The U.S. Department of Agriculture releases yearly numbers highlighting how much American families spend on groceries each month. According to their 2018 figures, a family of four typically spends around $547.80 monthly on groceries. Annually, this amounts to around $6,573.60, which of course is no small amount. Therefore, many families seek ways to make grocery shopping cheaper, and one new method of acquiring high quality nutritional meals on a budget is signing up with a meal kit or meal delivery service.
What is a Meal Delivery Service?
There are many of these services out there, which you have probably seen advertised. Some of the most common include Blue Apron, HelloFresh, Purple Carrot, Chef’D, PeachDish, Plated and Sun Basket. These services provide you a “meal in a box.” You get fresh ingredients and directions to prepare your meal, all delivered conveniently to your door. These meal services often claim they are cheaper overall than going and buying ingredients at the store, or at the very least more cost effective than going out to eat. Let’s consider some of the benefits of such a service:
- The recipes are easy-to-follow even if you aren’t a whiz in the kitchen.
- You save time. No having to run to the store to get ingredients to prepare a meal once you are off work.
- It’s supposedly cheaper than ordering pizza or going to a restaurant.
- You will have plenty of variety in meals, not having to eat the same thing over and over.
- The ingredients are fresh and ready to go.
The Cost Per Meal
To determine if such a service would be a good idea for your family, you have to break it down on a per meal cost. ChimeBank experimented with the ordering process and found that Blue Apron’s meals ended up costing around $9.99 a serving. In addition, there was a minimum requirement to order of $59.94. They did offer free shipping, though. When you consider a grocery budget of $400, this would mean you would spend 15% of that budget for only six meals. That wouldn’t even feed a family of four one week’s time.
Can You Save With Meal Plan Services?
You have to consider how much you usually spend on the most expensive meal you prepare at home. If you spend more than $9.99 a serving, then such a service might be a great idea for you. In addition, you are almost certain to save money with such a service when compared to eating out. You really are paying for the convenience of not having to run to the store and being able to eat different meals than you would on your own. How much is that aspect of such a service worth to you? If it’s worth it, great! If not, read on…
Other Ways to Save on Groceries
If you have determined meal plans aren’t worth the money, at least on a regular basis, you might try the following to save money on your groceries:
- Track Your Current Spending: Before making any changes, you have to know how much you actually spend at the store each month. Keep up with this number for a month and compare it to the national average to see if you need to make some cuts.
- Limit Your Trips: Try to only visit the store biweekly if possible. If you go two or three times a week to just “pick up a few things,” you will end up spending much more than going with an extensive list a few times a month.
In conclusion, a meal plan service “might” save you money if it means you go from eating out to eating at home. However, it likely won’t save you much if you already cook at home.