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Are Meal Kits Worth It?

Are Meal Kits Worth It?

7 Questions Worth Considering

Meal kit subscriptions have a lot to offer. They’re super convenient, they’ll save you a ton of time, they can cut down on food waste, andperhaps most importantly of all— they’re a lot of fun. (Our readers love them!) But, are meal kits worth it?

The truth is, I’m not sure this is a question with a one-size-fits-all kind of answer. For some people, meal kits are a no-brainer. For others, they might not be a good fit. To break things down and really explore whether meal kit services are right for you, I think there are 7 questions worth considering. Let’s explore them! In this article, I’ll look at popular reasons for subscribing. If a particular section happens to ring true, keep your eyes peeled for tailored box recommendations. (I’ve tried to provide them whenever possible.)

by Lindsey Morse, Meal Kit Guru
December 7, 2020| 10 comments

Are Meal Kits Worth It? 

1. Would you like to cook at home more often?

I think it’s probably safe to say that we’ve all found ourselves in a “no cooking rut” once or twice before. Maybe you want to cook at home but don’t have a lot of experience. Or perhaps you’re more tempted by the tantalizing offerings on restaurant menus than the things you come up with in your own kitchen. For me, it usually goes a little something like this: I skip a trip to the grocery store one day and order sushi instead. Then, the next day, I grab a frozen pizza on the way home from work. Followed by takeout Thai or fast food. Before I know it— boom!—  it’s been a whole week and I haven’t cooked once. Habits like these form quickly and are hard to break. 

But whatever your reason for avoiding the kitchen, subscribing to a meal delivery service can help inspire you to cook at home more regularly. It might also help you eat more balanced meals and— if you’ve been frequently ordering costly takeout— could even save you some money.

2. Do you tend to make unhealthy, last-minute meal decisions?

Let’s face it: it’s easy to fall into the convenience-trap of ordering takeout when you don’t have a plan for dinner. There’s nothing like opening an empty fridge at 6 pm when your tummy is grumbling to have you quickly reaching for your phone to order up Chinese delivery. (I don’t know about you, but my personal weakness is sweet & sour chicken.) When you sign up for a meal kit delivery service and have ingredients on hand, it’s a lot easier to get home-cooked meals on the table. 

If healthy meals sound like a welcome change, and you’re looking for a subscription that will help balance your diet, I think Green Chef is worth looking into; they send organic meals straight to your doorstep. Or, if something plant-based is more your speed, check out Purple Carrot. (Even if you’re not a vegan, it’s a great way to boost your veggie intake.)

3. Does unnecessary food waste irk you? 

Can I make a confession? I am terrible when it comes to letting food slowly die in my fridge. My intentions are usually good. Sometimes I’ll wrap up leftovers with every intention of eating them later… and then forget about them. Other times, I’ll pick up something at the grocery store with grand plans to make a fabulous dish (like a handful of peaches for a luxe fruit salad), but then I’ll miss that perfect window of ripeness and end up throwing most of them away. 

I like that meal kits send me everything that I need (no more, no less) to get dinner ready. If a recipe calls for, say, fish sauce, I don’t have to buy a big bottle that I might not use again. If you’re like me and get annoyed when you throw away spoiled food, you might also appreciate how meal kits can help limit food waste.

4. Do you struggle to come up with recipe ideas that keep meals interesting? 

Are you bored with your usual meal routine? Struggling to find exciting new recipes that whet your appetite? Even the most adventurous foodies and kitchen alchemists run out of inspiration from time to time, and a meal kit can be a great way to shake things up. Whether it’s making a dish at home you’ve only ever seen on a restaurant menu, being introduced to a new ingredient that can take your cooking to the next level, picking up some new techniques, or learning the flavor building blocks of a new type of cuisine, there’s a lot out there to discover. I have meal kits to thank for introducing me to Korean rice cakes quite a few years ago. I fell in love with them immediately, and they’re now in my regular rotation.

If you’d like to incorporate more seasonal ingredients into your cooking, Blue Apron is great about featuring in-season fruits and veggies. Like being spoiled for choice? I highly recommend HelloFresh. Their menu is stacked with 23 different recipes every single week!

