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Do Meal-Prep Plans Make Financial Sense?
There are many choices in the meal-prep delivery market, companies that deliver everything you need to make dinner directly to your door. These plans can provide a number of benefits, including:
Portion control. If you are a couple, for example, you receive only enough ingredients to make dinner for two. So if you are the type who is tempted to finish off that pan of lasagna, you will have less temptation.
Time savings. If you don’t have to shop for food, you don’t have to go to the grocery store, walk down the aisles, put things in the cart, check out, take the groceries to your car, drive home and haul them inside. Of course you probably will have to go to the grocery store occasionally, but your time spent food shopping should be greatly reduced. And once you start cooking, everything is pre-measured and often pre-chopped, so that also saves you time.
Stress reduction. No longer do you have to try to decide what to make for dinner on your way home from work. You choose your menu ahead of time, and you can start cooking as soon as you get home.
Variety. Many of the meal plans offer a variety of selections, which means you can try new recipes easily.
But do all these advantages come at a price? It depends, experts say.
First, it depends on how you get dinner if you don’t use a service. If you cook everything from scratch, it is very likely that you will spend less buying and preparing the ingredients yourself than you will pay for the meal-prep package. The least expensive plans run about $10 per person, which is more than you probably usually spend on a homemade dinner – especially if you end up with leftovers that you can eat on another night.
On the other hand, if your default plan is to go out to eat, you probably will pay more in a restaurant for a meal comparable to the one you would receive from the meal-prep plan.
Several studies have shown that at least some of the services can be very close to the cost of shopping for the ingredients yourself. There are several things that can make the meal plans more cost-effective.
For example, meal plans might save you money because there is less waste. Have you ever wanted to make a recipe that called for an ingredient or a spice that you don’t normally use, and then you ended up having to buy more of that ingredient than you needed for the recipe because that’s how it’s packaged at the store? That doesn’t happen with the meal plans. If you need six cherry tomatoes or ½ teaspoon of cumin, that’s what you get.
In addition, when you are comparing costs, be sure your comparison is fair. Most meal plans tout the quality of the ingredients they use. So, for example, if the meal plan provides you with gourmet shaved parmesan, you cannot compare that to the cost of the parmesan in the familiar green container.
Meal-prep plans can vary significantly in terms of price and meal options. Many also have introductory discounts. If you are interested, take some time to compare the plans based on price, but also on how easy it is to stop the service and how appealing the meal choices are to you. If you find one you like, you could try it for a while and see if you notice a difference in your grocery bill.