Elizabeth Kerr thinks the discipline from using a food delivery service could help some families spend LESS on food

By Elizabeth Kerr

Hands up if in the last month you have done any of the following:

A) Thrown out a limp brown broccoli from the back of your fridge?

B) Visited the supermarket more than 3 times in one week?

C) Bought takeaways or gone to a restaurant because you couldn’t be bothered cooking?

D) Bought a specialty grocery item, only to use a teeny bit and now don’t know what to do with the rest of it?

Eating is a non-negotiable expense because we all have to do it, but for many middle squeeze families the amount of money spent on eating and food waste combined is by far one of the biggest annual expenses after paying for the roof.

What if everything you needed to eat just turned up at your door? If you’re in the know, then you will have noticed that there are companies popping up all the time providing this very service. But the real question on my mind is does it save money?

The type of food delivery service you might choose is dependent on the following three questions:

1. Do you mind/are you capable of still assembling and cooking the food yourself?

2. Do you like surprises or prefer to have control over your menu?

3. How much do you spend per week now?

Your answers for these questions help you to decide whether you are a “heat and eat” kind of person more suited to companies like EAT, Primal, Fit Me In or Home Cater as examples. These companies provide pre-prepared meals which you can freeze and re-heat at your convenience. No kitchen mess, no dishes to wash, no waiting.

Or you might be more of a “book and cook” person more suited to Countdown's feed 4 for $15, Hello Fresh, My Food Bag or Farro Food Kits. These services provide you all the ingredients and recipes for a meal that you cook yourself. You still need to have time to prepare the food and wash the dishes afterwards. If you have fussy kids who wont tolerate anything green mixed with the pasta then you can control this as you are cooking.

Bring on the My Food Bag challenge!!

I didn’t mind not knowing what I was going to cook for the week so I chose My Food Bag. On the surface it also seemed like the cheapest and had the added bonus of providing for us adults and the kids within the delivery.

I ordered the MFB Family Bag which promises 5 dinners for 2 adults and 2-3 kids for a cost of $162.60 which equals $6.50 per plate. The food was fresh, yummy, easy to prepare, and where appropriate free range and grass fed. Everything was included meat, veges, herbs, sauces, dips…. the lot!! No thinking, no shopping, no lists and no food waste all for one fixed price.

Before you start to think I’ve gone all soft on you by endorsing a luxury food delivery service, take a quick moment to see things from my perspective. Food is a big non-negotiable personal expense and I am forever telling people to just sit down and plan a menu to shop by. They will nod and agree and try but before long the apathy kicks in again and unless people are hard up against a budget they return to shopping too often and buying more than they can eat.

Step one

The first step was to painstakingly find every ingredient that was delivered by MFB inside the Countdown online shopping website to see how it fared against the supermarket.

The results are as follows:

My Food Bag (Family Bag option) = $162.60 (or $6.50 per plate).
Countdown Online Home delivery = $156.00.

There you have it – on paper it’s a $6.60 difference in favour of doing it yourself. However, for that price you buy the discipline of a fixed menu, deliverance from the thrice weekly shop and no spaving on stuff that you don’t really need.

“$162.60 for 5 dinners is ludicrous!!” you say.
“wait… hear me out first!”
For a lot of middle squeeze time-poor families a service such as My Food Bag would cut their grocery bill in half and their shopping visits down to once a week. That’s right – in half!!! I see people easily spending far more than this cost and having far less to actually make their meals with.

The power in removing decisions
My Food Bag works the same way Zuckerberg's grey t-shirts do. When we automate the small things we get more brain space for the bigger things. By removing the decision of what to eat each night and making sure we have all the ingredients, one can free themselves up to think more about the bigger things in life (like which ETF to choose).

“But wait there’s more….”

As an added bonus there was always food left over so the Better Half had it for lunches the next day. That represents a $60 savings right there. Booyah!!

What about all the other stuff?
Yes there are other things you need to get from the supermarket as well but a once a month or a once a fortnight shop could suffice for the basics.

Further My Food Bag savings….
The power of course is how you use a service like this within your lifestyle design. Obviously to qualify for this option you first need to be spending more than the weekly cost in groceries, takeaways, work lunches, and/or throwing out food that has gone bad before you could use it, to make it a financially worthwhile.

In closing
You can of course spend much less on your groceries and many people do. But this week’s column is not hiding the fact that it’s intended for people who spend so much more. If you need to bring back the discipline of using a menu, reducing your trips to the supermarket and keeping your grocery costs fixed each week, then My Food Bag is certainly one way to do it.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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2 Comments

Quite limited distribution range on these services

Advantage of supermarket delivery completely overlooked: opportunity to stock up on non-perishables to a ludicrous degree when there's a good special. Drops the average price of staples like canned tomatoes to well below what food bag people will charge you. And will those food bags ever include a 10kg sack of rice or 3l can of olive oil?