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Are Meal Kits Actually Cheaper Than Grocery Shopping? I Did the Math

Meal kit companies claim you'll save money with a subscription versus buying the same groceries. We crunched the numbers to find out.

David Watsky Senior Editor / Home and Kitchen
David lives in Brooklyn where he's spent more than a decade covering all things edible, including meal kit services, food subscriptions, kitchen tools and cooking tips. Since earning a BA in English from Northeastern in Boston, he's toiled in nearly every aspect of the food business, including as a line cook in Rhode Island where he once made a steak sandwich for Lamar Odom. Right now, he's likely somewhere stress-testing a blender or researching the best way to make bacon. Anything with sesame is his all-time favorite food this week.
Expertise Kitchen tools, appliances, food science, subscriptions and meal kits.
David Watsky
5 min read
every plate meal kit

Meal kit services aren't the pricey offerings they once were, and EveryPlate is proof. 


Meal kits are often thought of as an expensive alternative to grocery shopping yourself and cooking from scratch, but the price per meal for most services has come down since they launched more than 10 years ago. You can find budget-friendly meal delivery services for as little as $5 a serving -- less if you sign up for a promo offer. That has us wondering: Is a meal kit subscription cheaper than a trip to the grocery store to buy all the same ingredients?

Popular meal kit services such as EveryPlateBlue Apron and HelloFresh claim in their marketing materials that you'll save using meal kits. To find out, we priced out two meal kits from EveryPlate versus the same groceries needed to make those meals, purchased from a midrange grocery store.

While grocery shopping turned out to be a hair cheaper than even the cheapest meal kits, it's nearly even. If you consider the time and energy you save by forgoing long trips to the supermarket, meal kits might present the better value. 

Here's how I got these numbers and what I learned about meal kit cost and value. 

Meal kit vs. grocery store

EveryPlate (meals for 2)EveryPlate (meals for 4)Groceries bought at the store
Cost per serving $7.48$6.50$5.44

Are meal kits more expensive than buying groceries?

If you've wondered exactly how much more expensive meal kits are compared with shopping for all the groceries yourself, I've done the math. While some meal kit services such as Sunbasket and Green Chef are still a proper splurge, the cheapest meal kits clock in at around $5 or $6 a serving.

After calculating the difference in cost between shopping for groceries and ordering meal kits for two recipes offered by my favorite budget-friendly meal kit service, EveryPlate, just a measly dollar separates the two approaches to dinner. The perception of meal kits as pricey date night splurges may be more of a myth than reality.

How I did the math

To calculate the cost of meal kits versus 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.

How much does a meal kit service like EveryPlate cost?

EveryPlate is one of the cheapest meal kit services. Most plans come in at about $5 to $8 a serving. For a meal plan for two people and three meals per week, it's slightly more at $5.99 a serving. I used the costlier two-person plan to compare with the cost of buying the groceries yourself. 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 $7.48 a serving for a two-person plan. Choose meals for four and it will cost just $6.50 per serving. 

web page to select a plan between people and meals per week

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


How much meal kits cost if you buy the groceries yourself

Below is a breakdown of what two EveryPlate recipes would cost if you bought the groceries yourself. These prices were calculated from FreshDirect in April 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 potatoes 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 (4 ounces): $1.50

Total: $11.13

Cost per serving: $5.56

everyplate's flexible weekend menu showing three dishes

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


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

  • Five Yukon gold potatoes: $1.60
  • White bread (two slices): $0.50
  • One zucchini: $1.50
  • Ground beef (8 ounces): $4.30
  • Cherry jam (1 ounce): $0.85
  • Garlic powder: $0.10
  • Sour cream (4 ounces): $1.50
  • Soy sauce (1 ounce): $0.50

Total: $10.85

Cost per serving: $5.42

hoisin meatloaf with potatoes and zucchini

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 the 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. 

What about the environmental cost, packaging and waste?

hello fresh packaged meals inside box

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

Shelby Brown/CNET

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. 

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 all 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 meal kits -- Sunbasket, Green Chef and Martha Stewart and Marley Spoon -- cost closer to $13 or $14 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, Blue Apron and Home Chef fall somewhere in the middle with meal kits ranging around $9 and $10 a serving.

Editor's note: This analysis was done in 2022. Some meal and grocery prices may have changed since then.

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.