Ask Bruce: What is the best meal-kit service to help me cut my spending?

Bruce Sellery
Bruce Sellery

Q: I am carrying a chunk of credit card debt. I know I need to cut back on the amount I eat out and figure that one of the meal kit services would be a good way to do that. Which is best one?

Nice work. This is the perfect BOGO advice column question. It seems like one question, but it is actually two. 

Scroll to continue with content
Ad

First, how do I slash my credit card debt? And second, which is the best meal kit service out there? I’ll answer both for the bargain price of… free. (And for readers who have zero dollars outstanding on credit cards, you’ve earned the privilege to scroll down to question two. See ‘ya there.)

Amazon Meal Kits are displayed in a newly-opened Amazon Go store, Tuesday, May 7, 2019 in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
Amazon Meal Kits are displayed in a newly-opened Amazon Go store, Tuesday, May 7, 2019 in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Meal kits don’t save you that much money

Meal kit advertising is everywhere, so it’s no wonder that the kits are top of mind for you. The price per serving is about $10, so compared to a sit-down restaurant, sure, it’s way cheaper. And depending on which kiosk you visit at lunch, it might be slightly cheaper than the food court too.  

But you know what is much cheaper? Shopping at a grocery store, packing a lunch and eating dinner at home.  

“Ok, Boomer.”

Seriously. If you want to slash that credit card debt you’re going to have to be more aggressive. So here is what you need to do:

5 steps to cutting credit card debt

  1. Write/type all your debts down on one piece of paper. Include the outstanding balances, interest rate, and minimum payment, then total it up.

  2. Determine how fast you want to eliminate your credit card debt. Say you want it done in a year, take the total and divide by 12. That is the amount you need to find every month to put towards debt repayment.  

  3. Set-up an automatic transfer for that amount to go from your bank account to the highest rate credit card, every month, on payday. Make sure you also make the minimum payments on any other cards carrying a balance.

  4. Go to the ATM and withdraw cash for the week, then take your credit card out of your wallet. I’m serious. Put that card somewhere safe, but don’t use it. Why? Because research shows we spend less when we use cash than when we pay with cards, which actually causes us psychological pain.

  5. Tell your friends you’re on a dining out diet. Your declaration will likely be greeted with a combination of admiration and ridicule, but you know in your heart that avoiding the 25% interest payments makes you the winner. You’ll have to figure out if you’re going cold turkey for a period of time, or if you’re just going to reduce your frequency.

Father and toddler children baking in kitchen (Getty Images)
Father and toddler children baking in kitchen (Getty Images)

Make a cheap and cheerful meal plan

You need to eat. Of course you need to eat. But meal kits? I know people who love them, but the Butter-Poached Lobster Fra Diavolo over Fresh Fettuccine with Pine Nut-Basil Gremolata takes more than a few minutes to prepare.  When I tried the meal kits I expected to dump and stir.  But that’s not how it works. 

Meal kits are more convenient because you don’t have to go to the store, and you don’t have to decide what to make. But they aren’t cheaper. And unless you’re used to making complicated meals for a weeknight dinner, they aren’t faster, either.  

So, instead of going the meal kit route, make a basic meal plan for the week, shop for it, and cook it.  

“But that is just too much work.” 

Okay. But how much work is it to be carrying your debt. If the outstanding balance is $3,000, you’re paying about $750 a year, after tax, in interest.  

That is a LOT of money. If you got super serious about eliminating that debt, how would you spend $750? Travel? Wine? Saving for a house, or kid’s education, or retirement?

Check out these meal-kit comparison sites

You’ve been very patient. I appreciate it.  

Okay, you’ve got some ideas on how to slash your credit card debt. Awesome. Now to the question about meal kit companies.

There are some comparison websites out there that bring the basic information together in one place.  Just keep in mind that they generally work by embedding links that earn them money when you click on them, and that not all meal kits are available everywhere.  

Here’s the crazy part: I read through the comparison sites and you know what I learned? There is almost no difference between the various kits in terms of price and quality. Plus, trying a service is low risk because they have very enticing trial offers and the subscriptions are generally easy to cancel.

So, try just one and see for yourself.

“Wait. What? THAT’s your answer?”

Yup.  

And save me some of the lobster.  It sounds delicious, but I’m just way too lazy to make it.

What to read next