When we used to think in terms of meal delivery services, great flavor and fresh, high-quality ingredients were not necessarily the first associations that came to mind. More often, you could expect shelf-stable meals that were freeze-dried, canned or bagged and delivered in Styrofoam. While food that can be reconstituted is great to have on hand in case of an emergency, it hardly makes for an appetizing meal that you would look forward to eating, much less serve to the members of your household or guests.
Thankfully, there are now a wide variety of meal delivery plans that combine tasty food and nutritious choices with time-saving convenience and hassle-free preparation. Beginning around 2012, a growing number of businesses began springing up to provide meal kits that combined all the ingredients you needed for a delicious dinner, along with easy-to-follow instructions and visuals so that you could make it fresh in your home, no grocery shopping required. We’ve explored some potential benefits of integrating a meal kit subscription into your household food budget, along with some cautionary words before you dive in:
You may be able to lower your grocery bills and slash total spending on food: For some, this meal-in-a-box concept offers a cost-effective way to combine cooking and convenience with more healthful eating. What’s more, the numbers may work for you whether you have two people to feed or several children at home. For instance, you can get a subscription to Blue Apron for three meals per week to feed two people for $59.94 (after an introductory rate of only $39.94). This breaks out to just $9.99 per serving. To serve a family of four, you can get two meals per week with four servings each for $71.92 (first week is only $51.92). Under this plan, you’ll pay $8.99 per serving.
Melissa Davidson from The Financial Diet
offers some helpful perspective on costs of meal delivery kits. Under her meal plan, she pays $69 per week for three dinners that each serve two people. This amounts to $11.50 per person per meal for a dinner that might include a steak, starch and fresh vegetables—a price point that she would be hard-pressed to beat by shopping at her local store.
Of course, it would be possible for her to find cheaper ingredients in the grocery store for an entirely different type of meal. However, the point is that you may actually come out ahead by substituting some of your pricier purchases at the grocery store for a meal kit delivery service a few nights per week. If you dine out frequently, the financial advantages of alternating with a meal delivery service are even more pronounced, as the price point of some $10-$12 dollars per person is just a fraction of what your bill might be at a typical restaurant.
You may find it easier to control what you eat and your portions: It could be argued that one of the biggest benefits of eating at home is that you know exactly what you’re eating. This is especially the case when your ingredients are perfectly measured out before they even arrive. As SimpleMost explains, there are only as many servings in your box as you buy, which discourages you from overeating. Perhaps more importantly, meal kit delivery services tend to feature fresh, wholesome ingredients and recipes that are nutritious, well-balanced and flavorful.
You’re less likely to waste food: As Student Loan Hero puts it, “You don’t need to buy a whole carton of buttermilk for one recipe—your kit includes only what you’ll use.” Since you receive only the amount you need of a particular product to make a set number of servings; you won’t find yourself left with a large box or jar of ingredients in danger of spoiling before you even think to use them again. In addition, you won’t need to shell out additional cash for expensive spices and other items that you haven’t tried before, and may not even like.
You can customize your plan to your needs and health goals:
From vegan and vegetarian based meals to lower-calorie options and those that focus on sustainable, locally-sourced ingredients, there are plenty of choices when it comes to choosing a meal service, and in choosing your weekly meal plan itself. While your tastes may steer you to certain providers like Purple Carrot, Sun Basket and Green Chef, the fact is that most companies that make meal-delivery kits also understand the value of flexible offerings. Most will give you the ability to eliminate foods for allergy sufferers, and some even make it easy to increase your intake of certain nutrients
. In addition, you may be able to select your choices based on the time it takes to prepare and the level of complexity a recipe involves. In U.S. News & World Report
, contributor Jon Lal explains that HelloFresh allows you to pick meals from a “quick” category (a maximum of 30 minutes to make) as well as more challenging recipes labelled “variety” that emphasize new techniques and ingredients. From HelloFresh’s classic plan alone, there are 17 recipes from which you can choose each week. The service also comes with an app for additional guidance in preparing your meals.
It can be an easier, more enjoyable way to cook: Although you’ll still need to prepare and cook your food, having fresh ingredients and recipes delivered right to your door in carefully pre-measured packages saves you major time and effort, not to mention stress. Even those who don’t generally like to cook may find that it can be a fulfilling way to spend time with others when you don’t have to seek out inspiration on what to make, plan your ingredient list and head out to the store to deal with parking, lines and ducking shopping carts. For those who lack confidence in the kitchen, meal kit subscriptions can also offer a way to ease yourself into cooking more consistently.
Ready to start checking out the various meal kit delivery services to decide if one might be right for you, your family or household? A great place to look is Food Box HQ’s “Top 10 Best Meal Delivery Services You Can Purchase.” Also, be sure that you plan for proper storage of your food, even if it means getting someone to agree to be available at your home to accept delivery. As the Penny Hoarder has pointed out, food left outside for eight hours or more increases the hazards of foodborne illness. Not a great start to a new healthy-eating program! And if you’re seeking an effective way to trim your overall food budget, don’t forget to get started in MoneyTrac, our secure online banking tool that will break down your budget into simple, color-coded visuals, making it easy to set goals and avoid overspending.