Is it worth paying premium prices for reunion dinner sets at restaurants in Singapore? Or will cooking at home save you a significant amount of money?
As the most important meal in the Chinese calendar, the Reunion Dinner has a lot riding on it. It’s understandable if you don’t want to risk messing it up, especially if you have the entire extended family coming over.
Yet going out for a reunion dinner meal at a restaurant can be a pretty daunting affair. As the Reunion Dinner takes place only on this one particular day, everyone and their grandmas will be jostling for a place to eat. Restaurants will also be taking advantage of the holiday and placing a premium on traditional reunion dinner dishes.
So what should you do? Cook the reunion dinner at home, or book the once-a-year-meal at a restaurant or hotel? We break down which gives you the better deal.
Booking a Restaurant Saves Time, But You Pay a Premium Price
The most obvious disadvantage of booking a restaurant meal is the crowding that you’ll inevitably have to deal with. You can attempt to avoid the crowd by booking a table at higher-end restaurants, but you’ll be paying premium prices for largely the same ingredients.
Alternatively, you can try to avoid overpaying by going to your favourite restaurant chain, but you might end up bonding with 30 other families over the under-seasoned fish maw soup put out by the overtaxed kitchen.
Due to the sheer logistical challenge, it is not uncommon for restaurants to practice split timings, which is perfect if you like to have dinner at 5 pm or 8 pm.
However, as you’ll be paying for a professional kitchen to take care of your family’s meal, you won’t have to worry too much about the quality of the cooking. The main challenge is getting to the restaurant, and after that, your table.
Cooking Requires Time, Effort and Skill, But Costs Less
Cooking your own reunion dinner will save you the hassles that you’ll encounter going out. By staying home, you won’t have to deal with the crowds that are sure to plague the restaurants this night.
Also, you’re free to begin the dinner at the time of your choosing, and your guests can linger as long as they want. This lack of time pressure makes your reunion dinner a more relaxed affair.
Another advantage of cooking at home: you won’t have to pay premium prices for what are essentially everyday food items, only dressed up in fancy ways.
However, cooking your reunion dinner meal at home will require manpower, time and kitchen skills.
You’ll also need a fairly large and well-equipped kitchen, and you might need to recruit the aspiring chefs in the family to help get dinner ready in time.
How Much Can You Save by Cooking Your Reunion Dinner at Home?
No matter which side of the argument you tend to come down on, the Lunar New Year Reunion Dinner is an important occasion. For that reason, it might be worthwhile to explore the price difference between cooking at home and going out to eat.
To that end, we’ve drawn up a typical Chinese New Year Reunion Dinner menu consisting of 8 courses for 10 people. For fairness, we are sticking to home-style cooking, so no Buddha Jumps Over the Wall or other such exotic dishes will be included.
As Yu Sheng is an essential reunion dinner item, we’ve included a takeaway set in the Home-cooked menu. We’ve found that average prices for a 10-pax set are about S$100, but your credit cards let you save on yu sheng takeaway and other items.
Reunion Dinner Meal - Home Cooking vs Restaurant Set Meal
(Estimated ingredient cost per pax)
|Yu Sheng with Salmon
|Salmon Yu Sheng - Takeaway
|Fish Maw Soup with Crab Meat
|Fish Maw and Crab Meat Soup
|Steamed Sea Bass ‘Hong Kong’ Style
|Steamed Sea Bass with Light Soy Sauce
|Stir-fried Broccoli with Scallop
|Stir-fried Kai Lan with Scallop and Garlic
|Deep-fried Chicken with Garlic
|Homemade Beancurd with Prawn
|Egg Tofu with Prawn
|Yam Paste with Gingko Nuts
|Red Bean Soup with Tang Yuan
|Total - S$60 per pax (average of 5 menus)
|Total - S$22.68 per pax
Have Reunion Dinner at Home to Save Over 50% the Cost of a Restaurant Meal
When it comes to reunion dinner, taking up the spatula yourself will result in significant savings. Our back-of-the-envelope calculations may be rough, but even allowing for a large margin of error still results in a substantial price difference.
The key takeaway is that restaurants charge a premium for serving food items that are readily available, and this premium only increases come Chinese New Year’s eve.
And one more interesting finding - abalone was hardly seen on the 5 reunion dinner set menus we referenced to construct our sample menu. Where it made an appearance, this traditional must-have was most readily seen as a topping on Yu Sheng.
Prosper With the Right Credit Card
Ultimately, the reunion dinner only comes round once a year, and we should take the opportunity to celebrate the traditional evening with our loved ones.
Whether you like the anticipation and excitement of going out to a renowned restaurant, or find the company of family more satisfying, you can make your family gathering an even happier affair with the right credit card.
If you’re going out to eat, arm yourself with a good cashback credit card, or one that gives you generous dining rebates, to maximise your money.
Try the American Express True Cashback card to earn 3% cashback on the first S$5,000 spent within the first 6 months, or 1.5% unlimited cashback thereafter. We like that this card gives you cashback for all purchases, and not just for specific categories of spending.
Prefer a higher rebate? Then the OCBC 365 Card, with 6% weekend dining rebate (3% for weekday dining), may be more to your taste.
If you’re going to buy fresh groceries to cook up a storm instead, you’ll want a card that rewards your trip to the supermarket. Try the Citi Cash Back Visa Card, which lets you earn 8% rebates on groceries, petrol and dining.
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By Alevin Chan
A Certified Financial Planner with a curiosity about what makes people tick, Alevin's mission is to help readers understand the psychology of money. He's also on an ongoing quest to optimise happiness and enjoyment in his life.
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