Do Meal Delivery Services Save Money? Staff
Paying the bill
Your average grocery store is a wonderland of deals, snacks, and processed foods where it’s always just the right temperature. It’s easy to lose yourself strolling the aisles, adrift in a sea of options and ingredients from the mundane to the unpronounceable, the organic to the twinkie.

With all of that bounty one problem looms large—how do you stick to your budget? You can save money in all kinds of ways, from purchasing grocery-store brands to downloading money-saving apps

Still, buying the right amount of groceries for your household is a challenge. If you live alone this can create its own unique headaches, and if you’re feeding a family of 4 or more, it can feel like a science of its own. 

All My Single Shoppers 

If you’re grocery shopping for one, the start of the week may bring inspiration and kitchen ambition, followed at the end of the week by stale bread and wilted vegetables you never got around to washing, let alone eating.

Another problem with cooking for one is that if you’re making a more unique recipe, you’ll find yourself having to buy bottles of ingredients for something you may just make once. Take for instance the General Tso’s Chicken from Home Chef. The ingredients list includes sriracha sauce among a list of more common items. Chances are you don’t have any sriracha sauce in the cupboard and you might be less likely to try out a recipe if it means you have to buy whole containers of ingredients you’ve never worked with and aren’t sure you’ll use again anytime soon. 

With the best meal delivery service, you get the recipe for the meal kit and the ingredients for the General Tso’s Chicken, including the exact, portioned amount of sriracha, no more, no less. 

That dish with Home Chef—and with most meal kit companies—will cost around $9.99 per serving. Chances are you could find a dish like that at an asian takeaway place near your house, but it’d probably cost a few dollars more (even without a tip for the delivery guy) and you wouldn’t get the satisfaction of creating something in your own home. If you bought all the ingredients at the grocery store—especially if you didn’t have some of the seasonings and sauces at home—it would cost you significantly more. 

And when it comes to fish-based meals—the ones centered on sustainably-caught salmon and fresh shrimp, the cost per serving from a meal kit company on their best cheap meal delivery service is significantly cheaper than what you’d pay at any restaurant you’d want to order fish or seafood from. 

Feeding the Family—Nobody Said It’d Be Easy 

When you’re buying groceries for a family of 4 or more, you can really take advantage of the deals at your neighborhood supermarket. This can mean buying “family size” boxes of cereal, a few extra pounds of ground beef, or those giant jars of mayonnaise that seem to have been created for a future race of colossal humanoids who will subsist solely off lunch meat and tuna salad.

On the other hand, when cooking for a family most of us have our hearty, simple go-to recipes that we cycle through each week. This keeps things economical and predictable (no small thing when you have kids) but it can also mean sinking into the monotony of your recipe arsenal, and the salvos of spaghetti and meatballs and chicken and rice with carrots that mark your at-home meals.

Spaghetti and meatballs

If you’d like to make things more interesting while cooking for your family, then purchasing premium and exotic ingredients in large amounts can be expensive and you may find yourself better off saving that special dish for the next time you go out to eat. A meal kit can help solve this problem so that you can enjoy gourmet meals without the cost of eating out with the whole family. 

Most meal kit companies today offer special family meal plans. There are often fewer family recipe options per week, and they are a little less adventurous than the recipes for couples and singles. The focus is usually on hearty, kid-friendly meals that can be cooked in a single pot—and leave some leftovers for later. 

With the family plan menus, the meals tend to have a lower serving cost as well. HelloFresh prices are one of the lowest in the industry, you can order the family plan, which comes out to only $7.89 per serving for 2-3 recipes for 4 people per week. All shipping is included. The family plan includes 5 meals per week, with dishes like Teriyaki Chicken Stir-Fry, Parmesan Chicken Dippers, and Crispy Pork Milanese to name a few. 

Sun Basket - a meal kit company known for using only organic ingredients and also one of the best meal delivery service for vegetarians - features a family menu that offers 6 family-friendly recipes to pick from each week. These meals cost $10.99 per serving, with a $6.99 shipping cost per order. A look at just one week’s offerings includes Ginger Sesame Chicken with Sugar Snap Peas and Red Rice and Turkish Lamb Kofte.

Say Goodbye to Fast Food

Fast food is the fallback of countless singles and parents who find it hard to say no to the convenience. At the end of a long day of work, ordering a pizza or hitting the drive-thru is a quick, affordable way to get a filling meal, but it has its drawbacks. Fast food can be unhealthy and monotonous, and if you’d like to incorporate more healthy ingredients into your diet, then cooking dinner at home can get you there.

If you’re cooking for one or for the whole family, a meal kit plan can be a smart way to incorporate healthy, unique, and fun recipes into your weekly repertoire—and even save a little money with the along the way. 

Shipping - Who Includes It?

One factor that can really make a difference when choosing a meal kit company is the shipping cost. The shipping costs range from around $6.99 to $9.99 or more per order, basically the same price as a meal serving. 

Meal kit packaging

With many companies, the shipping cost is waived if your overall order is above a certain total. For instance, with Plated, shipping costs $7.95 per order, but is free if you order more than $60. With Home Chef the shipping is free if your order exceeds $45. 

With HelloFresh on the other hand, all shipping is free - no matter how much you order. While with Sun Basket, the shipping isn’t waived with a minimum order amount. 

If you’re ordering for yourself, it may be difficult to hit that order minimum, but by doing so, the savings on shipping could offset your delivery costs. 

If you’re ordering for a family of four, you should be able to exceed the minimum order no problem. 

So, Where Do I Sign Up?

A meal kit is one of the more enjoyable and convenient ways to improve your home cooking and eat healthier. It can also be a more economical way to eat—for singles or families—depending on what you order and how often. 

Most meal kit companies offer special introductory discounts so try out a few options until you find the one that’s best for you, and see how it can take your home cooking to new, uncharted territory. Staff's editorial staff is a professional team of editors, writers and experts with dozens of years of experience covering consumer, financial and business products and services.