In our busy lives, we do what we can to save time, wherever possible. Meal kit delivery services like Blue Apron are known for their convenience. With meal delivery services, you can cut hours off your weekly to-dos from shopping for groceries to meal prepping and planning. However, meal kits can be pricey at first glance.
In this article, we’ll break down the pros and cons of Blue Apron vs. grocery shopping, the costs of Blue Apron meals compared to grocery store prices, amount of time saved, and other factors that may help you decide whether Blue Apron is right for you.
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What Is Blue Apron?
Blue Apron is a meal kit delivery service in the US that enables home cooks to prepare gourmet meals at home in under an hour. Customers that subscribe to Blue Apron receive fresh, quality ingredients at their door every week, along with a recipe card that teaches them how to prepare their delicious meals. This meal kit service is designed to save customers time from grocery shopping and minimize food waste by pre-portioning all ingredients for the recipes.
Each meal costs between $7.99 and $11.99 per serving, plus $9.99 shipping. Customers can select how many Blue Apron meals they want per week (2-4) and how many servings they want per meal (2 or 4). Customers can also choose between the following plan preferences: Chef Favorites, Wellness, Family Friendly, Fast & Easy, and Veggies.
Pros of Blue Apron
- Restaurant quality meals
- 70+ weekly options
- Vegetarian options
- Easy-to-follow recipes
- Highly convenient
- Some ready-to-eat meals
- 80% of ingredients come directly from producers
- Commitment to animal welfare
- Carbon neutral
- Wine pairing subscription
- Special discount for military & veterans, students, teachers, seniors (+55), medical staff, and first responders
Cons of Blue Apron
- $9.99 shipping
- Long prep times
- No diet-specific plans (gluten-free, vegan, keto)
- Plastic packaging
What About Grocery Shopping?
Grocery shopping also poses some advantages and disadvantages. For some, it’s an enjoyable outing, but for others, it’s a daunting, time-consuming task.
Pros of Grocery Shopping
- Fresh, hand-picked ingredients
- Freedom to choose recipes and ingredients
- Experience/can be enjoyable for some people
Cons of Grocery Shopping
- Time spent at the grocery store
- Time spent planning out meals/preparing a grocery list
- Limited to your own scope of recipes
- Food waste
- More vulnerable to impulsive buying
Blue Apron vs Grocery Store
There are a few factors to consider when comparing Blue Apron and grocery stores. In making the move to meal kits, the biggest deciding factors for me were price and time. We’ll discuss these two factors, along with what other factors may affect your decision.
In this section, I’ll break down the price of a Blue Apron meal and compare it directly with the cost of what would be spent buying it in the grocery store.
The cost of Blue Apron ranges from $7.99 to $11.99 per serving.
I’ll evaluate the cost to make the Feta Mozzarella Pizza from Blue Apron, with prices pulled from various grocery stores including Aldi, Safeway, and Amazon:
- 22 oz Pizza Dough ($0.19/oz)
- 6 Tbsp Romesco Sauce (Contains Almonds) ($1.64/oz)
- ½ lb Grape Tomatoes ($0.26/oz)
- 4 oz Sweet Peppers ($1.00/pepper)
- 3 oz Feta Cheese ($0.61/oz)
- ½ lb Fresh Mozzarella Cheese ($2.19)
- 1 oz Pitted Niçoise Olives (0.68/oz*substitute for kalamata)
- 1 tsp Whole Dried Oregano ($1.45/oz)
- 1 Shallot ($0.59)
Next, I break down each ingredient’s price to fit the needs of the recipe:
- 22 oz Pizza Dough = $4.18
- 6 Tbsp Romesco Sauce (Contains Almonds) = $4.92
- ½ lb Grape Tomatoes = $2.08
- 4 oz Sweet Peppers = $0.80
- 3 oz Feta Cheese = $1.83
- ½ lb Fresh Mozzarella Cheese = $2.19
- 1 oz Pitted Niçoise Olives = $0.68
- 1 tsp Whole Dried Oregano = $0.24
- 1 Shallot = $0.59
The total cost of groceries to cook the Feta Mozzarella Pizza is $17.51.
