Are Meal Kits More Expensive Than Buying the Groceries? I Did the Math

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All the ingredients to make a tangy hoisin pork meatloaf.


David Watsky/CNET

There’s little question as to whether meal kits are convenient. Having all the ingredients (mostly) measured out and sent to your doorstep to whip together a fast dinner will unquestionably save time and energy. The most common misgiving folks have about meal kits is the cost, and, in the early days of Blue Apron, they wouldn’t be wrong. But times have changed and the meal kit may no longer be the pricey date-night splurge it once was.

Certain modern meal kit services have slashed the bottom-line cost and, in my experience, a few of the cheaper meal kit services still deliver healthy and tasty meals on the regular. The best budget meal kit I’ve tried is EveryPlate. With meal kits as low as $5 a serving, it got me wondering how much those meal kits would cost if you bought all the necessary ingredients in a store. Things turned out a whole lot closer than I expected.

Meal kit vs. grocery store

EveryPlate (meals for 2) EveryPlate (meals for 4) Groceries bought at the store
Cost per serving $7.39 $6.50 $5.26

So how did I get these numbers? 

To calculate the cost of meal kits when compared to buying the groceries, I took two EveryPlate recipes and priced out the ingredients. To keep things consistent I used the cheapest results that populated on FreshDirect, a popular online grocery delivery service here in the Northeast.

Since spices are generally sold in 1- or 2-ounce bottles, I divided the cost by 20 since each bottle of spices contains roughly 20 servings. The same goes for ingredients like sour cream and soy sauce which are also sold in larger quantities. I divided the total cost by roughly how much you’d need to execute each recipe.

Read moreBest Cheap Meal Delivery Services in 2022

How much does a meal kit service like EveryPlate cost?

EveryPlate is one of the cheapest meal kit services, with most plans clocking in at $5 a serving. For a meal plan for two people and three meals per week, it’s slightly more at $5.89 a serving. I used the costlier two-person plan to compare with the cost of buying your own groceries. There’s also a $9 flat shipping cost which I divided by the three meals. When it’s all said and done, EveryPlate will cost you $7.39 a serving. 

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EveryPlate is my favorite budget-friendly meal kit service and will run you about $7 a serving when you factor in shipping.


EveryPlate

How much meal kits would cost if you bought the groceries

Below is a breakdown of what two EveryPlate recipes would cost if you bought the groceries yourself.  These prices were calculated from FreshDirect in early April of 2022. I didn’t include the delivery fees for a grocery service or the cost of gas required to get yourself to and from the store. It’s also worth noting that the grocery prices listed below are significantly lower than what I find at my local markets in Brooklyn.

Smothered pork chops with home fries and carrots (2 servings)

  • Carrots (12 ounces): $1.50
  • Five Yukon gold potatoes: $1.50
  • One yellow onion: $0.90
  • Two scallions: $0.50
  • Two 5-ounce pork chops: $4.93
  • One packet of chicken stock concentrate: $0.60
  • Cayenne pepper: $0.20
  • Sour cream (2 ounces): $1.50

Total: $11.13

Cost per serving: $5.56

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EveryPlate offers roughly 15 meal kit recipes per week ranging from comfort classics to lean and healthy.


EveryPlate

Cherry meatballs with zucchini and garlic mashed potatoes (2 servings)

  • Five Yukon gold potatoes: $1.60
  • White bread (one slice): $0.50
  • One zucchini: $1.50
  • Ground beef (8 ounces): $3.50
  • Cherry jam (1 ounce): $0.85
  • Garlic powder: $0.10
  • Sour cream (2 ounces): $1.50
  • Soy sauce (1 ounce): $0.50

Total: $10.05

Cost per serving: $5.02

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I liked all the meals I tried when I tested EveryPlate, but the hoisin meatloaf was my favorite of the bunch.


David Watsky/CNET

How much more is a meal kit than buying groceries?

When compared to the cost of buying all the necessary groceries at the store, EveryPlate clocks in at around $2 more per serving. If you were to pick one of the plans with servings for four, it would be more like $1 more. So, it’s pretty much a wash.

At the end of the day, it’s convenience you’re paying a little extra for. But if you choose a budget-friendly service such as EveryPlate or Dinnerly, that little extra turns out to be barely anything at all. 

Read more: EveryPlate Review: See How the Cheapest Meal Kit Service Holds Up in a Test

What about the environmental cost, packaging and waste?

There’s no doubt that meal kit services use more plastic than if you buy your own groceries. That said, the cheaper services have found ways to cut costs. In many cases, that means using less packaging. 

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The inside of a HelloFresh shipment with its mostly recyclable packaging. 


Shelby Brown/CNET

EveryPlate, for instance, is one of the most eco-friendly services I’ve tried. The company puts all its produce and other ingredients in a single cardboard box, whereas others individually package each ingredient, creating more waste. Most of the packaging, including the cooler box and ice packs are curbside recyclable. 

On the flip side, since meal kits generally give you exactly what you need for each meal and no more, you’re less likely to have food waste. Who hasn’t thrown out those last few ounces from a tub of sour cream or a couple of scallions you couldn’t find a use for before they wilted away?

What about other meal kit services?

EveryPlate is the cheapest meal kit service, along with Dinnerly The most expensive outfits — Sunbasket, Green Chef, Martha Stewart and Marley Spoon and Blue Apron — cost closer to $10 or $13 a serving. The added cost is generally due to premium ingredients like grass-fed beef and organic produce. With those, you’re going to find a bigger delta between the meal kit cost and what it would cost to make the meal at home. Services like HelloFresh and Home Chef fall somewhere in the middle with meal kits ranging from around $8 and $10 a serving.

Not interested in cooking at all? I tested all the top players to find the best prepared meal services in 2022.  

Even more on meal delivery 

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.

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