Notes from Chef Steve

I firmly believe that though it may seem the easiest to do and less work involved, it actually takes up more time in some cases.

As you can see, this is just one example, and homemade saved an hour worth of production time that could be used for other things.

Now with labor intensive items - examples (cutting your own steaks, trimming meats etc.) - I would prefer to go semi-homemade, but still purchase the fresh meat item but have it pre-trimmed or pre-sliced, and we prepare the seasonings and cook it ourselves. vs. frozen, precooked, heat and serve.

Then again, it all comes down to staff that are wanting to do rather than being made to do or having the passion and drive to want what is best for our students.

1 Used "smart shopping" (different food vendors)

2 Soda compared to Crystal Lite appears more economical. However, soda consumption is down since Crystal Lite has been added, and it makes more per volume per case than soda.

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