Budgeting with Meal Delivery Services

It's easy to fall into the takeout food trap. No matter if you're a young professional or a head of household, most work-life schedules leave little time for whipping up homemade meals. It comes as no surprise the explosive popularity of subscription food services that offer the finished product of a "homemade meal," without the hassle of meal planning and grocery shopping. But with convenience comes cost. When it comes to budgeting for food, see how these new startups stack up.

 

How Meal Delivery Services Work

Meal delivery companies, like Blue Apron, Plated and Sun Basket, offer subscription plans. For example, as of 2015, Blue Apron offers a two-person plan with three meals a week and a family plan that serves four people with two meals a week. 

 

Deliveries are made in refrigerated boxes once a week on your selected day. Everything from meats to veggies to spices is included, along with cooking instructions and recipes. Calorie counts per serving are also provided. If you want to skip a week, simply log in to your account on the company's website to make the change.

 

Save Time and Enjoy Fresh, Healthy Ingredients

Meal services do all the shopping for you, saving valuable time that could be devoted to family or going to the gym. To sign up, fill out an online questionnaire outlining your food likes, dislikes and any allergies you may have. Let the company know if you are vegan, vegetarian or prefer gluten-free foods. 

 

Blue Apron, Plated and Sun Basket all use ingredients from local farms and buy organic products whenever possible. For example, West Coast-based Sun Basket uses pasture-fed meats, sustainable seafood sources and organic produce free of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

 

How Do They Compare?

If you personally traveled to local farms and vendors to pick out all the fresh ingredients for your meal, it would cost you time and money. Meal delivery services buy in bulk from trusted vendors. 

 

Subscription prices, as of 2015, for Blue Apron's two-person plan delivered three times per week runs roughly $10 per meal. The four-person family plan with two meals per week is just under $9 per meal. 

 

Plated's subscriptions start at $12 per meal, and Sun Basket's at $11.49 per meal. And, since you won't be wandering around the grocery store shopping, there's less chance you'll impulsively spend money on unhealthy foods.

 

Meal Delivery Services vs. Take-Out — Savings Potential 

Using meal delivery services a few days a week instead of ordering take-out food can save you money. Consider Blue Apron and their three-day, two-person plan, which runs $20.00 per day. Compare that to ordering pizza, which can cost $25.00 or more for two people. 

 

Stopping at your local Chinese place can easily top $30.00 for two people if you load up on your favorites. You can easily save $5.00 to $10.00 per day, even more, on those days you elect to cook and eat in. Even if you calculate the lower end of that savings amount, that's $15.00 per week, or $780.00 per year.

 

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