I’ll also evaluate the cost to make the Crispy Tilapia & Caper Mayo from Blue Apron:
- 2 Tilapia Filets ($0.31/oz)
- 1 Pasture-Raised Eggs ($4.89/12)
- ¾ lb Potatoes ($0.80/lb)
- 6 oz Green Beans ($2.99/lb)
- ¼ cup Rice Flour ($0.22/oz)
- 1¼ cups Panko Breadcrumbs ($0.44/oz)
- 1 Tbsp Capers ($1.26/oz)
- 2 Tbsps Mayonnaise ($0.17/oz)
- ½ oz Pickled Peppadew Peppers ($0.03/g)
- 1 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar ($0.16/oz)
- 1 Tbsp Cajun Spice Blend ($1.40/oz)
Next, I break down each ingredient’s price to fit the needs of the recipe:
- 2 Tilapia Filets = $3.72
- 1 Pasture-Raised Eggs = $0.41
- ¾ lb Potatoes = $0.65
- 6 oz Green Beans = $1.12
- ¼ cup Rice Flour = $0.45
- 1¼ cups Panko Breadcrumbs = $4.40
- 1 Tbsp Capers = $0.63
- 2 Tbsp Mayonnaise = $0.17
- ½ oz Pickled Peppadew Peppers = $0.37
- 1 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar = $0.08
- 1 Tbsp Cajun Spice Blend = $0.07
The total cost of groceries to cook the Crispy Tilapia & Caper Mayo is $12.07.
As you can see, it actually costs less to make either meal with Blue Apron, even if the meal is on the higher end of their pricing spectrum, rather than buying groceries to cook. This is due to the fact that Blue Apron uses high-quality ingredients and replicating them at the grocery store can be costly.
Verdict on Price: To make a gourmet-quality meal at home it’s cheaper to buy from Blue Apron rather than buying the ingredients at the grocery store.
Another important factor to consider when deciding between Blue Apron and grocery shopping is time. With Blue Apron, you cut out time spent grocery shopping completely, since all ingredients show up to your door. The only time spent with Blue Apron is time spent cooking and prepping ingredients, which is between 30 minutes to an hour.
On the other hand, grocery shopping takes time. You need to plan your meals, write your ingredients list (up to 30 mins), get to/from the grocery store (up to 30mins each way), and shop (up to 2h). This can take anywhere from an estimated 1 to 3.5 hours, depending on how much food you need, how far you live from the grocery store, and how long meal prepping takes you. In addition to buying groceries, you still need to cook your meals, which can take anywhere from 10 minutes to 1 hour.
Verdict on Time: Meal kits can save you up to 3 hours. This is one of the top reasons why people love meal kits.
Some other factors that are important to consider when comparing Blue Apron with grocery stores are food waste, dietary needs, and sustainability.
When you shop at the grocery store, you’re limited to the portion sizes they provide. In most cases, food and ingredients are sold by the pack, leaving you unable to buy the exact portion you need for your recipes. Oftentimes, these packages are far larger than what you really need for your recipe. Sauces, dressings, spices, and herbs are all common examples that leave you with this issue.
When you’re forced to buy packages of food larger than what you really need, it can easily be wasted. It can go bad before you need it the next time, or it can be an obscure ingredient that you only needed for one recipe.
With Blue Apron and other meal kit services, they pre-portion the ingredients. You never have more than you need, never causing food waste. A study shows that meal boxes reduce up to 38% food waste in comparison to traditionally cooked dinners.
Those with dietary needs or restrictions always need to be wary of the food they buy in order to be sure that their needs are met. At grocery stores, you’re able to hand-pick ingredients and review all nutritional facts and ingredients on each package. However, there are many meal kit delivery services (like Blue Apron) that also can meet those dietary needs.
Though Blue Apron doesn’t cater to all dietary restrictions, they do offer a variety of vegetarian dishes, as well as carb-conscious and Weight Watchers recommended options. Additionally, there’s a nutritional facts description and list of ingredients for each recipe.
Another concern with meal kit services can be the lack of sustainability initiatives. People can be wary of how animals are treated, how produce is farmed, the amount of plastic used, and much more. At the grocery store, customers that care about sustainability can select brands they know and trust.
Blue Apron, like many other meal kit services, are aware of this issue. As a result, they’re transparent about their sustainability initiatives. Blue Apron is committed to animal welfare, which you can read more about on this page. They also have goals in place to use 100% packaging by 2025.
Is A Meal Delivery Service Cheaper Than Grocery Shopping?
In most cases, a meal delivery service isn’t cheaper than grocery shopping. In another article, we compared the price of cooking a burger using a meal kit and by buying groceries. The burger cost about $5 more using a meal kit service. However, some meal kits, like Blue Apron, provide high quality ingredients, which aren’t cheaper to replicate with food from your local grocery store—as previously determined in my price breakdown.
Is Blue Apron Cheaper Than Eating Out?
Yes, Blue Apron is cheaper than eating out at a sit-down restaurant and sometimes cheaper than eating fast food. Blue Apron costs between $7.99 and $11.99 per serving. The average meal at a restaurant in the US is $17, while a fast food meal costs, on average, $9.80.
Are Services Like Blue Apron Worth It?
If you value time, convenience and adventurous eating, meal kit services like Blue Apron are definitely worth it. They save you hours of time from grocery shopping and meal planning, and allow you to cook yourself a high-quality gourmet meal in the comfort of your home.
However, if price is a concern and you don’t need anything too fancy, it’s more affordable to grocery shop for your meals and use your own recipes.