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Meal Delivery Services Aren’t Saving You Any Money

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John McDermott, Staff Writer at MEL, Posted: April 5 2017

If you’ve consumed a podcast sometime in the past year, you’ve undoubtedly heard an advertisement for Blue Apron, the meal delivery service that promises to make dining in a pleasant and hassle-free experience.

Rather than having to go through the hours-long process of finding a recipe and starting to make it only to realize Fuck, I don’t have any cumin, and then going to the grocery store to buy the necessary ingredients, and then lugging them home just so you can spend another 90 minutes chopping, seasoning, peeling, measuring, boiling, sautéing and roasting before you can actually eat the damn thing, Blue Apron delivers ingredients right to your doorstep, their portions pre-measured, so you can get to cooking and eating that much faster.

It’s an alluring idea—one that combines the convenience of home delivery with the satisfaction of making your own meal and (ostensibly) saving money on food. Dining out, after all, is just about the worst thing you can do for your finances.

Only you’re not saving money. At least, not compared to actually buying your own groceries.

According to the Department of Agriculture, men between the ages of 19 and 50 should be spending at most $4 per meal whenever they cook at home. (This supposes three square meals a day, or 90 per month.) And $4 is on the high end of that range. If you’re trying to be thrifty, it should be closer to $2 per meal. Home delivery services generally charge about $10 per meal. (The emphasis is all mine, of course.)

Much like men’s clothing subscription boxes, at-home meal delivery has become its own cottage industry, with a handful of virtually indistinguishable such companies launching in the past few years.

Here is the price per meal for each of them (not including delivery charges):
Blue Apron: $8.74 per meal for a family of four; $9.99 for a two-person plan
Home Chef: $9.95 per serving
HelloFresh: $9.99 per meal for the classic and veggie plans; and slightly less ($8.74 per meal) for the family plan
Martha Stewart’s Marley Spoon: $9.50 per meal for a two-person plan; $8.70 for a four-person plan
Munchery: $8 to $12 per meal for most dishes, but can run up to $18 for fancier fare such as steak au poivre; a monthly membership will lower the overall cost by about 20 percent, though.
Plated: $8.95 to $10.95 per meal depending on how many you order in a week
Purple Carrot: $9.25 per meal for a four-person weekly plan; $11.33 per meal for a two-person plan. (The special Tom Brady diet, which I’m about to start, costs $13 per plate.)
Sun Basket: At $11.49 per serving, Sun Basket is, on average, the costliest of the bunch. Such is the price of chef-curated, GMO-free, farm-to-table, paleo-friendly organic meals.

This isn’t to say home meal delivery services are a waste. Ten dollars is probably less than what you’d pay for a sit-down dinner, but about equal to what you’d pay for dinner at McDonald’s. The obvious difference is that home meal delivery services are far healthier than any quick-service meal.

They also save on time, which, if aphorisms are to be trusted, is just as important as money. So if you’re a helpless bachelor who never learned how to prepare a proper meal, and want to impress a lady friend with your Bobby Flay skills, but without having to put in any thought or legwork, then, yeah, sure, use that podcast code and try out Blue Apron. You might even discover you love cooking, and thus, start down the road of saving more on food.

It’s too bad, though, that none of these services solve for having to wash dishes afterward. That shit is the worst.

Related Reading:

People like meal kits but their business model is unsustainable


​The Chef and other businesses mentioned in this article are not a Member of The Chef Alliance.