Uber Eats Can Save You Money

Uber Eats is incredibly convenient. What if I told you it can be cheaper than making food from scratch? I’ll prove it! No tricks. No B.S. Just math.

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Introduction

First, we’ll see how much Americans spend on groceries, then we’ll see how much more ordering all meals on Uber Eats would cost. We’ll then examine that difference in cost and make a conclusion.

Typical Spending

Groceries

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the national average for cost of groceries for two adults ranges between $410.60 to $815.60 per month, depending on spending habits¹. These are average, so about half of the nation will spend more, and about half will spend less. Additionally, people who live in more expensive areas can expect to pay more (less for less expensive areas). In fact, people in Honolulu can expect to pay 69.3% more than the national average on groceries².

I personally live near San Francisco, CA, where people spend about 35.6% higher than the national average for groceries², so in my area, let’s say a two adult household spends between $556.77 to $1105.96 on groceries.

Uber Eats

Since we’re completely replacing purchasing groceries and making your own food with only, it would make sense to sign up for the Eats Pass. It completely wipes out the $4.99 delivery fee and saves you 5% on the on food orders for a relatively small membership fee of $9.99 per month³, but some credit cards like the American Express Green card has complementary membership as a benefit for cardholders⁴. So we will exclude the $9.99 per month cost. (In the calculations, you’ll see that this $9.99 doesn’t matter too much anyway.)

For breakfast, we will use Starbucks, since 65% of Americans say their go-to breakfast meal is eggs, and 58% say they drink coffee⁵.

For lunch and dinner, we will use the most common restaurant in the United States: Subway. (Fun fact: there are 24,568 Subway locations and only 13,793 McDonalds locations in the US⁶.)

And for ease of calculation, we’ll standardize on eating the same items every day. For breakfast, we will use the Sausage, Cheddar & Egg Sandwich (or a coffee drink could be substituted for approximately the same cost). Then for lunch and dinner, we will use Subway’s Meatball Marinara sub since it seems to always be near the top in terms of rankings⁷ ⁸. For lunch, we’ll use a 6-inch sub. And for dinner, we’ll use a 12-inch sub.

Using these assumptions, we see that a two adult household that lives near San Francisco, CA can expect to spend approximately $1376.43.

Monthly cost of only eating food from Uber Eats. Assumes Eat Pass membership and San Francisco Bay Area location. Table by the Author. Jul. 2021.
Photo by Mehrad Vosoughi on Unsplash

The Difference

At “best case”, the difference between Uber Eats and making food from scratch is only $270.47, but at “worst case”, the difference grows to $819.66. A significant chunk of change!

Difference in spending, comparing grocery shopping to Uber Eats. Table by the Author. Jul. 2021.

Looking just these numbers, one may quickly conclude that making food from scratch was the cheaper option, and that it was common sense that this would be the case.

However, this calculation fails to take into account something known as “opportunity cost”. Oxford dictionary defines opportunity cost as:

The cost of something in terms of an opportunity forgone. Opportunity cost is given by the benefits that could have been obtained by choosing the best alternative opportunity.⁹

In other words, what could I have been doing instead of spending time making and preparing the meals?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American spends 7.02 hours per week on food preparation¹⁰. That equates to 30.5 hours per month, assuming 4.34 weeks per month. This means you could have been working for 30.5 hours instead of preparing food.

Depending on how much a job pays, the additional monthly income from working an 30.5 more hours per month could meet or exceed the additional amount of money spent on food from Uber Eats.

Additional income from working 30.5 hours, calculated using various hourly rates. Does not include overtime. Does not include tax withholdings. Hourly rates based on jobs in the San Francisco Bay Area¹¹ ¹² ¹³ ¹⁴ ¹⁵. Table by the Author. Jul. 2021.
Photo by Jeswin Thomas on Unsplash

Caveats

Clearly the amount of money that people spend on groceries varies significantly, based on food preferences and spending habits. For example, you can expect to spend much more if your diet is more meat focused. And vegetarians likely wouldn’t spend as much. And on the Uber Eats side, clearly people would easily get tired of Starbucks and Subway every day. I don’t expect people to only eat at a single place. People could want more expensive foods, or could equally want more inexpensive foods. I encourage you to try the calculations yourself with numbers that are realistic for your situation in your area.

As for working more hours. I do understand that some jobs do not allow workers to work more hours. The calculation done here only assumes working an additional 1.40 hours per workday, and does not include overtime. I also understand that salaried individuals are not paid by the hour. However, salaried people can still work side jobs (perhaps part-time contracting, or similar) to work some additional hours. So again, I encourage you to use numbers that are realistic for your situation in your area.

In general, ordering more expensive meals from Uber Eats will require a higher hourly wage to cover the additional cost. But well-paid professions will still likely come out ahead.

Conclusions

Uber Eats is definitely more expensive than preparing food from scratch. There is no doubt about it. However, food preparation requires 30.5 hours per month on average. If you have an hourly job that pays a decent amount (and lets you work an additional 30.5 hours per month), then you could “break even” or even come out ahead.

Depending on your exact numbers for your particular situation, you could potentially end up with more money when eating food from Uber Eats, when compared to making food from scratch.

So in some cases, Uber Eats can “save” you money.

Has reading about food got you hungry? Get $20 off your first Uber Eats order of $25 or more. Offer might not last forever: https://ubereats.app.link/Ecv8yQb20eb

Further Reading?

Interested in more money topics?

Want to see what a Silicon Valley Engineer does all day?

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References

Sources accessed July 5, 2021.

  1. https://www.fns.usda.gov/cnpp/usda-food-plans-cost-food-reports-monthly-reports
  2. https://www.rent.com/blog/most-affordable-cities-for-groceries/
  3. https://about.ubereats.com/us/en/how-it-works/uber-eats-pass/
  4. https://www.americanexpress.com/us/credit-cards/card/green/
  5. https://www.safegraph.com/blog/fast-food-chains-with-the-most-locations-per-state-2-most-popular-restaurant-will-surprise-you
  6. https://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/Article/2019/07/22/What-s-for-breakfast-Fewer-Americans-are-eating-breakfast
  7. https://www.insider.com/eating-every-subway-sandwich-review-and-photos
  8. https://www.thetravel.com/weirdest-subway-combinations-reddit/
  9. https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110810105528518
  10. https://www.bls.gov/news.release/atus.t02.htm
  11. https://minimumwage.com/state/california/
  12. https://www.indeed.com/cmp/Tesla/salaries/Production-Associate/Fremont-CA
  13. https://www.indeed.com/career/cnc-programmer/salaries/Fremont--CA
  14. https://www.payscale.com/data-packages/top-tech-companies-compared/tech-salaries
  15. https://www.ziprecruiter.com/Salaries/Medical-Doctor-Salary--in-California

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