Is buying groceries still the cheapest meal plan?

With food prices rising, are consumers better off using a meal kit instead of buying groceries? Jillian Code reports on what consumers should consider when looking at their meal plan

Grocery prices have been climbing steadily in Canada, to the point where — for some foods — it may be cheaper to go to a restaurant than to eat at home. But there isn’t a one-size-fits-all option that applies to everyone.

Moshe Lander, professor of economics at Concordia University, says it depends on who you are and how you live.

“If you are trying to feed a family, it’s probably a different calculation than if you’re living by yourself. And it also depends on what you do for a living and how you value your time,” Lander said.

Three meals for two people from a meal kit can cost anywhere from just under $60 to just over $80. Shopping at a grocery store for a similar amount of food can save you a bit of money.

Buying enough ingredients for three meals for two people — a chicken and potato dinner, for example — can cost up to $40 at the grocery store, assuming you already have the necessary seasonings and spices. If not, it can cost you roughly just under what a pre-portioned meal kit would for the same amount of meals. Meanwhile, a single chicken dinner from a restaurant can cost anywhere from $18 to $28.

However, Lander explains that comparisons based solely on food prices don’t paint the full picture of the dilemma.

“It’s not just the time that you’re saving in terms of prep and things like that, think about how much food spoils? When you shop, how do you shop?”


He says when deciding if homemade or pre-made food is the right fit, consumers need to think about how much they value their time, if they enjoy cooking or not, and how much they despise cleaning up.

“But the fact is, is that if you’re going to be miserable doing it, isn’t it better to let somebody come set the table, put the food in front of you, take it away, and all you have to do is tack on 18 per cent tip?” Lander said.

Lander admits there is no correct answer on how to find a balance between saving money and saving time.

He adds keeping an eye out for sales at the grocery store, switching between meal kit companies who are offering massive discounts at different times, and paying attention to restaurant deals can help save you the most money long term.

“You like to eat out sushi once every couple of weeks? Do you have to go on Friday and Saturday when they’re charging premium prices? Or can you go in the week when you can save five bucks here, 10 bucks there.”

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