Does a meal prep service make sense for your budget?


Meal preparation services have become increasingly popular over the past few years. During the COVID-19 pandemic when people limited their travels outside the home, food delivery services increased exponentially. In addition to direct food delivery such as DoorDash or UberEats, services that provide meal packages are becoming more and more prevalent. Although these meal prep services are not for everyone, they may make sense for certain budgets.

What is a meal prep service?

A meal prep service, sometimes known as a meal kit, provides you with a certain number of meals per week. You choose how many meals and meals you want, and it will be delivered to your door. Ingredients are measured in exact serving sizes, usually 1 to 4 portions.

It is common for meal group services to offer a certain number of “free” meals when you initially sign up. The idea is that you can try a meal service for a lower financial commitment to see if it’s right for you.

One thing to be aware of is that these free meals usually don’t come in advance. If you sign up for a deal that offers 10 “free” meals, you won’t just get 10 meals delivered to you at no cost. Alternatively, it might be a discount equal to 5 free meals for the first week, then 3 meals for the second week and 2 for the third week.

What are some popular meal prep services?

There are many, many meal preparation services. Each of these meal kit companies share many characteristics, although they sometimes differ in a few key areas. Here are some of the most popular meal prep services:

  • blue apron – You chose Blue Apron from among their signature recipes, healthy or vegan. You can also pair your recipes with their monthly wine subscription. Cost $63 for three meals a week for two people
  • Fresh With Freshly you can choose from 4, 6, 8, 10 or 12 meals per week, each serving one meal for one person. Cost starts at $8.49 per serving, plus shipping
  • Head chef With Home Chef, you can choose from a variety of different meals each week based on your preferences and dietary restrictions. Meal plans start at as low as $6.99 per meal. You can also find Home Chef meal kits at select Kroger grocery stores across the country.
  • HelloFresh HelloFresh has over 27 new recipes every week designed by chefs and nutritionists. Prices start at $7.49 per view and you can easily switch, skip, or pause your order at any time.

When does meal prep make sense?

While a meal kit or meal prep service may be more expensive than cooking your own meals at home, it may make financial sense for some people. If you find that you eat most of your meals at restaurants, a meal prep service can save you a significant amount of money.

The best way to find out if a meal prep service might make sense for you is to look at your current food budget. How much do you spend each week or month on food? Is that spent primarily on groceries, individual meal delivery, or restaurants? Track your spending with a tool like Mint to see where your money is going right now.

Next, take a look at a few different meal prep kits and their prices to see if it fits your budget. Remember that many of these companies offer introductory prices so you can experiment with a few options to find the one that works for you. Another thing to remember is that some meals may have portions large enough to fit in the next day’s leftover lunch as well, reducing the cost of each meal.

bottom line

It can be more expensive to use a meal prep service than to buy your own food and cook at home. But, if your cooking skills, time, or energy don’t allow for that luxury at the moment, it may be cheaper and healthier to use meal kits than ordering delivery or dining in restaurants. You may find that preparing meal combinations is a good first step to having more confidence in preparing your own meals.

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Dan Miller (75 posts)

Dan Miller is a freelance writer and founder of PointsWithACrew.com, a site that helps families travel free/cheap. His main base is in Cincinnati, but he tries to travel around the world as much as possible with his wife and six children.

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