When it comes to feeding your family, you have plenty of options. You could plan out meals, shop for groceries, and cook at home. Or you could eat out at a restaurant. A relatively new choice is using a meal delivery service, like Blue Apron or HelloFresh.
These companies ship you recipes and pre-portioned ingredients, so all you have to do is cook. But are these meal delivery services a good value? Can they actually help you save money? Let’s dive into the costs, benefits, and factors to consider.
Understanding Meal Delivery Services
Meal delivery services have gained popularity for the convenience they offer. Imagine getting a box with delicious recipes and the exact amount of ingredients you need. No planning, no grocery shopping, and no waste from unused ingredients. Some companies even offer partially prepared meals to reduce cooking time. Blue Apron, HelloFresh, and Home Chef are among the well-known companies in this market.
Each service has its unique features, including the number of meals per week, portion sizes, and dietary options. But they all have one thing in common – they deliver convenience straight to your door.
What’s the Real Cost?
Meal delivery services aren’t free. The prices depend on the company, the plan you choose, and the number of people you’re feeding. On average, you could expect to spend between $8 to $12 per serving.
At first glance, this might seem costlier than grocery shopping. After all, you could probably prepare a meal for less than that, especially if you’re savvy with sales and coupons. But, it’s essential to consider the bigger picture.
The Value of Time
Meal delivery services save you time. The time you would spend planning meals, making shopping lists, driving to the store, walking through aisles, waiting in line, and then driving back home is significant. If you attach a dollar value to your time, these savings could make the higher price per meal worth it.
Most meal delivery services will have a preselected list of potential meals to pick from each week. From there, you can narrow down what you want delivered to your home.
We found that meal kit services really help during the busy school year. When everyone in the house has a packed schedule, knowing a week of healthy dinners is taken care of gives us one less thing to think about.Kevin E, HelloFresh customer
Reduce Food Waste
Another advantage is the reduction of food waste. With meal kits, you get the exact quantities you need, so nothing goes to waste. According to a study by the USDA, Americans waste about 30-40% of their food. By reducing waste, you’re not just saving money, but also helping the environment.
Variety and Taste
Many of us fall into the same cooking routine. Meal delivery services often provide a broad range of meals from different cuisines, giving you the chance to try new dishes. You might find you’re eating a wider variety of foods than if you were grocery shopping.
Some meal delivery services will let you customize your delivery frequency. This allows you to shake things up in the kitchen bi-weekly, or every other month.
Plus, you don’t have to be a professional chef to whip up a meal. Every meal kit comes with an easy to follow recipe card – this is fairly standard across all services. Home Chef has oven meals ready in case you want to skip most of the chopping.
Saving on Dining Out
While meal delivery services might be more expensive than cooking from scratch, they’re usually cheaper than dining out or getting takeout. So, if using a meal kit service means you’ll eat out less often, you could end up saving money overall.
If you feel like your monthly paycheck is going towards too many meals out, a meal kit can help plan and stay on budget.
The Bottom Line
So, do meal delivery services save you money? It depends. If you compare the cost per meal to cooking from scratch, probably not. But when you factor in the time saved, reduced waste, and potentially less dining out, it might be worth it.
Remember, the value of meal delivery services goes beyond just the financial aspect. The convenience, variety, and fun of cooking new recipes also have their value. It’s a personal decision that will depend on your lifestyle, dietary preferences, and how you value your time.
Like any financial decision, it’s crucial to do your homework. Look into different companies, compare their prices, and consider their benefits. Think about your budget, your cooking skills, and your dietary needs. And most importantly, make a choice that fits your life.
Remember, a smart financial choice is always one that brings you value, not just savings.