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Meal kits have been around for several years, but they soared in popularity once the pandemic began. You likely see ads for a meal kit delivery service everywhere, on your social media feeds, television, and magazines.
The companies’ names are fun and catchy such as Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, Home Chef, Purple Carrot, and Sun Basket. The sign-up processes for each company’s meal plans are pretty straightforward, letting you note your delivery and food preferences.
Once a week, you can have a box chock full of delicious ingredients or premade meals delivered to your door.
No one can argue that meal delivery kits aren’t convenient, but are they worth the cost? Pricing for meal kits usually comes at a premium, and, except for meal service providers like Freshly, you still must cook the meal.
Let's review the pros and cons of using meal kit companies to help you decide if these services are right for you.
Why Meal Kit Boxes Make Sense
Here’s what you need to know before signing up for a meal kit subscription service that either does the meal prep and provides a recipe to follow or a ready-made meal you pop in the oven instead.
Prep Work Is Done
The number one selling point of these kits is that someone else does all the prep work before it arrives at your door. The ingredients are diced, sliced, cleaned, easily identifiable, and ready to cook immediately. Making dinner takes less time, and there’s less clean-up for at least a couple of meals per week.
Meal Planning Is Easier
Do you struggle with deciding what’s for dinner? Walk into any grocery store, and you’ll be overwhelmed with choices. With weekly meal kits, you have fewer meal options. The limited selection might seem like a con, but it’s one of the deciding factors to invest in the service for many.
Expand Cooking Skills
Whether you're just learning to cook or ready to take it up a notch, food ingredients with detailed recipe cards to follow can help you improve your kitchen and nutrition skills.
Expanding your cooking techniques and understanding how food elements work together in an entree and as part of an entire meal will serve you well for years to come.
It can also inspire you to combine ingredients you might never have tried, improve long-time favorites, or create an entirely new recipe from scratch.
Food Waste Is Reduced
How many times have you spent money on food that goes to waste? Most people overestimate how much food they need to make meals for their weekly menus. Or the food spoils because you don’t feel like cooking and spend more money ordering delivery.
Less food waste is better for your budget and the environment. Portion-controlled meal kits also help keep your refrigerator clean and organized.
Many households struggle with planning nutritional meals. They purchase boxed meals containing additives and preservatives that are high in sodium, sugar, and fat.
Meal kits like Hello Fresh are nutritionally balanced with quality ingredients. And the variety of meals they offer let you try an assortment of grains and vegetables that expand your palette. Who knew eating healthier could be as easy as opening a cardboard box?
People have unique dietary needs. A benefit of meal services is that they often offer plant-based meals, organic foods, paleo meals, or other special diet requirements. For example, Purple Carrot's meal delivery service has numerous offerings for vegetarian options, while Green Chef is an excellent choice for people on gluten-free diets.Green Chef $100 off, including free shipping!
The Drawbacks of Using a Meal Prep Service
While there are several fantastic benefits of meal kit delivery that help you eat healthy meals, you can’t ignore several cons of meal kit services.
Pricing Is Higher Than You Think
Meal kit services devote a lot of money to their marketing and branding. They’re good at convincing people that their home-cooked meals are affordable, but they’re not always telling the whole story.
If you ate out every night, the meal delivery company is comparable price-wise. It’s not equivalent to buying the same ingredients in the kit from the grocery store and making it yourself. Also, the prices advertised are generally for two people. Larger families will pay more for their kits.
Keep in mind, most meal kits only cover one meal a day. This means you’re still grocery shopping and preparing food for other meals, and buying snacks. For some families, the additional meals from these services can double their typical grocery bill.
Also, most meal services offer trial pricing that doesn't reflect what you'll pay when you sign up for the service after the introductory period. When you're trying to cut monthly expenses this is not the way to go.
Food Items Are Perishable
To get the most for your money, you need to stay on schedule with your meals. Most meal packages include fresh ingredients that will go bad if not used within so many days.
If you want to try a meal service program, but you don’t want to or can't eat on a schedule week after week, consider a service like Daily Harvest that offers frozen meals, smoothies, and overnight oat bowls.
You Have to Monitor Your Membership
Companies providing meal services may require a minimum number of meals you purchase week to week. But they don’t require their members to sign a contract or commit to a certain number of meals in total. That’s a plus, yet using these services requires constant monitoring.
If you’re going out of town for a week or two, you need to remember to pause the delivery. Forget to do this, and you’ll have a leaky cardboard box waiting for you at your door.
Meal kits include a lot of packaging. Inside each box, you’ll find the following:
- Ingredients packed separately
- Insulation/padding to protect the food
- Ice packs, dry ice, or other cooling sources to keep all ingredients fresh while in transit
The good news is that most of the packaging is recyclable, but you’re still responsible for managing many materials. Whether this is good or bad is up to individual preferences. Some people have no problem with extra packaging, while others might.
Try Several Meal Kit Subscription Services Before You Decide
If you’re interested in a meal prep service, don’t try one and call it a day. There are too many players on the field. Instead, consider all of your options.
Most meal services offer opportunities to try the service at a reduced rate. Give several services a shot for a week or two to determine who delivers your favorite meals and what works best for you, and your budget.
A well-known option is Blue Apron offering a wide variety of meal kits including vegetarian, WW Approved, Diabetes-Friendly, and health-conscious offerings. In their online market, they also offer additional offerings such as wine, kitchen tools, pantry items, and gift cards.
Nutrition for Longevity is a farm-to-table meal delivery service that is focused on addressing the nutritional deficiencies in today’s commercially grown produce and restore food to its natural state so you can support your health. Vegan, Pescatarian, and Flexitarian Meal Plans are offered. You can also purchase organic coffee, olive oil, and rich dark chocolate in their marketplace.
Want your meals cooked for you? Then check out Freshly. They deliver chef-prepared meals and can accommodate a variety of dietary preferences. With a typical refrigerated shelf life of about 3-5 days, just heat in the microwave when you're ready to enjoy.
For a budget-friendly option take a look at Dinnerly or EveryPlate. Dinnerly, starts at less than $5.00 per serving, by providing digital versus paper recipe cards, using fewer – but still quality – ingredients per dish (less chopping and cleaning), and simple packaging and marketing campaigns.
Have picky eaters at home? Home Chef has as many as 38 meal kit options, significantly more than any other service. Choose meals you'll cook, or foods ready for the oven with no or very little prep work required.
When choosing a meal kit provider, there are several things to consider besides price:
- Do they offer premade meals or ingredients and recipes?
- How often does the menu change?
- Are there recipes that are always offered in addition to seasonal meal choices?
- Do their options for delivery ensure you'll have healthy foods when you need them to feed your busy family?
- Is a unique tool, equipment, or cooking process required?
- What are their meal portion options, and what will you pay for adding extra portions?
Once you've narrowed down your choices based on who offers the type of meal kit you desire, you'll want to make your cost comparison. What might initially seem like the cheapest option might not be the best option once you try them and look beyond the cost of servings per meal.
If you're feeding others, ask who gets their vote for delivering the tastiest meals. Also, consider which company has the widest variety of choices, limits packaging waste and environmental impacts, and has the best record for timely delivery of meals.
Are Meal Kits Worth It?
All meal kit subscription services have their pros and cons. Every household needs to decide what makes sense for their budget and food preferences.
The convenience and variety of healthy options that meal kit delivery companies offer are embraced by households everywhere. No more do you have to scramble to put together a meal.
With services providing you prepared meals or meal kit options, you can always know what’s for dinner.