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Are Meal Kit Delivery Services Budget Friendly?

9 Minute Read

Cooking. You either love it... or you don’t.

And whether you’re a pro or a newbie, you have to admit—meal prep is usually a lengthy process.

First, you have to figure out what’s for dinner. Then you have to go to the grocery store, buy the ingredients, come home, do the meal prep and then finally get started on the cooking. It’s exhausting just thinking about it!

If spending time shopping and trying to come up with prepared meals on a whim isn’t your cup of tea, there are convenient options out there like meal kit delivery services. The ingredients are shipped right to your front door, and it can save you time and frustration—but will they save you money? That’s the question!

How Do Meal Kit Delivery Services Work?

First of all, it’s a little more complicated than a pizza delivery guy showing up on your doorstep. Each meal kit service might differ from the other, but overall, they do the same thing: Provide fresh ingredients and bring the recipes to your front door. All you have to do is cook!

But before the magic happens, you have to go online and take a look at their menu for the upcoming weeks. You can order a few tasty meals based on your family size or number of meals you need. Then, select your delivery date and you’re good to go! The meal delivery kit will show up on your front door step on whatever day you request. Don’t worry—they package it well with insulated liners and cooling packs so your food should (ideally) be fresh and cold when you open it up.

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Cost Comparison of Ingredients

So, how do these meal kits measure up compared to just buying the ingredients at the grocery store? We picked out three recipes from one of the big-name meal kit delivery companies and then went to a local grocery store here in Nashville to compare the cost of basic ingredients (tax not included).

Here’s the breakdown:

Recipe #1: Chicken Sausage Pizza

Ingredients:
Chicken sausage (18 oz.)
Flatbread
Zucchini (2)
Mozzarella cheese
Crushed tomatoes
Italian seasoning
Oregano
Price at Grocery Stores:
$8.38
$2.50
$0.90
$3.99
$1.00
$1.00
$1.00

Total at grocery store: $18.77 for four servings ($14.13 for two servings)

Total with meal kit service: $39.96 for four servings ($19.98 for two servings)

This is a great example of a simple meal that can be made at home for much less than what the meal kit delivery service is offering. The meal prep cost would be even cheaper if you already had the seasonings on hand.

Recipe #2: Meatloaf With Sweet Potatoes and Green Beans

Ingredients:
Ground beef (20 oz.)
Sweet potatoes (4)
Green beans (12 oz.)
Panko breadcrumbs
Onion
Fresh parsley
Garlic
Balsamic vinegar
Ketchup
Honey
Sliced almonds
Price at Grocery Stores:
$7.98
$2.80
$1.99
$1.89
$0.50
$0.89
$0.50
$2.99
$1.69
$3.29
$2.29

Total at grocery store: $26.81 for four servings ($20.42 for two servings)

Total with meal kit service: $39.96 for four servings ($19.98 for two servings)

The meal kit came in as the winner in this round—that is, if you’re only making two servings. With this recipe, you might already have some staple items on hand like the honey, ketchup and garlic. That could cut down on the ingredient cost here too. You might have a hard time at the grocery store trying to buy exactly 20 ounces of ground beef. Here, we had to buy two pounds of meat to have enough to follow the meal kit delivery recipe.

Recipe #3: Chicken Orzo With Zucchini and Tomatoes

Ingredients:
Chicken breast (24 oz.)
Orzo (6 oz.)
Zucchini (2)
Roma tomato (2)
Fresh mozzarella (8 oz.)
Lemon (1)
Fresh parsley
Panko breadcrumbs
Parmesan cheese
Italian seasoning
Price at Grocery Stores:
$8.98
$1.79
$0.90
$0.38
$2.99
$0.99
$0.89
$1.89
$2.49
$1.00

Total at grocery store: $22.30 for four servings ($17.17 for two servings)

Total with meal kit service: $39.96 for four servings ($19.98 for two servings)

If this was part of your weekly meal plan, you’d already have the breadcrumbs, Italian seasoning and the fresh parsley on hand from the other recipes you made. That would easily save you a couple of bucks on the meal prep right there.

