The True Cost: TGK Goes Head to Head with the Grocery Store
One cost-conscious consumer tries to replicate our meals on the cheap.
Today, I thought I’d give myself a personal challenge: Could I one-up The Good Kitchen? With a simple trip to the grocery store, could I recreate the magic and save a buck?
Here’s the thing: Before I ever placed an order with TGK, I had admired the team’s commitment to doing it right, without compromise. They clearly cared about sustainable, humane sourcing as much as I did, and they cared just as much about health and flavor.
On top of that, I never felt like they were playing some tribal, special-diet game that I just couldn’t relate to as someone who cares about clean eating but doesn’t ascribe to the “paleo” “keto” or “plant-based” labels.
But there was a catch. Even though I nerded out over the brand’s mission and wanted to cheer them from the sidelines, I was hesitant to whip out my credit card. Why couldn’t I just do it myself? A meal-delivery service seemed like a luxury I couldn’t indulge in.
As my life got increasingly hectic, TGK eventually won me over with the convenience factor. But in the back of my mind I always wondered: If I got my act together, could I save some money but eat the same way?
Hence today’s challenge.
Saturday, 8:30 a.m.
Immediately, there’s a problem. I’m ashamed to admit that I don’t know any farmers, local or otherwise. I haven’t made trips to assess who has the best production practices.
But hey, the local grocery store is well stocked, right? I just need to meet these three standards:
-Everything must be 100% organic.
-Beef must be grass-fed and grass-finished
-Chicken must be free-range, antibiotic-, and hormone-free
(Okay, so TGK has some additional standards, but I’m doing what I can here!)
With my two recipes in hand—Chili Lime Chicken and Meatballs with Zucchini Noodles—I hop in the car and start my adventure, making a quick pit-stop to top off my gas tank.
First, I hit up Whole Foods, then it’s off to the Trader Joe’s next door to repeat the experiment. Skipping the free samples for the first time in my life, I stay laser-focused and try to get in and out as fast as I can.
It takes me about 20 minutes to make my way through Whole Foods, and 30 minutes at Trader Joe’s.
These are not peaceful minutes. These are minutes of confusion and disillusionment as I try to make sense of the various labels on each product. Finding ingredients that were certified organic was more difficult than I anticipated, and while I could spot the organic chicken from an aisle away, I had to settle for not knowing whether it was free-range.
TGK: 1, Me: 0
In all, the ingredients for Chili Lime Chicken came out to $20.53 at Whole Foods and $16.93 at Trader Joe’s.
The Meatballs with Zucchini Noodles came to a more cringe-inducing $28.92 and $19.51, respectively.
Each meal through The Good Kitchen set me back about $10.99 – $13.99, depending on my order size. At this point, I’m starting to wonder how that is even possible. They need to deal with packaging, labor costs, distribution, and so on. And that’s not even considering the time it takes to build relationships with producers and respond to the whims of consumers like me.
But since they do respond to consumer inquiries, I was able to ask about their per-meal cost and get some straight answers. Here’s how it’s done:
By doing all of the above on a large scale, they’re able to pass down savings to customers.
Fine. TGK: 2, me: 0.
Saturday, 10:45 a.m.
Back at my apartment, I’m pretty much giving up on having any of these meals fully prepared by the time lunch rolls around. I’ve also just realized that I don’t have any appropriately sized storage containers, so I either need to run back out later or give up on meal-prep and just invite some friends over to share.
Before I even dive into cooking, I have to admit defeat on the convenience front.
Here we go again -- TGK: 3, Me: 0.
Musing about how Amber, TGK’s founder, must have felt in the earliest days when she was making every meal in her home kitchen without the help of a chef team, I try to relish every challenging moment. Keyword: try. It’s hard work, and I don’t want to mess up and have wasted my whole morning.
Saturday, 2:00 p.m.
I have just placed the last dish on the drying rack and am sitting with my meals, hoping, praying that my efforts have resulted in something that tastes at least comparable to what I could have prepared in three minutes if I had simply ordered from The Good Kitchen.
I’m trying not to think of all of the other unchecked boxes on my to-do list as I raise my first forkful and savor my handiwork.
The food is good. Not perfect (as you can see), not chef-crafted, but it is good. It is the TGK recipe, after all. And it helps that I haven’t eaten anything yet today and have been roaring with hunger.
But now I have more dishes to clean.
Saturday, 3:00 p.m.
I have been humbled by the day’s experiences. But it feels good: I finally know for sure that my choice to use TGK is a good investment.
Now, picking out my next TGK meal plan, I feel a fresh sense of gratitude for the ability to prioritize my my time, my tastebuds, and my wallet in equal measure.
I’m already looking forward to all of the free time and delicious meals next weekend will bring!
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