Is a Meal Subscription Service Budget-Friendly?

I've always been pretty budget-conscious, especially when it comes to one of our family's largest expenses: food. Food costs have gone up since the late 90's when we first got married and I started paying attention to a grocery budget, and our life has changed a lot in the past two decades since we've established our family. If you are like me, you get ads and coupons and bloggers/influencers telling you all about meal subscription services. I often entertain the idea when I get those coupons for $100 off! or 17 free meals, could you be getting a break on your food budget by using them?  I'm breaking it down for you and helping you decide if a meal subscription service is worth it for your budget-conscious family.

meal subscription service budget friendly

Is a Meal Subscription Service Budget-Friendly?

budget meal subscription

I know not everyone has a set price per meal in mind when they feed their family. I always have but only because I have been mindful of our food budget. I shop sales, use coupons, stockpile, and buy food seasonally in order to keep our grocery costs down. I try to keep our family meals around $3-$5 per serving.

This is an OG post but it's got my 15 best tips for saving money at the grocery store and they are all still relevant!

So is a meal subscription budget-friendly? Not if you are looking at price per serving. The convenience factor is there, but meal subscriptions are not cheap, so if you are looking at a budget-friendly option {even with a sale!}, these are not! 

Let's break it down a bit.

Read the Fine Print

Getting a coupon for 17 free meals to Hello Fresh is enticing. I know because that's what made me start looking into a meal subscription service! Closer examination showed that you get $40 off the first week, $35 off the second, and then it continues to decrease until the sixth and final week when you get $5 off.  

I just clicked on a similar offer through Blue Apron and the fine print read "you agree you are purchasing a continuous subscription and will receive weekly deliveries billed to your designated payment method"

Before your sign up for any meal subscription service, no matter how enticing the deal, make sure you read the fine print!


Calculate Price per Serving

It's important to do the math. Sometimes it just feels like one extra step. If you are tracking your spending like I recommend here, it will be easy for you to pull up what you spend each month on food and at the grocery store. 

**Don't forget to add to your calculations any of your family's meals when dining out if you want to get an accurate idea of how much you spend each month on food.

You won't be able to compare apples to apples to your grocery/food spending with what it would cost for a meal subscription because you'll still need to spend money on food even on a subscription service, but you can get an idea of how much you are currently spending per person per meal if you look at your budget.

**If you want to skip this step, the least you can do is to look at the price per serving for the meal subscription service you are interested in. 

This might mean you have to sign up and create accounts with the meal subscription service before you are privy to some of the cost information. 

These rates will vary per service, but most are based on meals per week and servings per meal. You'll also want to calculate the length of service you are agreeing to {remember that fine print up there!} before you can get an accurate price per serving number.

**Don't forget to calculate in shipping costs!

For example, for Hello Fresh, in order to get my 17 free meals, I'd need to sign up for six weeks of their meal subscription service. The first week, I'd be getting free shipping, and my total for 3 meals for the week for 4 people was $50.94. That ends up being about $17 per meal {divide by 3} or $4.25 per serving {divide by 4}. 

I have not used this service before, so I'm not sure if there will be leftovers that could be used for lunches, but I'm going to assume no. There is no option for 3 servings per meal with Hello Fresh. 

That said, if I recalculate and assume that there is enough food for my husband, me, and our teen son, that means the first week, the price per serving for my family in my particular situation would be $5.66 per serving.

By the end of the six weeks, with only a $5 off coupon, the total for 3 meals for the week for 4 people was $106.87, making it $35.62 per meal or about $9 per serving. Again, assuming we won't have leftovers, and since I'm only buying for our family of 3, the price per serving for our family is actually almost $12 per person! 

$12 per person is actually pretty steep when you are talking about a meal at home. You still have to cook it! I mean, our family could eat out or I could buy a ready-made meal from the grocery store for less than $12 per person.

Have I completely lost you yet??? 

I would have totally skimmed down to the next bold title if it were me because numbers are dumb, so here we are...

Some Pros to Using a Meal Subscription Service


No one can say it isn't convenient! You don't have to grocery shop and everything ends up on your doorstep. Easy as that!

Home Ec. 101

If meal planning isn't your thing, a meal subscription service could help jumpstart how you approach grocery shopping and meal planning. 

I've seen parents use meal subscription services as a way to get their teens and young adults comfortable in the kitchen. A meal subscription service could be a little help to get you over the hurdles you might be facing in the kitchen, and while you may spend more initially on the subscription if it helps to give you the skills you need to start feeling comfortable tackling family dinners at home more often, then it might be worth it.

Try Something New

A lot of us get into ruts in the kitchen. Trying a subscription service can help you get out of that rut. You get to keep the recipe that is sent to you, and you can add that to your weekly rotation even if you are now the one doing the grocery shopping!

** Did you know that you can get the recipes {and full instructions and tips on how to prepare the meals} without subscribing to the meal service? If you are simply looking to try something new, this might be the most economical option.

Healthier Options

If the choice is a meal subscription or eating out, a meal subscription is a healthier option. 



Is a Meal Subscription Budget-Friendly?


Meal subscription services are not budget-friendly. They often cost the same amount or more as what it would cost for you to take your family out to a restaurant but you are still having to do the cooking! If you are like me, every few months you'll get sucked into a new offer and want to think about trying a meal subscription. Just go back to this post and remind yourself that it's not your most budget-friendly option!

A meal subscription service is a luxury. Sometimes it's nice to do nice things for yourself, so I'm not telling you not to do it. I'm just telling you that it's not the cheapest thing you could be doing with your money!

Would I try a Meal Subscription Service?

Like I said, I often get tempted. I think I've looked into trying a service a few times. Here are the reasons I'd try one:

  • If I got into a cooking rut
  • As a date night idea
  • On vacation at a rental house 

I'd love to know what you think. Since I've never actually tried a meal service, maybe I don't know what I'm talking about! I'd love to hear your opinion! 

disclaimer: this post may have affiliate links. By clicking on them and purchasing through them, I may receive a small commission. These small purchases help me to continue to keep writing content and creating at Rachel Teodoro. Thank you!

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