Dinner hacks: Are home meal delivery services worth it?

News 6 compares with grocery store prices

Moms know about the three dreaded words "What's for dinner?" At the end of a long and stressful day, it's everything you don't want to hear.

But getting dinner on the table doesn't have to be a chore, and it can be fun, easy and inexpensive.

Sound too good to be true?

Josh Elledge, of SavingsAngel.com,  said it doesn't have to be.

"There are over 150 different companies that do home meal deliveries," Elledge said.

If you're thinking there's no way you can afford fancy food delivered to your door, that may not be true.

[WEB EXTRA:  Get the most of your meal delivery service I Meal delivery service put dinner on your desktop]

"I was actually surprised that it's not that much more than shopping yourself at the grocery store," Elledge said.

He brought along a box he ordered from the service HomeChef to open up with News 6 anchor Julie Broughton.

On the menu? Mango smoothies for breakfast, and then sirloin steak with green beans and roasted fingerling potatoes, and cider Buerre Blanc pork with Parmesan roasted carrots and Brussels sprouts.

"It's nice that everything is labeled," Broughton said.

"See? There's garlic, tomatoes, potatoes," Elledge said.

"Even little pats of butter," Broughton said.

"It's like having a sous chef prepare all of this for you," Elledge said.

"It looks like it makes cleanup easier too," Broughton said.

[WEB EXTRA: Compare meal delivery service reviews]

"This is the final thing that comes in the box, this has all the recipes, all you have to do is follow the recipe," said Elledge, showing Broughton a binder with recipe cards. "All the step-by-step directions."

Elledge paid $17 for the box with a coupon code. Usually for two two-serving dinners and two servings of smoothies, a box costs about $47. With a $30 coupon, he paid $17.

"Seventeen dollars doesn't get you very far at the grocery store," Broughton said.

So we went to Publix to find out.

After spending about 20 minutes in the store gathering ingredients, we did find everything we needed for these particular meals for a total of $74.91, before tax.
In some cases, we got way more of each ingredient than we needed.

So how does that compare? Well, if you're getting a box for two people, like our box for $17 with a coupon code, that obviously prices out to be way better. If you actually got four servings instead of two, because each serving costs $9.95, the retail value of the box would be $9.95 x 4 x 2 meals = $79.60 + $9.90 breakfast = $89.50. With the $30 coupon code SAVING30, he would have paid $59.50. Without the coupon code, it's more than the groceries-- but for some people, the savings on time and travel may be worth it.

"What you pay extra for the home delivery service, if it costs an extra $15 and I end up saving an hour and a half for my busy lifestyle, it's worth the $15 difference," he said.

Elledge says there are other benefits to trying out a home delivery service too.

"It forces us, and quite frankly inspires us, to sit down as a family," Elledge said. "If you've always wanted to have more vegetables in your diet, for example, we are eating a lot more produce. I notice that when we had gotten our last box, it had shrimp in it. Normally when we buy shrimp, we buy frozen shrimp, but from HomeChef, for example, it was all fresh. We don't normally get fresh seafood but that's what came in the box, and I was like, that's really special. Just the meats and everything else that's included, they're generally going to be pretty high-quality ingredients."
OK, so which of the many meal services do you choose?

"We wanted to find a company that was going to give us a little more flexibility because my kids don't like everything; they're kids," Elledge said. "We also wanted a meal delivery service that provided some options that would have a little more broad appeal. There's nothing more frustrating than making something and nobody likes it. I would say find one that would really match with the foods that you want. If you're vegetarian, great, find one that offers those options."

And the best part is, you can often try them for a huge discount.

"The average cost for is $9.95 per person per meal for a really high-quality meal so chances are you wouldn't want to do that for every meal, but certainly like where my family and I have settled in on is if we can get two boxes a month, it's a real treat for us," Elledge said. "It is a no-brainer to at least try a home meal delivery service. Use a coupon code because there are so many. Just hit up Google, just search 'home meal delivery service' and then just watch what shows up in your Facebook feed for coupons."

About the Authors:

Tara Evans is an executive producer and has been with News 6 since January 2013. She currently spearheads News 6 at Nine and specializes in stories with messages of inspiration, hope and that make a difference for people -- with a few hard-hitting investigations thrown in from time to time.

Julie Broughton's career in Central Florida has spanned more than 14 years, starting with News 6 as a meteorologist and now anchoring newscasts.