The True Cost of Amazing Meals

Since scratchDC’s launch in the last week of August 2012, we’ve  gotten a ton of amazing feedback from fine folks like you  - feedback which has truly helped us steer and tweak and refine what we do.  One such nugget we’ve gotten a few times is that our bundles are a tad too pricey.  I’ll be the first to admit – at our average of $25-$30 for a meal for two, we are a bit more expensive when you compare us to some of the options available for hungry Washingtonians.  But from our experience we truly believe our service is providing a great, honest value.  So, we set out to do a bit of cost analysis/mythbusters to see where the scratchDC bundle falls on the dinner cost spectrum.  We also wanted to see how our prices compare to buying the same ingredients in local stores.

Let’s start small and cheap.  Fast food is a no brainer.  Quick, cheap, often delicious, but often regrettable.  You can get two people uncomfortably full for $10-$12.

Take-out is another option.  Prices and quality often vary between different DC joints, but I think its fair to say that entree prices range from $9 – $14, so for two people your looking at about $18-$28 pre tax and tip (assuming you meet the delivery minimum).  Do you always know whats in the food?  Maybe.  I’ve personally never physically seen my favorite Chinese takeout place, and I’m pretty sure I want to keep it that way.

You can always go big and go out for a nice dinner and options range from casual chains like Ruby Tuesdays or Olive Garden to quality hip local spots like Marvin or Proof to the Temples of Taste like Komi or Blue Duck Tavern.  (OMG, I love Komi) Prices and experiences along this spectrum obviously vary GREATLY, with the casual chain entrees starting at about $12 ($24 minimum for two).  Marvin and Proof’s (both of which I LOVE) average entree prices came to $22.50 and $28.33 respectively before tax and tip and with no starters, salads or sides ($45 – $56.60 for two people).  The Komi experience is priced at about $135/person and I truly believe its worth every penny.

In all of these cases (compared to scratchDC) the work is done for you.  They cook and they clean the dishes which is certainly a plus.  However, on the other hand, you have to get there somehow rather than staying in your cozy home and you cant show up to these places in a robe… and we all know that eating/cooking in a robe is a true joy.

Now lets talk about cooking at home

Before scratchDC I would always meander the aisles of my grocery store with no plan.  I’d get whatever looked good, but with no meal in mind.  So, if I ever wanted to cook a meal, I’d have to trek back to the store or settle for a grilled chicken breast w/ canned green beans – which isn’t always... amazing!

We used Monday’s Thai Green Curry Chicken w/ Mushrooms, Red Peppers, Onions, Bamboo Shoots & Shelled Edamame over Rice bundle, which we are selling for $27 ($28.62 w/tax) ($14.31/per serving/entree), as an example.  As you know, everything comes chopped, measured, marinated and ready to cook.  This meal in particular has a cook time of about 25 minutes (after we’ve diced the onions, minced the garlic and ginger, sliced the chicken, made the marinade, cut up the red pepper, mushrooms, chilis and measured out everything else), but you also have to factor in the time we’re saving you by providing you with a vetted, tested, incredible recipe and eliminating the trip to the grocery store.

scratchDC uses a much local and organic ingredients as possible, so we went to our neighborhood Whole Foods to compare prices with a similar quality you’d expect in a scratchDC bundle.  I gave my colleague Travis (the great bearded one) the recipe and he set out to find the food.   About 45 minutes later and missing only one ingredient (bamboo shoots) Travis emerged victorious with a bill of……

$75.25 w/tax.  (Full price breakdown below!)

We realize that many people have the essentials (salt, sugar, canola oil, butter) already at home, but even when eliminating those from the shopping trip, the price is still $59.54 w/tax.  (Still, more than DOUBLE what you pay for a scratchDC bundle!)

Why so expensive and how is scratchDC so much cheaper?  Well, we give you exactly what you need to cook the meal.  You’re not paying for a pound of butter or a jar of coconut oil – your just paying for the tablespoons.  We’re also able to get most of our ingredients wholesale and we pass those savings on to you.

So lets summarize.  With scratchDC, for $27.56 ($13.78/per serving), you can have quality ingredients prepped, delivered and ready to cook an amazing meal that feeds two people, but you must cook and do dishes.  You could trek to the store, buy the same ingredients for $75.25 and still have to prep and cook and do dishes.

You could go out to a dinner of similar quality and expect to pay $45-$56 before tax and tip, with no starters or salads.  (Of course it is my personal opinion that our meals stack up to most of what DC restaurants have to offer, however this opinion has been consistently agreed on by customers.)

In conclusion:  we think we’ve got a pretty dang good thing going here.  We’re helping you make the best meals of your life while truly saving you a TON of time, money and food.  scratchDC – a smarter way to do dinner.

Breakdown of Thai Green Curry Bundle Shopping Costs (From a High-End Local Grocery Store):

Canola Oil $4.99
Cilantro $1.99
Green Curry Paste $3.99
Coconut Oil $6.99
Soy Sauce $2.49
Green Chilies $1.00
Edamame (shelled) $4.99
Onion $1.50
Garlic $1.49
Basmati Rice $4.49
Butter $4.79
Salt $1.69
Coconut Milk $3.49
Fish Sauce $2.19
Ginger $3.00
Sugar $3.49
Red Bell Pepper $4.01
White Mushrooms $3.49
Bamboo Shoots $1.75
Chicken $9.35
Lime Wedges $0.50
$71.66 (total)
$75.25 (w/ tax)

Ryan Hansan
Ryan Hansan