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With Inflation, Are Meal Kits Any More Expensive Than Buying the Groceries?

I did the math and the final figures may surprise you.

assorted ingredients including salmon and vegetables
Meal kits are the pricey service they once were.
Blue Apron

Ask any Joe or Jane off the street what the biggest downside of meal kit delivery is and most will probably tell you it's the cost. The exception may be some who actually uses meal kits since it turns out the convenient cooking concept isn't quite the pricey endeavor it once was. I've reviewed nearly all of the top meal services available in 2022. In doing so, I noticed that meal kits have gotten markedly cheaper than when they first hit the scene. That got me wondering if the most budget-friendly meal kit services were even any more expensive than buying the groceries yourself in a store.

The biggest draw for meal kits has always been convenience. But they're also a great way to learn new recipes, ingredients and cooking techniques. But now, with steady inflation and rising grocery and gas costs, meal kits might even be a way to save money if you factor in the fuel it takes to get to and from the store.

packaged ingredients for a meatloaf meal on cutting board with recipe card

All the ingredients to make a tangy hoisin pork meatloaf.

David Watsky/CNET

I priced out the cost of EveryPlate, my favorite cheap meal kit service, versus the cost of groceries needed to make two EveryPlate recipes. The difference was about a buck and probably closer to even if you factor in gas. Here's how I got those numbers and what I learned about meal kit costs in 2022. 

Meal kit vs. grocery store


EveryPlate (meals for 2) EveryPlate (meals for 4) Groceries bought at the store
Cost per serving $7.39 $6.50 $5.26

How expensive are meal kits compared to buying groceries?

If you've wondered exactly much more expensive meal kits are compared with shopping for all the groceries yourself, I've done the math. While some meal kit services are still comfortably in the splurge category -- Sunbasket and Green Chef to name two -- the cheapest meal kits clock in at just $5 per 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 splurge may be more of a myth than reality in 2022.

How I got these numbers

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 that are also sold in larger quantities. I divided the total cost by roughly how much you'd need to execute each recipe.

Read moreBest Cheap Meal Delivery Services in 2022

How much does a meal kit service like EveryPlate cost?

EveryPlate is one of the cheapest meal kit services, with most plans at about $5 a serving. For a meal plan for two people and three meals per week, it's slightly more at $5.89 a serving. I used the costlier two-person plan to compare with the cost of buying your own groceries. 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 $7.39 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.

EveryPlate

How much meal kits would cost if you bought the groceries

Below is a breakdown of what two EveryPlate recipes would cost if you bought the groceries yourself. These prices were calculated from FreshDirect in early April of 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 home fries 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 (2 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.

EveryPlate

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

  • Five Yukon gold potatoes: $1.60
  • White bread (one slice): $0.50
  • One zucchini: $1.50
  • Ground beef (8 ounces): $3.50
  • Cherry jam (1 ounce): $0.85
  • Garlic powder: $0.10
  • Sour cream (2 ounces): $1.50
  • Soy sauce (1 ounce): $0.50

Total: $10.05

Cost per serving: $5.02

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 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. 

Read more: EveryPlate Review: See How the Cheapest Meal Kit Service Holds Up in a Test

What about the environmental cost, packaging and waste?

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. 

hello fresh packaged meals inside box

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

Shelby Brown/CNET

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 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 outfits -- Sunbasket, Green Chef and Martha Stewart and Marley Spoon -- cost closer to $10 or $13 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 from around $8 and $10 a serving.

Not interested in cooking at all? I tested all the top players to find the best prepared meal services in 2022

Even more money-saving intel

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.