Here are the financial differences between grocery shopping, eating out, and using a meal-kit delivery service.
If you’re like me, you need to eat roughly every 3 hours to avoid getting hangry and becoming an absolute nightmare to be around (that and some form of caffeine throughout the day). You probably also want to eat healthier, more wholesome meals. Your options are making your own meal plan, buying all of your groceries yourself, and large batch prepping your meals in advance to eat throughout the week, going to a restaurant/cafe/diner, or using a meal kit delivery service. Here’s how the three stack up using the following meal (taken from HelloFresh’s website):
Honey Glazed Chicken Teriyaki over Rice with Sugar Snap Peas (2 servings)
12 oz. antibiotic free, free range Chicken Breast
1 cup of basmati rice
6 oz of sugar snap peas
1 thumb of ginger
1 garlic clove
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon of honey
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
1 tablespoon of olive oil
Grocery Shopping = $14.5
While you have to spend $13.02 to make this meal by getting the ingredients yourself from the grocery store, the advantage is you can buy these ingredients in larger quantities driving the overall cost down. This is a good option if you plan on having this meal several times throughout the week instead of just once. This is what each ingredient costs, having gotten most of the options on sale:
Chicken Breast: $2.25
Sugar Snap Peas $3.36($0.56/oz)
1 lime: $0.40
White Wine Vinegar: $1.49
Soy Sauce: $1.79.
Olive Oil: assume I have this at home.
The benefits of grocery shopping
+ This meal comes out to $13.32 pre-tax (about $14.5 after tax), for both servings ($7.25/serving).
+ You can add/omit ingredients, customizing the recipe however you want and personally selecting each ingredient.
The disadvantages of grocery shopping
+ You wouldn’t just go to the grocery store for this one meal, you would probably go and get everything you need for the week, spending 90 minutes door to door.
+ You have to hope that this grocery store has everything you need for your recipes, otherwise you have to go to more than one grocery store to get what you need.
How to Meal Prep Like A Pro
Eating Out at a Restaurant/Cafe = $38.63
To get this near $39 valuation, I looked at the cost of similar entrees at several restaurants in my area, and by the area where I work. This may or may not be accurate in your area, since I’m basing my results off of NY and Manhattan prices, which are generally pretty high. Here’s how I came to this valuation:
Person 1: $15
Person 2: $15
Tip: $6 (20%)
Tax: $2.63 (tax is 8.75% in NY)
The post-tip and post-tax total is $19.32 per serving.
Benefits of Eating Out
+ Little to no work on your part.
+ Show up, eat, pay, leave.
+ No cooking, no cleaning, no grocery shopping.
Disadvantages of Eating Out
+ More than 2x as expensive as making it yourself.
+ No control over ingredient quality or nutritional content.
+ You do need to commute to the restaurant.
Meal-Kit Delivery Service = $23 (HelloFresh)
The $23 valuation for this option comes directly from HelloFresh’s website, at $11.50/person for one meal for two people. Similar to grocery shopping, the more you buy the more you save with the difference being that you typically don’t have any left over ingredients. Comparable companies like Blue Apron, Plated, and Home Chef cost roughly the same so give or take a few dollars if you use one of them instead of HelloFresh.
Benefits of Meal-Kit Delivery
+ No grocery shopping, saving 90+ minutes not including unpacking and storing ingredients.
+ No food waste.
+ Costs about 40% less than eating out.
Disadvantages of Meal-Kit Delivery
+ Rarely leftovers since the meals are designed for a specific number of servings.
+ You’ll still have to grocery shop for basics since it doesn’t cover breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.
+ Costs more than buying all of the ingredients yourself, assuming you can get most of them on sale and don’t care about eating regionally sourced, typically higher quality ingredients.
In the end…
My opinion has always been this: I love cooking, I don’t mind the process of cooking or clean-up, and I love trying new things. I also always tend to put my finances first though so I rarely ever order food from restaurants or stop to pick-up breakfast or lunch on my way to work. IF I was regularly going out to dinner on weekends, I would probably use a meal-kit delivery service because I look cooking and it would save me 40% of my money. Eating at home and entertaining are also a more fun, intimate experience.
I eat 5-6 meals per day and simply could not afford to only eat out or to only use a meal-kit delivery service, so grocery shopping for staple ingredients in my diet (eggs, yogurt, grains, fruit, meat, vegetables) would still have to be my primary way of stocking my fridge.