The Pros and Cons of Meal Delivery Services

Just like with most things in life, there’s an upside and a downside to think about. When it comes to meal kit services, here’s what we found:

Pros:

Bring some joy back to your kitchen.

If you absolutely hate cooking, this can actually make the whole thing easier for you. Shocker—you might even find the cooking process to be enjoyable!

Healthy options.

Trying to eat healthy and avoid the temptation of pizza and tacos every night? Most of these meal kits pride themselves in offering nutritious options, and even a variety of choices for those with food allergies or restrictions (gluten free, vegetarian, etc.).

Portion control.

If you’re trying to cut back on the size of your plate at dinnertime, then this type of meal kit service could be a great way to stay on the straight and narrow.

Less waste.

How many times do you buy specialty items for certain recipes and have them go bad before you can ever use them? Hello there, spaghetti squash buried at the back of the fridge. And how about when you buy a massive bottle of Asian ginger sauce but only need a teaspoon of it for the recipe? We’ve all been guilty of that too. These meal kits send perfectly portioned, pre-measured amounts of ingredients you’ll need to cook each meal.

Convenience factor.

For some of you, the convenience of meal kit delivery might be worth a few extra dollars spent each week. The idea of getting even just a couple hours added back into your day is pretty much priceless.

Cons:

The price tag.

Meal kit delivery services might not be cost effective for your family’s food budget week after week. The good news is that with most plans, you can pause your service and space out the frequency of delivery. So if it worked for your budget last month but not this month, you can go ahead and opt out for a while.

Serving size.

Depending on what your definition of a "serving" is, you might be left still feeling hungry after you’ve eaten one serving. Some prepared meals like stews and soups are sure to stretch, but a single serving size of a chicken fillet won’t have much wiggle room.

Ingredients.

Like it or not, some of us are just picky eaters who think vegetables are the enemy. If you want the simplicity of basic food with minimal seasoning, you may not find the variety of food in the meals kits appealing. It’s great for someone looking branch out and try new foods, but if you’re a finicky foodie, the options could be limited for you.

You’ll still have to go to the grocery store.

Ordering meal kits won’t cut out your grocery store trips completely. You’ll still have to go pick up essentials for breakfast, lunch and the nights you aren’t using a meal kit. Still, meal kit delivery can help eliminate how often you go grocery shopping and it might even save you from an impulse buy or two!

Tips to Make Meal Kit Delivery More Budget Friendly

  • Look for meal kits that freeze well after cooking or meals that will give you leftovers. Think about opting for a larger serving size to guarantee you’ll have extra leftovers.
  • If the price stays the same no matter what meal you select, go for the fancy sounding meals with the pricey ingredients. You could be getting these meals at a cheaper price than if you picked them up at the grocery store (like with the meatloaf we compared).
  • Meal kit delivery companies are always offering some kind of deal. If you do decide to give them a try, take a second and do a quick search for discount codes (some can save you as much as 50%), or ask your friends if they have a referral code (some of these codes will even get you a free box).

Will a Meal Kit Delivery Service Work for My Budget?

Honestly, that answer is going to depend on a couple of things. You should factor in how many mouths you have to feed, how the ingredient prices stack up against your own local grocery store, if you can get leftovers out of a meal, and how much you value your time. Most of all, it comes down to what the food budget is for your family.

If it’s worth it not to worry about what you’ll be eating that night, or having to grocery shop for dinner after work, then a meal kit delivery service could be a total game changer in your life. But if you’re on a strict beans-and-rice plan right now, it might be a bust for your budget.

Remember—this isn’t going to be a one-size-fits-all answer. You have to look at what suits your family, your priorities, and your specific budgeting goals. Whatever you do, make sure you’re being intentional with the budget decisions you’re making.

Food is one of the main areas people tend to overspend in. Check out our Complete Guide to Grocery Savings to help you keep more cash in your wallet. And check out our budgeting app EveryDollar—having a written budget can help you stick to your food budget month after month!

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