Is catering your meals cheaper than buying groceries?

Most social media hacks come and go like the tide. But one from this January seemingly took hold — and left the internet divided.

The hack: don’t buy groceries, but order catering instead to save time and money on meal prep.

The trend apparently started after social media influencer Madi Webb posted a video on TikTok, explaining how she purchased a large catered order of chicken, mashed potatoes, plantains and vegetables for $100.

“I feel like I’ve just cracked the code,” she said enthusiastically in the short clip.

Soon afterwards, more people took to social media claiming the hack to be a lifesaver for their families.

Others, however, are less convinced. “I get it’s convenient but it would literally cost half the price if you just made it at home,” said one user, in response to a TikTok video in which someone ordered catering from Chipotle to help with their meal prep.

So, does this hack actually work? To test it out, we crunched the numbers and spoke with two experts.

Cost of catering food in Toronto

The price of catered food in Toronto varies widely. Some catered menus, intended for weddings or special corporate events, can set you back more than $100 per person. But other offerings can come up to around $10 — or even less — per serving.

At the quick-serve restaurant Pita Pit, for instance, a catered order of 10 mixed pitas, each cut in half, starts at around $100 for the veggie option (approximately $10 per wrap), though individual prices vary at each location.

At the Portuguese grillhouse Bairrada Churrasqueira, with multiple locations in the GTA, an extra-large tray of pork, with up to 45 servings, comes up to $170 before taxes. That works out to less than $4 per serving. An extra-large tray of meat or vegetable lasagna costs $90, or exactly $2 per serving.

Not all catered meals are that affordable. Generally, restaurant food — be it dine-in, takeout or catered options — is still more expensive than purchasing those ingredients at a grocery store.

Food inflation in Canada remains high

But those savings afforded aren’t as much as they used to be. According to Canada’s Food Price Report for 2023, restaurant food prices went up by 7.5 per cent between 2021 and 2022, noticeably less than the 10.3 per cent average during that same period, which includes foods found at

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