So after all that, would the best deal be some good old-fashioned Chinese food from the local takeout place? Yes and no. International is another area where prices can be deceiving.
Looking at Japanese fare, most would say sushi is worth the price. It has low food costs but high labor. After all, it takes talent and time to make the rolls; most people can't do this at home. But, where does the $6 edamame fit in? This popular side dish is oh-so-healthy, but restaurants buy a pound for under $2, boil the beans and add salt. So, when you get your 4 to 6 ounces (113 to 170 grams) of soybeans, remember that it cost the restaurant about 50 cents in food and labor.
If you love Chinese food, chicken-fried rice is probably on that list. What goes into a $7 to $9 bowl of this? Assume any restaurant is buying eggs, rice and oil in bulk. Add tiny bits of chicken, the cheaper veggies of the day, toss it all around and you've got your entrée. The better deal is the beef and broccoli stir-fry. It's more expensive but it's healthier and a better deal for your wallet.
Or go Mexican and consider guacamole. A guacamole chip and dip appetizer costs between $3 and $10, but the restaurant pays $1 for an avocado. They mash it up, add some spice and it's done. Remember, if you can do it quickly and easily at home, it's probably not worth the restaurant's price.