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Cost Comparison: Meal Prep Versus Buying Food

Geralyne Ong

Geralyne Ong

Last updated 27 May, 2021

Always wondered if meal prepping or buying food costs more in the long run? Wonder no more, we’ve done the math so you don’t have to. 

Choices are never easy. That’s why, we do the math, so you don’t have to. Compare This, a SingSaver series, is here to help make decisions a little easier for you.

Picture this: you’re at a family dinner and someone at the table humblebrags about their culinary skills comments, ‘I can make this dish at home for only $5, instead of the $30 they are charging here’. Does that line sound vaguely familiar? 

Well, it has happened to us one too many times before. Instead of being annoyed and letting someone ruin a pleasant dinner, our savvy spender senses started tingling and led us to wonder if it is really cheaper to prepare our own meals. 

Fast forward a couple of days, and here we are. 

Below we calculate the cost of preparing breakfasts, lunches and dinners versus buying them for a week (21 meals), based on healthy or regular meals. So, grab your popcorn and get ready to be shocked at the price difference. 

Last updated on 27 May 2021. Prices are subject to change without prior notice. The calculations below are estimates, and prices of groceries and buying ready-meals may vary depending on credit card discounts, among others. As far as possible, mid-range items from mid-tier eateries are selected for this guide.

Table of contents

Preparing your meals

Yes, this might require you to put on an apron and devote some time in the kitchen, but we assure you that it has more yays than nays. 

By preparing your meals:

  1. It is easier to eat healthier because you know exactly what goes into each dish.
  2. You only pay for what you eat (or want more of) instead of a standard portion that you may or may not finish.
  3. As you’re the one cooking, you get to decide exactly what your meals would be! 

Assuming you own basic cooking equipment, cooking oil, seasonings and spices*, this is how much preparing healthy and regular meals will cost you for an entire week.

*Nothing too fancy, pepper, salt, soya sauce (light and dark), sesame oil, oyster sauce, vinegar, a good selection of dried herbs, etc. 

Cost of preparing healthy meals

Before we begin calculating the cost of healthy meals, let’s start with our definition of healthy. For us, healthy does not mean basic salads that consist of shredded iceberg lettuce with a sprinkle of sunflower seeds and doused in salad dressing, but nutritionally balanced meals. 

This means each meal would consist of a tonne of fibre, some carbohydrates (not all are bad for you) and a good portion of protein with minimal seasoning or dressing (trust us, it still tastes as good, if not better). 

Armed with Google on our side, this is how we’ve planned our meals for the week: 

  • Breakfast: One serving of protein and carbohydrate
  • Lunch and dinner: One serving of protein and carbohydrate, and two servings of fibre. 
  • To keep meals interesting, we’ve accounted for variety to ensure that this list better reflects actual healthy meal preps.

Assuming that you are prepping healthy meals for an entire week, this is approximately how much it will cost you.

IngredientApproximate amount neededUnit price*Total price*
Chicken breasts4 pieces$7.35 for 4$7.35
Rotisserie chicken 2 whole chickens$4.90 $9.80
Beef cubes500g$5.48 for 250g$10.96
Salmon4 pieces$6.20 for 200g$24.80
Kale400g$6.30 for 300g$12.60
Broccoli4 heads$2.50 $10
Cauliflower4 heads$2.40$9.60
Carrots4 medium-sized$1.05 for 500g$1.05
Cherry tomatoes2 punnets$1.45 a punnet$2.90
Onions4 medium-sized$1.50 for 500g$1.50
Garlic2 heads$1.35 for 200g$1.35
Quinoa350g (50g per serving)$6.00 for 454g$6.00
Brown rice455g (65g per serving)$6.10 for 2.5kg$6.10
Rolled oats300g$3.10 for 500g$3.10
Eggs12$3.10 for 15 $3.10
Multigrain bread8 slices$2.50 for a loaf$2.50
Blueberries2 punnets$3.50 a punnet$7.00
Honey3 tablespoons$4.50 for 500ml$4.50
Total for preparing a week’s worth of healthy meals

Average cost to prepare a healthy meal


*Prices are taken from NTUC FairPrice, Cold Storage or Redmart. 

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Cost of preparing regular meals

As compared to healthy meals, regular meals will not need such ‘serious and calculated’ planning. To keep things simple, we have picked fresh and easily accessible ingredients that do not contain too many foreign-sounding words on its ingredient list (a.k.a. instant food). 

This is what we’ve meal planned for the week:  

  • Breakfast: Cereal with milk, granola with yoghurt, and peanut butter and jelly toasts
  • Lunch: Sandwiches, noodles, rice-based meals, etc. 
  • Dinner: Rice- or noodle-based meals with a good amount of vegetables and meat
  • To keep meals interesting, we’ve accounted for variety to ensure that this list better reflects actual regular meal preps.

Below are calculations for a week’s worth of regular breakfasts, lunches and dinners, if you were to prepare them yourself.

