There are a lot of lofty things said when it comes to meal plans versus grocery shopping. Depending on which side of the fence people sit on they can often present their own opinions as solidified facts.
With all these personal opinions plaguing the internet, how can we know if meal plans are cheaper than groceries?
Well, because thankfully there are some real grocery sleuths who have done our homework for us and worked out the numbers ahead of time.
But outside of the price, there are several factors that go into this debate including convenience, time investment, food waste, and much more.
By the end of this article, you will be able to debunk the myths surrounding these controversial topics and know exactly what is factual and accurate!
Technically speaking, there are two different definitions for the same word.
The first is a comprehensive list of what you can and can’t eat throughout the week that measures what you should eat, what recipes to make, and how to eliminate bad eating habits as well as wasted groceries.
This is as easy as writing out a plan of action for the grocery store and your daily dinners and following it throughout the week.
The second is what is known as a meal plan service or a meal kit.
These are going to run a bit more pricey considering the cost of delivery, ingredients and whatever mark up in price the company deems appropriate.
The benefit of these services is that you no longer have to worry about food products when grocery shopping and typically speaking the cooking process is written out, portioned, and very convenient.
These meal plans can be beneficial for you in a number of ways. If you are someone who likes their food delivered or you typically stop on the way home for takeout, meal planning is beneficial.
You will save a few bucks at the end of the week and probably eat far healthier as well.
The same can be said for someone who buys a trunk full of groceries only to see a lot of the products go to waste as the week carries on.
Planning out your recipes and meals for the week can cut down on wasted food and ultimately save you quite a bit on food as you are not spending frivolously on items that will only expire later on.
This will also eliminate clutter in your kitchen when you realize you have a fridge full of expired foods, sauces, and leftovers taking up space on your shelves.
If you are trying to clean up your diet a bit, then meal planning is also incredibly useful. You can monitor everything you put into your body before you even start cooking up the meals.
This control and accountability for what we are eating are why so many people like writing out the ingredients and recipes they will go shopping for ahead of time. If any of this hits home for you, meal planning may be a good idea for your meals moving forward!
As I said earlier, there are several misconceptions that go along with meal plans, especially when compared with groceries. The problem lies in the fact that everyone shops differently and depending on how efficient you are could really decide how effective meal planning really is.
If you give an experienced home cook a hundred dollars and a grocery cart, they will probably buy more effectively than a college student who is on a strict diet of pizza hut and fast food.
Whether you are writing out your groceries for the week or going through meal services, there is no way to get around the fact you are effectively using your time.
By writing out exactly what you need for the week and sticking to a few familiar recipes you are really cutting down on the amount of time you are spending preparing and buying food.
You will trim the time you spend in the grocery store when you have ten to fifteen things written down instead of slowly combing through every aisle like a voracious reader in a well-stocked library.
You will also cut down on your pre-meal ponder where you check your pantry, fridge, and freezer compulsively three to five times before settling on a frozen dinner.
Then when you do finally cook it will be something you have the recipe for and are familiar and comfortable with making.
Before you run off to fetch your trusty torch and pitchfork give me a chance to explain myself a bit. Now, if you are someone who buys a lot of groceries and can never seem to use all of them then a meal plan will certainly benefit your bank account.
However, anyone who has been tight on cash in their younger days knows that you can survive a week on ten dollars worth of ramen and tap water.
I don’t recommend you do that, that much sodium could take out most elephants, but the point is there.
How much money you spend on either meal plans or groceries is completely situational and changes from person to person. But to say that one is more or less expensive than the other is a subjective opinion at best and also missing the point a bit.
These plans can be changed and altered to fit what you are looking for, if you wanted to make a meal plan that is centered around saving money, you could.
If you want to make a meal plan that is gonna offer enough protein to have your quadriceps looking like they were carved by Michelangelo, you can do that as well. These plans are specific to your needs, so each one may vary!
If we treated expired food with the same respect that we did people I would have a decent-sized graveyard of dairy and poultry products in my backyard.
Meal planning can very effectively reduce this problem to a passing memory rather than an unfortunate morning realization. By utilizing every ingredient you buy in a recipe you have written out it becomes very difficult to waste food if you are diligent in your daily meals.
The food waste problem arises in meal planning when you get complacent or lazy in the week. If you start returning to old habits of getting food delivered, eating on the way home, or even going out with friends for a few drinks and dinner, you may start to notice a mossy theme in your food.
But if you can stay strong when your coworkers hit happy hour, then you will not only notice it in your checking account but also in your fridge when you don’t have to throw out any of the food you purchased!
With the cost of delivery, ingredients, and even subscriptions you may be left thinking that meal kits are for the wealthy elite of our society and have no place in the home of the less luxurious.
You would be forgiven for thinking that, but actually, while they do tend to cost a bit more than groceries it isn’t as steep as you would imagine. Most meal planning services can actually prove pretty cost-effective depending on your area and what foods you are buying.
If you are someone who enjoys a simpler life and lives miles away from the nearest city, the cost of gas might actually bump up the price of groceries to cost more than a meal planning service.
Also, if you are cooking the same dish found on one of these services the cost of buying every ingredient may actually prove to be more when you have to purchase bigger portions.
The excess ingredients can also result in quite a bit of leftover groceries if you have more than you need for certain items.
So while you may actually be getting more per serving by purchasing things at the grocery store, if you never get around to using all of it you are spending more money on things you won’t need than if you would have just gotten a meal plan service.
So the next time you immediately write off these helpful options, it may benefit you to take and look and see if they fall in line with your lifestyle!
Unfortunately, when it comes to meal plans, groceries, and meal kit services there is no one size fits all option available. While articles like this may help you decide what you need, at times you may need to do a bit of research that is personal to your own situation.
Regardless, meal planning can be a valuable tool to save a bit of money and cut a few calories out of your dinner!