5. Are you new to cooking? 

When you’re a cooking novice, planning meals and making them yourself at home can be intimidating. Recipes can feel like they’re written in a different language, and techniques, ingredients, and tools can sometimes seem impossibly foreign. (What’s “en papillote”? What the heck is a microplane? Or, in the immortal words of David Rose from Schitt’s Creek, “What does ‘fold in the cheese’ mean?”) Meal kits can help hold your hand while you learn the basics, and their step-by-step instructions can be a great way to ensure your first forays into home cooking are successful.

If you’d like to find a subscription that’s good for newbies, I recommend checking out EveryPlate. Their recipes tend to incorporate fewer ingredients, and fewer ingredients= fewer cooking steps. Sun Basket meals are also simple and straightforward (with the added benefit of using organic, high-quality produce). HelloFresh is also a great choice. HelloFresh recipe cards are all assigned a difficulty rating, so if you’re new to cooking you can start with “level 1” recipes that are quick and easy to prepare and don’t require much multi-tasking.

6. Are you short on time? 

Do you struggle to find the time to do weekly meal planning, write up a shopping list, grocery shop, and then prep dinner every night? The convenience offered by meal kits might turn cooking from “chore I simply do not have time for” into “wow, that was easy.” Many kits come with ingredients that are pre-portioned and pre-prepped to save you time in the kitchen, and some, like Gobble, even send meals that are par-cooked so you can get dinner on the table in around 15 minutes. Is that still more time than you have to spend some evenings? You can opt to skip the meal prep entirely and have a subscription, like Freshly, deliver fully-cooked meals that you can reheat at your convenience. Dinner in 3 minutes? Pretty much everyone has time for that, right?

7. Are you on a budget? 

If you’re an impulse shopper who has a hard time resisting the allure of items you don’t really need (like that flavored salt variety pack that “fell into my shopping cart” last week while I was grocery shopping), meal kits can help you plan a meal budget and stick to it. Every week, you know exactly how much food you’re getting, how many meals are covered, and how much it’s going to cost. True, they’re not always the most affordable way to get dinner on the table, but they don’t have to break the bank. There are quite a few subscriptions that are designed with limited budgets in mind; some (like EveryPlate and Dinnerly) will send meal kits directly to your door for as little as $4.99 per serving. Depending on what your average grocery bill looks like, that might very well cut your food costs. 

My Top Tips 

I’ve tried out a wide variety of meal kit subscriptions over the years, and I’ve learned a thing or two about how to pick the right one(s) and get the best deal. If you’re ready to take the plunge and give meal kits a try, here are some of my top tips: 

Do your homework. 

There are a ton of different meal kit subscriptions to choose from. Sure, this can seem a little overwhelming at first, but it means there’s bound to be one that fits you to a tee. Do you have dietary restrictions? Follow a specific diet, like keto or paleo? Eat vegan? Avoid gluten? There’s a meal kit for that. I recommend starting your search by checking out our reader-approved list of The 14 Best Meal Kit Boxes of 2020 – Readers’ Choice Awards!

Check out upcoming menus. 

Meal kits are not all created equal when it comes to the food. Some menus skew adventurous while others will make you feel like you’re sitting down to dinner at grandma’s table. Depending on what kind of food you like to eat, one subscription might be a better fit than another. Looking to spice things up with global flavors and exotic ingredients? No problem. Prefer comfort foods and want to avoid ingredients you can’t pronounce? That’s okay, too. The best way to make sure you’re picking a kit with menus that are right for you is to look at upcoming recipes. Check out my Weekly Menu Post to see what the top meal kits are serving up.

Seek out deals. 

There are a lot of meal kit companies out there competing for your dollar, and they’re confident that once you taste their food you’ll be a loyal subscriber. They really want you to give them a try, so many offer super enticing deals on your first box (or your first few boxes). Here at My Subscription Addiction, we track these deals to make sure you have access to the best ones available. Know which box is calling your name? Find coupons in the subscription box directory. (Or keep an eye out on the blog for extra special deals, and try new kits when the price is right!)

Non-exclusive relationships are okay.

Generally, I consider myself to be pretty loyal, but when it comes to subscription boxes I like to play the field. At any given time, I’m probably juggling two or three different meal kit subscriptions. You see, for me, not all weeks are created equal. Some weeks are crazy busy, and I want a meal kit that will help me get dinner on the table as quickly as possible. Other times, I have more time and enjoy pouring myself a glass of wine and settling in to enjoy a longer cooking process. Since most meal kits allow you to skip a week whenever you like, I find this gives me the flexibility I need to mix things up as my schedule demands.

