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Is a meal preparation service a good deal?

Easy Meal Prep Association and Meal Assembly Directory

I’m looking for ways to live cheaper. I got a tip in the comments of another blog to check out a Meal Preparatory business. The link above is a directory of these kinds of businesses.

In case you aren’t familiar with the concept, the way it works is that you sign up for a session, choose the meals you want to make from that month’s menu, then go an prepare the meals in their store. They provide all the food, preparation utensils, storage containers, instructions, and a workspace. That saves you from having to go to the grocery store (as often) and spend a lot of time figuring out how much to buy of what, and getting the proportions right.

The idea is that you are taking advantage of the bulk savings the service is getting, as well as saving yourself some time. It looks like you can get through a session in about 2 hours, and come out with at least 40 servings (which in my house would be about 12-15 dinners, depending on how hungry I am). Try to create the same 15 dinners on your own and once you figure in shopping and preparation time you’re easily hitting 6 hours of time, conservatively.

I found a couple of these services in my area and looked at their websites. They both came out at about $200 for 42 servings, give or take, which is a little under $5 per serving. On Dream Dinners, though, you save some serious bucks the more servings you buy. For 96 servings, for example, my choices came to $340 (or $3.54/serving) – which is about a $120 savings.

Now, 96 servings will pretty much set me up with dinners for an entire month, as well as a number of leftover lunches, I would think. On the surface, this strikes me as a good deal. After all, I’m spending somewhere around $400-500 a month for groceries lately, so $340 is appealing. I did a pretty good sales job for this idea on my wife as well. I think I’ve got her willing to do it.

But something continued to nag at me about it. I think I finally figured out what it is.

Where the heck am I going to store 30 days worth of meals!?! Seriously… I’d have to buy a freezer just for that purpose! Aside from the initial cost of the freezer, that’s gotta add to the electric bill, too. That’s crazy. Even 15 days of meals is probably more than my current freezer could handle (after all, I still gotta have room for the ice cream, right?). Plus, what you get here is the entrees, not the drinks, salads, desserts, etc., so you still have to pick them up at the grocery store, and that’s gonna eat into what you’re saving (pun not intended). Besides, a good chunk of my grocery cost these days is tied up in baby food and formula, and this service doesn’t make a dent there.

Even so, I still think there is a place for these services, and I’d be willing to bet that with some flexibility on order quantity I could most likely come out ahead and not have to purchase another major appliance. But it’s probably not something we could use at this point. Maybe in a few years.

[tags]meal preparation, Dream Dinners, cooking, frugal, personal finance, living cheaply, eating in, groceries[/tags]

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