(A reader notes that the banner ad accompanying my last posting on the subject was an ad for Martha Stewart's Meal Kits, which is ironic, considering my stance on Meal Kits and Martha Stewart!).
Here are the ingredients from the Blue Apron site, for the Seared Chicken and Pasta Salad. Boy, that sounds a lot more fancy than cooked chicken and boiled pasta, don't it? But that is what it is, really.
Total cost for two servings: $20
Parsley runs about 98 cents a bunch. You should be buying this, along with garlic, every week anyway. Note that for this recipe for two people, you likely will use only half a bunch, but lets' say a whole bunch, just to be fair.
Capers run about $2.98 for a 3-ounce jar. That's about 85 cents an ounce. One ounce is a little over three tablespoons of capers. So we're looking at 26 cents of capers.
Butter runs about $3.58 a pound at Wal-Mart for Land-O-Lakes. We tend to use "Great Value" brand ourselves. That's 22.4 cents an ounce for the name-brand. A tablespoon is about 14.2 grams or 0.5 ounces or about 11.2 cents.
So what is our total?
Total Cost for two servings: $9.11
As you can see, the savings are at least 50% if not more. Is this a lot of money? Yes, it can be, over time. Like a $3 Starbucks drink (or worse, a $5 one) it adds up. If you spend $20 on a meal for two, three times a week, that comes to $60, or $30 (at least) more than you would have spent at the grocery store. That comes to $1040 a year, which over 30 years at a paltry 5% interest, could be $108,826.83 in your retirement account - or enough to retire a two or three years early, which you may be forced to do later in life.
"But Bob!" you say, "This saves me a trip to the grocery store and I'm so busy!" Well, first of all, you aren't all that busy, you just watch too much television. Second of all, you go to the grocery store anyway, so what's the big deal? You just have to buy a few more items - it takes 10-15 minutes tops.
The real deal is, of course, that people can't figure out what it is they need at the grocery store - they basically can't take care of themselves. They are super-busy at a $100,000-a-year job, but they can't plan a meal and make a grocery list. They are helpless as kittens. And when you are helpless, you will get fleeced, financially, over and over again in life.
So take five minutes out of one day a week and make a meal plan and a grocery list. This analysis was just for three meals a week, the basic "plan" of Blue Apron. Think about the savings if you made most of your meals at home - and ate out at restaurants far less. You'd have hundreds of thousands in your retirement plan.
Note that I am being generous on pricing here. If you buy in bulk, seek out bargains, you may be able to halve this cost. We find that "store brand" butter is just fine, as are a lot of other "off-brand" items.
Note also that once you start cooking at home, a lot of these "ingredients" will always be in your pantry, so you don't have to "shop" for them. And if you are missing an ingredient, you can improvise with what is at hand. Real cooking is based on making something from what is at hand, not finding a list of ingredients and making a "recipe". French Cuisine - indeed most cuisine - was based on making something from ingredients, often cheap ingredients, that people had on hand. That's why they perfected sauces.
Sadly, most people don't see this. They see $60 a week as "not a lot of money" and think about the bill at the restaurant they ate at last week. Hey, three meals for the price of one restaurant meal! Such a deal, right? It is the same sort of ersatz mathematics that people use to lease cars. Hey, for the price of buying a Camry, I can lease a Lexus! This has to be a better deal, right?
Wrong. When you look at the overall costs of the transaction, and the costs over time, it adds up. And a lot of people who think they are "making good money" and thus "can afford it" will find out, later in life, that that six-figure paycheck was a fleeting thing, and once they round the bend on age 50, no one wants or needs their antiquated job skills.
By then, it is too late to think, "Gee, I wish I hadn't blown money on stupid things like meal kits!"
Way too late.
UPDATE: Some might argue, "Well, I'm really rich and I can afford meal kits!" And maybe this is so, although if you were really rich, you could afford your own live-in Chef and you don't soil your hands with "meal kits." The point is, few people can really afford to squander this much money, so the idea of meal kits being "The Next Big Thing!" is a little overstated. There are only so many clueless upper-middle-class people who think they can afford this, and no barriers to entry in this marketplace. In addition to Blue Apron, we have good old Martha Stewart, and now Amazon throwing its hat in the ring. Before you invest in stock in these things, ask yourself, how many meal kit companies can the market support? Not that many, to be sure!