The meal-kit industry has been a rapidly growing one, particularly thanks to the change in spending habits that lockdowns have caused.
In short, meal-kit companies aim to deliver specific, precise measurements of ingredients to homes to shorten prep time. The customer will choose, say, 4 meals (of 2, 3, or 4 servings each) from a large menu full of delicious meals, and the kit provider will deliver those ingredients. This is different from grocery orders because providers deliver to the gram the number of fresh ingredients such as butter, chicken, and even seasoning for each meal.
From the buyer’s perspective, they’re receiving a weekly recipes box on their doorstep in which everything has been pre-portioned–every pot, bag, and ounce of produce has a predetermined meaning.
The recipes have already been picked and printed for your convenience(so quick and easy!), so there’s no improvising about how you’re going to use up the second half of a large cabbage. No mental gymnastics in your refrigerator management, and less waste–perfect for home cooks!
This leads us to the question “do meal kits save you money?”. You often hear conflicting commentary on this issue because meal kits appear seemingly expensive at first, yet have a lot of indirect benefits. This article will discuss to what extent regular use of meal kits can be budget-friendly for the average home chef.
How much do meal kits cost?
How much is HelloFresh in Canada or in the US is a common question because it’s the largest meal-kit provider (globally), and is frequently rated as one of the best in terms of value. So we’ll use it as our example. We can’t cover every country in this article so we will start by looking at prices in the US.
Most companies have prices somewhat based on the size of your plan. Obviously, the more you order, the cheaper it will be per serving or meals per week. This is for multiple economic reasons (i.e. fewer deliveries, faster to package, economies of scale), but also because they’re enticing us to order more.
For 2 people
For 2 people, the price is $8.99 per serving if you order 3, 4, or 5 recipe cards per week. If you only order 2 recipes (for 2 people, that’s 4 servings), then the price jumps sharply to $12.49.
Shipping remains an additional $8.99 for any plan.
For 4 people
The price of 2 recipes per week for 4 people now starts at $8.99 but is reduced to $7.49 when ordering 3 or 4 recipes per week. Note that 5 recipes are not an option when ordering for 4 people. Again, the meal-kit delivery service is an additional $8.99 for any plan.
These are very middle-of-the-road prices. You can expect similar pricing on FreshPrep, Cook It, Miss Fresh, Prepd, and many others. These prices at HelloFresh, like many other companies, are consistent for any preferred meal planning type. As in, meat & veggies, veggie, family-friendly, low-calories – these are just some of the many options, but all remain within the above price structure.
For 2 people to order 4 recipes per week, this will cost them about $80 plus an $8.99 delivery fee from an averagely priced meal kit company. Given that on 3 nights of the week, you must still make your own dinner which costs money, you can see why meal kit delivery companies cost more than regular groceries. However, they often save people from buying too many snacks, and a lot of time-saving conveniences are also factored into the price.
It’s sometimes difficult to compare the prices to groceries because meal kits offer a per-serving price, something that you’re not used to assessing. If you made a habit of doing this with meals made from groceries, you would find that they are cheaper than the meal kits. However, this wouldn’t factor in food wastage. Given that the US wastes 30% to 40% of the food supply each year, around 103 million tonnes, then you may expect to see the price per serving deceptively higher.
When we factor in the example shop above with the high quality of food, we can start to understand the pricing of meal kits. Most meal kit providers harvest fresh local and in-season produce that is organic and free-range. If we were to really dig deeper though, we can begin to see their value when we factor in time. The time it takes to think up some recipe ideas, walk around a grocery store looking for the ingredients, calculate how much you need, and return home – this can be a couple of hours.
In 2021, people are beginning to value time more and more, perhaps since we gave up commuting during the lockdown. Suddenly, spending $70 on what is likely $40 to $50 worth of groceries doesn’t seem so bad when all you have to do is click a few recipes like you’re at a restaurant.
Of course, we could also factor in the time we spend measuring ingredients in the kitchen – there’s no need for this with meal kits – you can just tip the whole packet in and be confident the provider got the measurements right. In fact, precise nutritional info is displayed on the recipes. Not only does this save time for calorie counters, but you would be unlikely to achieve this level of accuracy regarding your macros if you counted yourself.
Getting the Most Out of Meal Kits
One way to get more for your money with meal kits is by ordering more servings. More servings will decrease the cost per individual serving, and you can do this by ordering with a flatmate, or even a neighbor.
Secondly, meat tends to be the most expensive grocery (or at least, good quality meat), so ordering a vegan meal kit may not be quite as worthwhile. Very few meal kit providers offer vegan or vegetarian meal kits for cheaper than carnivore ones, so by not receiving expensive fresh salmon or beef, you’re paying the same for “less”.
Whilst the same goes for low-calorie meals, often people on focused diets will spend a lot elsewhere on meal-replacement shakes and so on. So, even though it may appear pricey per calorie, it may be cheaper than the alternative diet products a person is buying.
Finally, ordering more meals will make your delivery cost more worthwhile. Though, it’s important to not order for the sake of it of course.
Bottom Line: Are Meal Kits Worth It?
The short answer here is, of course, it depends. However, it really doesn’t depend on that much. First and foremost, are meal kits worth trying out with a promotion code? Absolutely. This is riskless, and will absolutely be cheaper (or thereabouts) to your local grocery store prices for a short while.
Beyond promo codes, prices per serving seem to be higher than grocery stores, but you’re paying that extra money for multiple benefits: Saving time on recipe ideas and managing ingredients, delivery, precise nutritional info, and of course reduced waste.
It may only take one of these to make it worth it for you – perhaps you’re passionate about a zero-waste lifestyle or take your calorie-counting very seriously. Alternatively, you may just find that spending the extra $10-$40 per week is worth spending more time with your family, and takes the burden of grocery shopping and refrigerator management off your mind.
Either way, let me know your thoughts in the comments below and if you have tried a prepared meal plan before!