Unless you’re one of those annoying people who loses weight when you’re stressed, you can probably relate to feeling like not spending all-the-money on food is near-impossible at best. (Which leads to more stress! Ugh!)
For me, even producing a meager effort that could loosely be defined as dinner is a challenge. So, layer on the fact that this needs to be accomplished every night? And I’m supposed to be trying to spend less money? Um, yeah. Too. Much. Information. Cannot. Compute. Or so the story goes for me.
Luckily, there are sources of money-saving, dinner inspiration out there, and we found one of them.
Meet Heather Kane, a 39-year-old yoga teacher, mom of two teenagers, and wife to Jim, an ER nurse with an unpredictable, crazy-busy schedule. Heather wants to preserve family dinner as an anchor for her family but, with increasingly less time, and new priorities popping up left and right (hello, college!), quality meals at a reasonable cost have proven more difficult, and more critical, than ever before.
Jim and Heather have always prioritized good food. They love entertaining and eating out. As such, their food budget was generous, to begin with:
And still, they were going well over budget on the regular. Like every month. With finances tightening up in other areas, Heather knew that something had to change.
Armed with a coupon code, she tried the meal delivery service, Blue Apron. (No one is getting paid to say this, it’s just really what she tried!) She was pleasantly surprised by the results:
Less Is Less (And That’s A Good Thing!)
With Blue Apron, Heather got all the ingredients and instructions for four full meals delivered to her front porch for $140/week.
“So, it’s not cheap,” Heather laughed when I reminded her that her original goal was to save money.
But because the Blue Apron delivery covered the lion’s share of weeknight dinners, she was able to limit trips to the grocery store. As a result, she spent significantly on groceries overall—avoiding impulse purchases, inevitable waste on partially used ingredients, and spoiled food.
A bonus, unintended benefit: Because the meals were healthy and perfectly-proportioned, both she and her husband, Jim, dropped some weight without even trying. (Hello! Blue Apron marketing team, you probably want to jump on this one!)
Convenience Is Nothing To Sneeze At
Eliminating meal-planning and pre-preparation, meant Heather didn’t have to think about what to make or go to the store for ingredients, or—more realistically—default to eating out because those first two steps are daunting.
“Even when I was tired, knowing all the food was right there, in the fridge, and I didn’t have to make any decisions… complete game-changer! It almost seemed easier to go home and throw together the Blue Apron meal than to figure out where to eat and get everyone out the door.”
Would hard-core meal planning or weekend food prep accomplish this same thing? Probably, yes. But if you aren’t going to actually do those things, you’re on the fast-track to convenience town ($$$).
Cooking Begets Cooking
When we had our first baby, I remember someone saying, “Sleep begets sleep.”
It was somewhat counterintuitive for me but quickly proved to be true. The more the baby slept, the more he slept. Everyone wins! I think there’s a similar effect with cooking.
With fun and delicious Blue Apron meals waiting for her, Heather found herself looking forward to coming home and trying a new recipe. Overnight, their weeknight fare was approaching gourmet and garnering the often-absent approval and praise of the entire family.
As a result, cooking became less daunting, more consistent, and more rewarding overall. Go figure.
Eating Out Lost Its Luster
Sure, the Kane’s still enjoy eating out, but the Blue Apron meals gave them a different perspective. Because it was so easy (and fun!) to put together the Blue Apron dinners—and because they all turned out so amazing—it was not nearly as appealing to go out to eat.
And we all know that eating out less is good for the budget. Eating out less, by choice, without feeling you are making a sacrifice? Even better!
The Verdict: Blue Apron Saved Us Money
Heather budgeted the cost of Blue Apron ($140/three meals/week) as groceries. And for the first time in no-one-can-remember, they came in under their $800/month budget—not to mention there was money left over in the Eating Out category! Unprecedented!
Money saved? Check.
Possibly even more valuable, Heather is way less stressed about dinner and enjoys the entire affair more than she ever before.
Surely, everyone’s situation is different, but it’s fun to hear what’s working for fellow budgeters. If you’ve found something new that is working for you, we’d love to hear about it!