If you're not someone who loves to cook at home (and would much rather reach for the takeout menu at the end of a long day), having a meal kit delivered—that can be ready to eat in a few minutes—probably sounds tempting.
Meal delivery kits have become especially popular in the past few years, and people have been enjoying them; a 2021 report by Linchpin SEO on meal kit industry trends and statistics found that 17 percent of Americans have subscribed to a meal delivery service. Of that 17 percent, 90 percent referred the service to others. A recent report analyzing meal delivery service trends by Grand View Research says that the popularity of meal kits comes from an increased preference to cook at home over dining out—and the reduced waste and health benefits that home-cooked meals offer.
"What I love most about these kits is that they provide you with the ingredients, most of which are already prepped, and you can have a pretty healthy meal in about 30 minutes," says Laura Ritterman, owner of food blog Recipe Fairy. If you find yourself pressed for time, but are also trying to save money by cooking at home, a meal delivery kit might be a good option to consider.
However, the savings might depend on how much you actually intend on eating at home, whether it will cut down your trips to the grocery store, and how many people are in your household. "The average food delivery service works out at about $10 per person, per meal. For a week of dinners, you're looking at around $70," says Brian Dechesare, founder of financial platform Breaking Into Wallstreet. "However, according to the USDA, the average person spends around $65 a week on groceries, covering all meals and snacks," he adds. Dechesare says that unless you're using a meal delivery service for every meal, every day of the week, you might not be saving much money, because you will likely go to the grocery store for other meals.
Still, there is something to be said about the convenience and time-saving benefits of meal delivery services. Here are some ways a meal delivery service could help you save money, so you can decide for yourself if it's the right choice for you.
A meal delivery service can help you save money by cooking at home more, period.
Meal prepping and cooking at home is one of the best ways to save money every day. But this can seem like a monumental task to someone who just doesn't enjoy cooking much or can't seem to make time for it—or can't seem to stay away from the takeout menu (or UberEats). Putting the money you would use for dining out toward a meal delivery subscription could help you eat at home more. The food is delivered to your door, and many services offer the option to either have pre-measured, fresh ingredients that you can assemble, or a meal that you can heat and eat.
Fitness and nutrition expert Megan Ayala recommends EveryPlate, which only costs $5 for each meal (which comes with a recipe card), for either two or four people. If you're just cooking for yourself, EveryPlate's FAQ section says the Dinner for 2 Plan can easily double up as a lunch for the next day.
"Due to its budgeted pricing, you can get up to 18 meals for only $3.33 each, with free shipping on your first order," says Ayala. "This will help you optimize your spending and even avoid impulse purchases and takeout food." EveryPlate offers vegetarian options and has a weekly menu with 16 different dishes to choose from. If you're trying to cut back on how much you spend on going out to eat, a meal delivery kit allows you to eat healthy, different foods with minimal effort.
A meal delivery subscription can mean less trips to the grocery store—and less waste.
Subscribing to a meal delivery service doesn't mean you'll never have to go to the grocery store, but it can definitely save you a few trips. If you're someone who is prone to impulse shopping at the grocery store, or find you have lots of ingredients left over that you never use, a meal delivery kit could help you plan your meals better and reduce food waste.
"Since meal delivery services offer pre-portioned ingredients, the chances of food going to waste are almost zero," says Vicky Cano, chef and recipe developer at MealFan, a guide for meal delivery services. Cano recommends meal delivery service Home Chef—"Customers can order as many meal portions as they like, and they'll be sure to receive the most fresh ingredients to make quality recipes." Home Chef offers new recipes each week, has meals for all cooking levels and dietary needs, and starts at $6.99 per serving. They even have a Fresh and Easy plan that will deliver low- or no-prep meals if you're really busy or cooking isn't your thing.
"I usually get three meals and enough to feed four people each meal," says Ritterman, who has used HelloFresh on and off for the past few months. "It costs me about $135 for one week which I think is a great deal. When you break it down, that is about $11.25 per person," she explains. Ritterman says the portions are big enough to feed about six people, and finds the price reasonable.
While getting the ingredients you need for each meal is convenient, it only covers one meal—and at an average of $5 to $10 per meal, that could add up. You could also buy groceries in bulk and make different variations of meals using the same ingredients to save money and time.
Meal delivery kits can save you time—but whether it actually saves money depends on your situation.
There's no denying the time a meal delivery kit saves, but whether it is financially sustainable and actually helps you save money is a question that depends on each individual or family.
"Meal delivery kits may be worth the price if you're someone who spends a lot on takeout and finds that using a kit helps you cook at home instead," says Bri Bell, a registered dietitian and blogger at Frugal Minimalist Kitchen. But Bell says that those who are not using meal kits to keep their takeout expenses down might end up spending more on a meal delivery kit than they would on groceries.
So if you're someone who wants to save time during the week and is aiming to spend less money on impulse takeout dinners, it can be a good option to try a meal delivery service a few days a week. There are different options and price points, so do your research to see how much money you stand to save; you can always try it for a few weeks and cancel your subscription if it's not the right fit for you.