 


So, what do YOU think? Are meal kits are worth it? Tell us why (or why not) in the comments section below. And be sure to share your favorite meal delivery services!


Ready to give meal kits a try? Get started here:

 

Written by Lindsey Morse

Lindsey Morse

Lindsey is a professional baker, cold brew coffee addict, and rosé aficionado who loves writing about food and wine. When she’s not sharing her love of subscription boxes with the world, you’ll find her in the podcasting studio, perfecting her cake decorating techniques, or cursing her way through the New York Times daily crossword puzzle.

Comments (10)

  1. My family of 4 (me, hubby, and 2 year old twins) has tried them all except Blue Apron. The ones I like the best are Marley Spoon/Dinnerly and Hello Fresh/Every Plate. My family didn’t cook much when I was growing up, so it’s not a well-worn habit for me. My husband works a gazillion hours a week, and I’m not good at meal planning without tons of waste…and a little anxiety. We’ve used meal kits pretty consistently for about a year now, and some of the techniques are starting to become second nature. I usually order from 1-2 companies (depending on the recipes offered) each week for a total of 6 meals for 4 people (enough for leftovers). My boys get to try new things I wouldn’t have thought to give them, and the ingredients are consistent enough to give them repeated exposure. Also, I don’t like cooking meat, and I’m glad these 4 companies offer a variety of vegetarian meals.

    TMI but maybe useful to someone, so I’ll share- I have food and body image issues and went to a therapist for a little bit for it when meal kits were first a thing. She recommended them to ease me into the world of cooking and enjoying food. At the time, I couldn’t wrap my mind around allowing myself to spend that much money on food I can buy cheaper at the store (especially since my hubby works a gazillion hours a week for that money) …then came the kiddos, and I gave into her suggestion. It was one of the best choices I’ve made for my peace of mind around food. The value added for me having that peace around cooking for myself and my family and enjoying food makes them totally worth it to me.

    I do wish these 4 companies would include more whole grain options (Marley Spoon is starting to more often).

    • Hi, Tiffany. I want to say thank you for taking the time to talk about your experience with meal kits and for sharing with others how they’ve helped you on your personal journey. I think readers will really appreciate it. And I agree about wanting to see more whole grain options– I’m keeping my fingers crossed that’s a trend we’ll see in meal kits in 2021!

  2. I like Hello Fresh, but they are expensive for what you get. Right now if you have an Amex card, they are offering $5 off if you order $50+.
    Pros-convenient, little food waste, fun to try out different recipes, gets me out of my pasta/rice vegetarian rut, free extras like Kind Bars and drinks, lots of veggie choices
    Cons-expensive, a lot of packaging (mostly recyclable), recipes almost always take more than the “10 minutes prep” on the recipe cards, dependent on UPS which these days can run late….

    • I thought it was just me who took longer to do the prep!

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts about meal kits, chillybeans! I’ve always thought it would be a good idea if kits gave a “prep range” vs. a “prep time” because it really can vary depending on the recipe and who is making it. Thanks for your comment! 🙂

  3. I livr my meal kits. I have tried Home Chef too boring, Marley Spoon – not enough flavor, Blue Apron – good if you don’t mind only seven choices a week and Hello Fresh – flavorful, 23 options a week with amazing customer service. Hello Fresh is my family’s favorite.

    • It’s certainly hard to argue with 23 different choices every week! Thanks so much for weighing in and sharing your experience, Jenny!

  4. Meal kits are totally worth it for me. My husband and I both work 50 hours a week at pretty intense jobs. Last thing I want to do is shop and plan meals. So, I thought about what our time is worth. The convenience of meal kits is cost-effective for us, because we are using the time together to prep and cook dinner together. We aren’t searching recipes, grocery shopping and all the other stuff. Just making a meal, which we actually both enjoy. We get to try new things, push our culinary boundaries (a little!) and enjoy some great food. I definitely realize that not everyone has the same circumstances as me….we are DINKS (double-income, no kids) and the price is totally worth it. This is a priority for me, and I’m thankful to have lots of great option out there. I appreciate the reviews, as they help me find great new choices!

    • I’ve been on the fence, but leaning towards trying one out – who have you used?

    • Thanks so much for sharing your experience, Kate! 🙂

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