Updated Economics of Food

This article updates prior discussion on economics of food, with particular attention to meal delivery services. See the bottom of this article for prior discussions.

TLDR: The cheapest thing to do is still of course eat ramen or fast, but for those seeking to optimize across price, healthy, and taste, there are now more options and potentially some better deals, in particular when discounts from vendors are utilized.

I like delicious, healthy food which is convenient and affordable. Optimizing on any one of these categories effectively de-optimizes another category, so the task becomes a balancing act. I’ve previously blogged about solutions like Bertrand which I believe balance these requirements at a best-in-market level at the prior time of blogging.

Today, more options exist. In addition, today I have more requirements. Specifically, I’ve found that switching costs are high and that I continue to appreciate the results of Whole 30 dieting and intermittent fasting. An issue occurs because Bertrand isn’t Whole 30 compliant.

Finally, while I am content to eat Bertrand virtually permanently, my wife gets bored with what is effectively a single flavor. There are multiple options but we strongly prefer one. While you can mix additives in, this ruins the macro profile.

I would like a meal solution that supports three modes of dieting. The first mode is in the range of 2000-3000 calories with balanced macros, for sustainable dieting. The second mode is a high protein option for when I am trying to bulk. The third mode is Whole 30 support. Bertrand effectively supports two of these.

I previously discussed Territory as a delicious Whole 30 solution. I stand by that, but I now consider it too expensive. With a minimum weekly order of 10 meals, Territory offers standard-sized meals at 12.95 per meal, plus shipping, and meals with generally less than 650 calories. They have expanded a la cart offering, which is great, but of course more expensive.

I’ve now tried and support another provider called Factor 75. I would argue that Territory’s food tastes marginally better, but in the view of myself and my family the difference isn’t substantial. Factor 75 requires a minimum weekly order of 4 meals and their largest plan includes 18 meals per week. Economies of scale allow larger volume plans to offer lower unit prices. At 6 meals per week, Factor 75 becomes more affordable per meal than Territory, and prices are even lower at a larger volume.

The kicker is that Factor 75 meals are more variable in calories, with meals frequently exceeding 700 and occasionally exceeding 800 calories. Territory and Factor 75 both allow you to choose meals, so variability doesn’t mean an unpredictable diet. It means you can choose a higher calorie or lower calorie diet at the same, affordable price with Factor 75. This makes it not only a more affordable, but also a more sustainable option. When I want to increase calories, I am more able to stay with the same service. Factor 75 also provides juice, soup, snacks, and some other items a la cart.

I would note, however, that either provider may be a better deal depending on the discounts available on a given day. Recently some new providers such as Mighty Meals and Real Eats have come to my attention. Real Eats slightly beat out Factor 75, but they provide an introductory 30% off discount in addition. Real Eats does not tailor to Whole 30, but I can see a few compliant options on their menu anyway. These are positives for Real Eats, but a major negative is that the calories appear to be in the range of 50 percent less compared to Factor 75, so I won’t be trying them out after all.

Mighty Meals offers a better ROI and a slightly different model as meal items are priced per-item instead of a quantity-based meal plan. Mighty Meals charges an $8 delivery fee to offset this flexibility, but it’s waved for orders of $130 or more, which would be about 10-12 items, depending on which items you select.

Mighty Meals also does not cater directly to Whole30, but they have some items which support the diet. Calorie per dollar isn’t a great proxy for hunger satisfaction with Mighty Meals because some of their meals are clearly targeted at certain consumer who would like a large, filling, low-calorie meal. If we do look at calories per dollar, some items for purchase are competitive with other providers, with the exception of their a la cart menu. Their a la cart menu provides both the cheapest and most expensive option compared to other providers.

One may purchase seasoned and cooked turkey meat from Might Meals a la cart for $9 per serving, with over 900 calories and 120g of protein in such serving. This beats the protein options of other providers and begins to rival something like a protein shake. You can also purchase chicken breast, steak, ground beef, shrimp, rice, sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts, asparagus, green beans, and more, all a la cart. This borders on an actual grocery store in my view, and allows a person to compose entire meals from a la cart, in contrast to other providers which have some nice side-items, but the mains are purchased through the quantity-based subscription.

Cooked turkey isn’t much of a meal, though. Perhaps we could argue that cooked turkey with a side of brussel sprouts constitutes a Whole30 meal. A pound of cooked brussel sprouts can be purchased for 7 dollars. I’m highly confident that would knock out my hunger, even though it is fairly low calorie. The price of a serving of turkey and a serving of brussel sprouts comes to 16 dollars, but this is a total of two servings, so each meal would cost 8 dollars. Provided your taste aligns, this meal service is the best deal in town. They are also offering a single free meal as an introductory discount. I will be trying it out shortly 🙂

Another interesting point is that 8 dollars is the cost of a Five Guys bacon burger. That’s a great Whole30 option if you swap the bread for lettuce. In other words, Mighty Meals is the first meal delivery service option to present something as cheap as fast food. Not as cheap as Ramen, but a substantial improvement from just a few years ago.

Fuel Meals appears similar, so I will try them out too. They are also a fully a la cart model. You can get a meal of turkey and green beans for $6. However, the overall selection appears more limited. They don’t have brussel sprouts. The turkey also appears to be straight turkey without seasoning or onions, which are included at Mighty Meals. This may be because Fuel Meals is tailored more to fitness than flavor. They do provide some things Mighty Meals doesn’t, including a gluten-free chocolate protein brownie. It’s definitely not Whole30, but it still looks awesome and I’m curious.

I’d also give a shout out to Uprising Food’s keto bread, which also appears to be Whole30 compliant.

Related articles:

  1. September 2019, Park City Coffee Review
  2. August 2018, Economic Eating
  3. August 2017, The Future of Food is Litty McGee
  4. November 2013, Water and Food for 9 Billion People in 2040
  5. September 2013, 1 Essential Aspect of Budgeting

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