So You Think You Can’t Afford a Meal Delivery Plan?

Our first step in the weight loss process is a structured meal delivery program. We think having the experience of eating a diet of 100% whole foods is the best place to start. This helps people to get a firsthand understanding of how addicting processed food is vs. how satisfying and delicious whole foods are.

Some people like to start with basic nutritional advice from a coach or dietitian. The problem with that is only some nutrition professionals respect the addictive nature of processed food. Too often they count calories or offer one size fits all advice. One of our members was advised by her nutritionist to snack on sugar free jello, for example. Addictive processed foods make sticking with a weight loss plan so much more difficult, and many studies show long term failure. People have to white-knuckle through deprivation and hunger, and ultimately regain what they have lost.

A meal delivery plan that has been approved by a registered dietitian and focuses on unprocessed foods actually accomplishes two goals at once. The first goal is that it is a proper and healthy diet for weight loss using only unprocessed (and non-addictive) foods. People feel full and satisfied with this food. The second goal is that the 225 decisions you typically make each day about food can be reduced to about 5, most of which are already made for you. For compliance, nothing could be simpler while you work through your personal reasons for overeating. As helpful as meal delivery is to the entire process, some are concerned about the price.

As someone with a background in finance, I was quite surprised to hear people say this. In finance they talk about “bucketing.” Bucketing is a process where – for example – people place different budget items in separate buckets and weight them differently despite the fact that the number of dollars is exactly the same. For this reason I’d like to go over the financial economics of meal delivery services for people who want to use them to lose weight but feel the cost is too high.

Let’s compare the discipline of finance to accounting. In accounting, people want to “count.” How many dollars belong in bucket “A” to represent the situation fairly? In finance, people are more concerned with doing. If I decide to do “X” exactly how much more (or less) money will I have after all the associated changes ripple through my world? This is exactly what we need to figure out here. If I switch from my current way of getting my food to a meal delivery service, what is the final cost? The benefits are clearly more time, better health, weight loss success, but what is the cost for this? Most people do not have an accurate understanding of the actual cost.

The conclusion is the overall costs for, say, a woman with 40+ pounds to lose, the increased cost of 2 meals delivered per day for an entire month is $65. But for vegan food the meal delivery plan actually saves $118 vs. the typical costs of a Westchester resident. I feel these figures may understate the benefit of the meal delivery services as the costs of behaviors that contribute to weight gain (i.e. junk food, binge eating, and restaurant food) are higher than the average.

Now let’s consider time and effort. The meal deliveries conservatively will free up 21 hours of time / month, approximately. While the free time can really help with relaxation or exercise, this time could be spent on projects that can lower costs or increase income by far more than $65. So there is actually nothing to pay to get these benefits. You get paid to enjoy the benefits instead.

Let’s look at the numbers:

Monthly Cost
Groceries[1] 242
Utilities (Cooking)[2] 13
2 Restaurant Meal/Week[3] 130
5 Takeout Lunches/Week[4] 152
Travel (Groceries, Restaurants 7x / Week)[5] 52
Total Meal Cost $589

[1] National Average for Moderate Grocery Bill (http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/sites/default/files/usda_food_plans_cost_of_food/CostofFoodJul2014.pdf) x Westchester Factor for Cost Adjustment (http://www.bestplaces.net/cost_of_living/county/new_york/westchester). Then the cost of the restaurant and take out meals are deducted on a pro rata basis. The overall figures here are probably very conservative.

[2] http://www.myfirstapartment.com/2012/08/how-much-should-you-plan-for-utilities/

[3] $15 / Meal Including Tip

[4] $7 / Meal Excluding Tip

[5] Assumes you shop 2x / week and have 2 restaurant meals as well. The trip is 3 miles each way for restaurant or grocery store with $0.50 / mile cost including wear and tear on vehicle (less than IRS credit amount)

But Wait!

When you buy a meal plan and stick to it, the chances are quite good you will lose weight. There are costs associated with excess weight which have been studied extensively.

This is an area which can be subtle, but it is very important. We think about the cost of food typically in terms of the food alone. But if we lose weight, extensive research says we can expect to have these economic benefits start to re-emerge in our lives. So rather than ignore these economic benefits because they are in the wrong “bucket,” it is important to recognize them as a result of the actions to change our diet and lose weight.

Woman with 40+ Pounds to Lose[1]
Direct Medical Costs 123
Clothing (Est.) 25
Lower Wages 155
Total Costs 302

[1] http://www.stopobesityalliance.org/wp-content/themes/stopobesityalliance/pdfs/Heavy_Burden_Report.pdf

 

So say you order 2 meals / day for 7 days / week. Say you shop once a week for groceries for breakfast only at $3 / meal. This is the alternative to your current approach.

Total Cost to Prepare Your Own Food:                                    $897

Total Cost of Vegan Meal Delivery:                                          $773       –              Save      $118

Total Cost Meal Delivery (2 Animal Products / Day):         $956       –              Spend   $65

Total Time Saved in Food Acquisition / Prep:                       17.5 Hours

Question – If you were suddenly given 21 hours of free time / month for a cost of $65, is that a good deal? If you are over worked and stressed out, what is the value of that rest time compared to $65? If you own your own business, can you use that to reduce costs by taking on an occasional project? How much can you save? Might you use it to work on your home instead of hiring someone? How much could you save there?

There are many other factors involved with a healthier lifestyle from an easy weight loss plan. You may feel better, have more energy and generally enjoy life more.

The only question is if the benefits are something you really want. If you really want it, you can most likely afford it.

I’ve prepared a spreadsheet you can use to plug in your own numbers. Look at the top of our page to order food for the link, and you can see what the costs for all the meal plans are as well. I’m also happy to answer any questions you may have about the topic of money and how it relates to your weight loss and wellness goals.

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