IngredientApproximate amount neededUnit price*Total price*
Chicken breasts4 pieces$7.35 for 4$7.35
Rotisserie chicken 3 whole chickens$4.90 $14.70
Salmon4 pieces$6.20 for 200g$24.80
Broccoli3 heads$2.50 $7.50
Chinese Spinach2 packets$1.90 for 250g$3.80
Xiao bai cai2 packets$1.60 for 300g$3.20
Shiitake mushrooms2 packets$2.10 for 150g$4.10
Onions4 medium ones$1.50 for 500g$1.50
Garlic2 heads$1.35 for 200g$1.35
Brown rice325g (65g per serving)$6.10 for 2.5kg$6.10
Rice vermicelli 280g (56g per serving)$1.50 for 400g$1.50
Eggs$3.10 for 15 $3.10
Sliced cheese4 slices$3.95 for 250g$3.95
Sliced ham8 slices$3.40 for 200g$3.40
Multigrain bread14 slices$2.50 for a loaf$2.50
Peanut butter3 tablespoons$3.50 for 340g$3.50
Strawberry jam3 tablespoons$3.56 for 340g$3.56
Cocopops (a personal favourite, 10/10 would recommend)2 cups$4.95 for 400g$4.95
Yoghurt2 cups$2.20 for 130g x 2 cups$2.20
Granola with oats50 grams$5.80 for 500g$5.80
Total for preparing a week’s worth of regular meals

Average cost to prepare a regular meal


*Prices are taken from NTUC FairPrice, Cold Storage or Redmart. 

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But wait, that is not all. By preparing your meals frequently, the cost per meal actually goes down further. As some items are purchased in bulk (e.g. brown rice, quinoa, onions, etc.), they can be used for the following week’s meals and so on.

Not to mention, you could be saving more on groceries by charging it to the right cashback card. Apply for one with us today to start earning up to 10% in cashback!

Buying your meals

With a coffee shop, cafe or restaurant at almost every turn, we can understand why many would rather buy their meals instead of preparing them. Time-saving, convenient and no clean-up required — what’s not to like? 

Cost of buying healthy meals

There are quite a few eateries that offer healthy meals, some starting from an affordable $6, while others are a bit pricier and can cost upwards of $20 per meal. 

To arrive at the average cost of purchasing healthy meals for a week, we calculated based on five mid-tier eateries that we have either tried and loved, or heard raving reviews about (because wasting calories is a crime!).

ShopContact detailsType mealNumber of meals a weekApproximate unit price*Price for a week*
Nutrify Meals6 Everton Park #01-18, Singapore 080006

8646 7620
FresherMandai Foodlink, 5 Mandai Link #07-07 Singapore 728654

9137 0180
Lean Bento1 Irving Place, #03-01, The Commerze@Irving, Singapore 369546

6750 4504
Lunch or dinner5$12.90$64.50
Yummy Broseat

Lunch or dinner5$8$40
Grain3163 5335 Lunch or dinner4$11.95$47.80
Total for buying a week’s worth of healthy meals

Average cost to buy a healthy meal


*Prices listed do not include delivery fees, if any. 

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Cost of buying regular meals

For the lucky few who do not have food allergies or need to be on a perpetual diet to maintain their weight, the delicious world of food is your oyster. From hawker goodness to fast food to  fancy takeaways, this is the average cost of buying regular meals for an entire week.

Type of foodType mealContact detailsNumber of meals a weekApproximate unit price*Price for a week*
TraditionalBreakfast set-4$4$16
Fast foodBreakfast set-3$7$21
Hawker foodLunch or dinner-8$5$40
Fast foodLunch or dinner-2$8$16
Japanese bento box, Umi SushiLunch or dinnerMultiple outlets islandwide2$11$22
Western, Lola’s CafeLunch or dinner5 Simon RoadSingapore 545893

6284 0349
Total for buying a week’s worth of regular meals

Average cost to buy a regular meal


*Prices listed do not include delivery fees, if any.  

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The bottom line

So what is the actual cost difference between preparing and buying your meals? Take a deep breath and get ready to be shocked by the numbers. 

Cost comparison for a week’s worth of healthy meals

Type of healthy mealsCost per weekCost per meal
Meal prep$119.41$5.69
Cost difference$95.89$4.56

Yikes, that’s almost $100/week or $400/month!

We get it, preparing meals is hard when you have to juggle work, house chores and a social life, but just think of the potential savings you could have.

If you absolutely cannot afford any kitchen time and would still like to save, consider a mix of meal prep and purchasing healthy meals from places that offer discounts (e.g. credit card dining deals, promo codes, ordering food on foodpanda and choosing the Pick-Up option, etc.). 

Cost comparison for a week’s worth of regular meals

Type of regular mealsCost per weekCost per meal
Meal prep$108.86$5.18
Cost difference$42$1.82

When compared to healthy meals, the cost difference of meal prepping and buying regular meals isn’t as large. That said, you could still be saving a cool $42/week just by preparing your meals at home. 

If cooking is too much of a hassle, cost isn’t really an issue and you prefer purchasing your meals anyway, consider charging it to a good cashback credit card to help lower your total bill. 

The final word on meal prep vs. buying food

It might just be just tens of dollars a week, but it really adds up.

Based on our calculations, you could be saving anything between $2,184/year and $4,986.28/year, just by setting aside a couple of hours a week to prepare your meals. Although this amount doesn’t account for electricity, gas, water or dishwashing liquid, we are certain that their cost won’t make much of a dent on the potential savings you could have. 

To put things into perspective, preparing your own meals for an entire year can buy you an all-inclusive 7D6N trip to Japan, insurance premiums for a year, a new Apple iMac 2021 with upgraded specifications or 200+ pints of beer.

With these numbers in mind, will you be meal prepping more often from now on? 

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Read these next: 
Cost Comparison: Juice Machines Versus Buying
Cost Comparison: At-Home IPL Devices vs Salon Packages
A Guide To Avoiding Common Money Mistakes In Singapore
Food Delivery Promo Codes 2021: GrabFood, Deliveroo, Foodpanda, WhyQ
7 Affordable Home Gym Essentials For Small Spaces

A lover of gin and all things Nigella Lawson, Geralyne’s constantly trying to adult like a pro. She spends most of her leisure time serving fur-babies and doing as many mountain climbers as she possibly can.


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