Blue Apron, Plated, Meal-Kit Services – Are They Saving You Money?

Finally, something that’s a win/win. You get to stop feeling guilty for ordering take-out and you’re actually learning to cook and eating better. Yay! Everyone is happy.

Not so fast… As a professional buzzkill I’d like to examine the pre-packaged meal kit services from a financial point of view. Yup, Blue Apron, Home Chef, Hello Fresh and the like. I am not convinced you are getting the financial benefit of cooking.

Let’s take a look. I will assume a two-person plan for comparison purposes (most kids are probably not eating this). Shipping is free in all cases. When I use the term “serving” I mean one meal for one adult.

  • Blue Apron – 1 serving – $12
  • Home Chef- 1 serving – $8
  • Hello Fresh – 1 serving – $7.50

Presumably, people would eat these meals in the evening for dinner. You still have 6 more dinners per week and a load of breakfasts, lunches, snacks, dog food, saran wrap, drinks, and of course, food for the kids (who may not eat beet and squash kabobs), to buy at the grocery store.

Essentially, from a financial standpoint, you are spending $210/month (for Hello Fresh, the cheapest of the services). I recommend families spend $250-300/person/month on groceries (including non-grocery items purchased at the grocery store like trash bags and saran wrap, etc.). You have to ask yourself if you can spend $750 at the grocery store each month (family of four) to have your 3 meals per week by Blue Apron. I bet that would be difficult.

A meal prepared from ingredients you buy at the grocery store can range from $3-6/serving. Yes, you may not have a particular type of saffron or the exact tarragon the recipe calls for, but that’s not how people eat anyway. Ditch the complicated recipes if you are just trying to cook more. Get simple recipes that have ingredients common in most kitchens.

The bottom line is cooking is good, but financially, my guess is your total grocery list is not reducing dollar for dollar with the money you spend on a meal kit service. This is not a money saver the way people say “cooking saves money.” This is a treat.

If you want to use it to teach yourself to cook, get ideas for meal planning or supplement your regular cooking once in a while, then fine, but this is not a financial ‘win’.

At the risk of sounding like a depression era agony aunt: nothing beats buying the stuff and cooking it at home for your wallet, your nutrition or your waistline.