Over the last four months, my wife and I have been using Blue Apron. For three meals a week, Blue Apron is $60. That makes those dinners $10 per person; compared to the average cost of a meal out, which according to Simple Dollar is $12.75, you’d save $2.75 per meal.
But is Blue Apron worth it?
Sure, it’s convenient to have meals sent to you in the mail. You don’t have to plan or think about what you want. It shows up. You cook it. Eat it. And then continue rewatching Buffy the Vampire Slayer on Netflix for the third time.
In a previous post, I covered whether I think BA is suitable for people on a fat loss plan. And though my wife and I have enjoyed Blue Apron, the question we receive from friends and family most often is: “Is it worth it?”
Yea. It’s totally worth getting rid of the headache of deciding what to eat. And the variety is nice. Plus, you’re eating fresh ingredients and organic/non-chemical/antibiotic free meat.
Still, when people ask “is it worth it?” they don’t care about the convenience. They want to know: is it worth my money?
I’m a giant nerd who will debate about the attack value in an RPG, or nerd out over who has better attack/defense numbers in Star Wars Epic Duels. So, for me, it made sense to break down a week of meals and see if Blue Apron *is* worth it.
Firstly, I need to cover some basic data points in regards to groceries and their cost. So you have to deal with a little math here. (sorry, not sorry)
Important Data You Don’t Want to Skip
According to the USDA, a family of two, like my wife and I, could spend anywhere from $90 a week, being as thrifty as possible, to upwards of $178 a week if we’re a bit more liberal with funds on groceries.
*Betcha didn’t know this: the numbers above are from July of 2014 and most of the time you’d adjust for inflation, but, 2016 saw the first drop in supermarket prices since 1967. So we’ll use 2014 prices as they’re probably pretty close.*
Instead of going super thrifty or full-hipster-Whole Foods-bourgeoise, let’s pick a number in the middle of the USDA’s range: $134 per week, or a total of $536 a month.
Sticking with the “per week” model, you’d eat 84 meals in four weeks. Divide your monthly grocery cost, $536, by 84, and you’d come out with a cost of $6.38 per meal. That’s HALF the cost of one meal out.
Two quick things:
- No, each meal isn’t going to cost you $6.38. Most likely, you eat the same thing(s) for breakfast and most of the time, lunch, each day. So those would cost you far less in a month. And dinner *tends* to be the more expensive meal for most people anyways.
- Yes, most months have 30 or 31 days. But most people shop “per week,” and weeks bleed over into months; don’t be a douche.
So here’s what we did.
My wife and I chose a week of meals that we really enjoyed.
Again, if you want to know my (overall) thoughts on Blue Apron’s meals, check out this post.
Now, since this article is a comparison of whether Blue Apron is as cost effective as buying meals at the grocery store, here’s a copy of our receipt.
There are three things you need to keep in mind when looking at the receipt above:
- We live in a fairly rural area of Georgia. So the prices at our local Kroger may vary depending on where you live. (And some things we purchased were on sale.)
- Specific ingredients that Blue Apron sends you may or may not be available in your area. Which means you’d need to buy basic versions of mushrooms/greens/peppers/etc
- Blue Apron sends you spices. So unless you raid your grandma/mom’s spice cabinet, you’re gonna have to buy some extra spices.
For three meals, our total came out to $62.75 (that’s when you delete the cost of Amy’s pizzas my wife bought and ignore sales tax). Divide that by three, and each meal comes out to $20.92, or $10.46 per person.
That number surprised me. That puts our meals just a few cents over the cost of Blue Apron.
Pennies on the Dollar
Now, this is where my third point above comes into play and affects the price.
Our spice cabinet is usually pretty full. And for the most part, we buy our spices in bulk at Sam’s Club and my wife makes her own blends. But we wanted to recreate these meals as the majority of people would.
That’s one of the great things about Blue Apron, though. They send you enough spices for *one* meal. So you don’t have to worry about having excess spices you’ll never use.
So let’s “assume” we already had fennel and didn’t need it. Subtract $3.99 from our total above, divide by six, and our meals come out to $9.79 per meal. (This would be your cost if you didn’t need to buy Olive Oil as well which you’ll need for any meal you cook with Blue Apron.)
Confession: when I had the idea to break the cost of Blue Apron down and buy three meals worth of food, I expected Blue Apron to cost at least a dollar or two more vs. the grocery store.
But 21 cents is NOTHING. That 21 cents will save you a ton of time in the grocery store, help prevent you from roaming the aisles and buying food you don’t need, and it will save you a ton of mental strain from having to choose “what to eat for the week.”
Compare that cost to eating out, and each person would save around $3 per meal.
Time or Money: What’s Worth More to You?
So far, Blue Apron has proven that it’s well worth it. Especially, if you eat out more than twice a week and would rather have those meals at home but stress out about “what to eat.”
But as I wrote this and dove into the numbers I was faced with one more question: if you stick with the $536 average for a family of two, is Blue Apron *worth* the monthly cost of $240, or 44.8% of your monthly budget.
You probably hated math class, that’s fine. Most people did. So all I will say is this: with the $296 you’d have left after the cost of Blue Apron, you’d be left with a cost of $4.11 per meal for the month. Leaving you with $74 a week for groceries.
So it’s not impossible for a family of two to pick up Blue Apron and stay within their budget for the rest of their meals. It means you’d have to either:
- Buy in bulk
- Eat the same breakfast/lunch each day
- Opt for frozen veggies over fresh
- Scour the sales ad before you plan your other meals for the week
But if you’re trying to eat out less and you want delicious meals that come in way under what a local restaurant would charge, and packed with fewer calories, then Blue Apron is a great substitute.
For the sanity of my wife, Blue Apron is worth it. She doesn’t have to think about what she wants for dinner three nights out of the week. If 21 cents is the difference between sanity and going crazy trying to be frugal as fuck, then that extra 21 cents per meal for Blue Apron is well worth it.