Does meal prepping take too much time? TikTokers think that they found a hack to save time by ordering Chipotle catering. They divvy up the catering into individual meals and even freeze some to save time in the future.
As of Monday, there are 4.4 billion views on videos related to Chipotle catering.
In the comments sections of these videos, some have speculated that this meal prep hack doesn’t really save money. On one video, a commenter named Wendy said, “I get it’s convenient but it would literally cost half the price if you just made it at home.” So, is this Chipotle hack worth it? Let’s examine it.
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What is included in Chipotle catering?
Chipotle catering has lots of different meal plan options.
On its website, Chipotle lists burritos by the box, plant powdered double protein, work anywhere double protein and small get-together triple protein. These different options are at different price points and there’s also a build-your-own option.
To find out the most economical option, I went through the build-your-own single option. It first had me enter my location. Then, it had me select different options. For the base, I had two options, so I picked cilantro lime brown rice and black beans. For the protein, I had one option and I picked the steak. For the two toppings, I chose the fajita veggies and shredded cheese. For the two salsas, I picked the corn and tomatillo-red chili salsa. Finally, for the tortillas, I picked the flour option.
The catering minimum was 10 people and the total came out to $109. The meals could easily be stretched to 12 to 14 as opposed to 10, but for the sake of this experiment, let’s say that we are aiming for 10 meals. That would put the total at $10.90 per meal.
How much time and money would it take to make it at home?
The ingredients you would need to buy include brown rice, cilantro, lime juice, butter, black beans, shredded cheese, fajita peppers, white onions, steak, jalapeño peppers, corn, red onions, tomatillos, Anaheim red chiles, chiles de arbol, chipotle chili, garlic cloves, olive oil and seasonings.
Given that this would be a copycat Chipotle bowl, it will taste similar, but not exactly like Chipotle. Nevertheless, here’s how I calculated the total. I found out the approximate proportions of food that Chipotle gives you from Insider and then I used the average food prices from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. When an item wasn’t available, I averaged it across three different grocery store chains in Utah.
The upfront cost of everything, if you had nothing on hand, would be $83.79, but that price lowers to around $68.52 if you have staples on hand like seasonings, rice and olive oil (still accounting for the amount that you would use). Prices do vary based on location, so an appropriate expected range would probably be anywhere from $60 to $90 on ingredients, but somewhere closer to $60 to $75 for the same 10 meals. This puts the price per meal closer to $6 to $7.
That’s cheaper than Chipotle catering, but let’s talk about the amount of time that it would take to make the entire meal.
When I experimented by making the equivalent of Chipotle catering, my cost clocked in at $72.31 before tax and discounts on sale items. Then, it took me around two and a half hours to make everything. The bulk of my time was spent on chopping different ingredients and making the salsas. All in all, it wasn’t a bad use of time. The shopping and driving to and from the grocery store took about an hour.
The calculus with Chipotle catering is a lot more complex than just wondering if it costs less. If making the food takes you away from something that can make you money, the opportunity cost could be the differentiating factor here. Say you get paid $25 an hour to do some freelancing work. In that instance, you might be able to make more money in the long run if you do Chipotle catering than if you were to make the food yourself.
The mental and emotional stress of cooking also might not be worth it to you either, making ordering Chipotle catering a worthwhile choice. Whether or not this meal prep hack is worth it will be up to you.