Does a meal prep service make sense for your budget?

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    Meal prep services have become more common over the past few years. Grocery delivery services increased dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic, when people restricted their travel outside the home. In addition to pure food delivery such as DoorDash or UberEats, more and more services were offered that delivered food packages. While these meal preparation services are not for everyone, they can be useful on certain budgets.

    What is a meal prep service?

    A meal prep service, sometimes called a meal kit, provides you with a set number of meals per week. You choose the number of meals and the meals you want and these will be delivered to your door. The ingredients are measured out in precise serving sizes, usually for one to four servings.

    It is common for meal packages to offer a certain number of “free” meals when you first sign up. The idea is that with less financial outlay, you can try the food service to see if it’s something that works for you.

    One thing to keep in mind is that these free meals don’t usually all come upfront. When you sign up for a 10 “free” meal offer, you will not only get 10 free meals. Instead, it can be a discount equal to 5 free meals for the first week, then 3 for the second week, and 2 for the third week.

    What are some popular meal preparation services?

    There are many, many meal preparation services out there. Each of these cooking utensil manufacturers have several characteristics, but sometimes they differ in some key areas. Here are some of the most common meal prep services:

    • Blue apron – At Blue Apron you have the choice between their signature recipes, wellness or vegetarian. You can also combine your recipes with their monthly wine subscription. The cost is $ 63 for three meals a week for two
    • Fresh – At Freshly you can choose between 4, 6, 8, 10 or 12 meals per week, each serving one meal for one person. Prices start at $ 8.49 per meal, 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 just $ 6.99 per serving. You can also find Home Chef meal packages at select Kroger grocery stores across the country.
    • Hello Fresh – HelloFresh offers over 27 fresh recipes every week created by chefs and nutritionists. Prices start at $ 7.49 per serving, and you can easily swap, skip, or pause your order at any time

    When does a meal prep service make sense?

    While a meal set or meal prep service can be more expensive than cooking at home, it can make financial sense for some people. If you find that you are eating most of your meals in restaurants, a meal prep service can save you a lot of money.

    The best way to find out if a meal prep service makes sense for you is to take a look at your current meal budget. How much money do you spend on groceries each week or month? Is this mainly spent on groceries, single meal deliveries, or restaurants? Track your expenses with a tool like Mint to find out where your money is going now.

    Then you can check out a few different meal prep kits and their prices to see if this makes sense for your budget. Keep in mind that many of these companies have introductory pricing so you may even be able to try a few options to find one that works for you. Another thing to remember is that some of the meals may be large enough to serve as a leftover lunch the next day as well, further reducing your cost per meal.

    The bottom line

    Using a meal prep service can be more expensive than buying your own food and cooking it at home. But if your cooking skills, time, or energy don’t allow this luxury right now, using meal sets can be cheaper and healthier than ordering a delivery or eating out at restaurants. You may even find that meal kit preparation is a great first step in becoming more confident about preparing your own meals.

    Author's photo

    Dan Miller (75 posts)

    Dan Miller is a freelance writer and founder of PointsWithACrew.com, a website that helps families travel for free / cheap. His home base is in Cincinnati, but he tries to travel the world as much as possible with his wife and 6 children.

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