Meal kit delivery service has become a multimillion-dollar industry, which is expected to grow even bigger in the years to come. From Blue Apron to HelloFresh, meal kit delivery services offer consumers unparalleled access to (semi)affordable, fresh, and convenient meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
With a meal kit delivery service, you can choose 2-4 meals (on average) from a menu of 6-8 meals that changes weekly, ensuring you always have various options to choose from. Every ingredient you need is included with your delivery, along with a useful recipe card to help you cook the meal on your own at home.Meal kit delivery services are a multimillion-dollar industry. But, are they right for you?Click To Tweet
Should You Subscribe to a Meal Kit Delivery Service?
But are meal kit subscriptions really worth it? Here’s a breakdown of the advantages and disadvantages to help you decide:
Simplify Grocery Shopping
If you hate driving to the grocery store, comparing prices between brands, and buying ingredients that you’ll only use a fraction of before they disappear into your pantry to gather dust, then a meal kit subscription could be a potential alternative to grocery shopping. Meal kits are handy for folks who live far away from a decent grocery store, have difficulties carrying groceries into the home due to old age or disability, or want to make specialized meals without purchasing large quantities of ingredients that aren’t useful for other recipes.
The exact quantity of each ingredient you need to make 2-4 servings of a meal is delivered right to your doorstep, typically in a temperature-protected bag with a large ice pack to ensure the freshness of refrigerated items.
However, while meal kit subscriptions are also great for discovering new recipes and the companies claim they’re cheaper alternatives to grocery shopping, meal kits are not the most affordable options when you compare them to groceries (especially if your current budget grocery strategy involves building meal plans around sales at your local store).
Cheaper Alternative to Dining Out
If you’re spending $20+ per meal at a restaurant, then you can save money on dining out by ordering a meal kit and preparing food at home instead. With average meal prices of $12 or lower, meal kit services offer substantial cost savings for folks who often eat at restaurants.
Since meal kit companies build their weekly menus around items they can acquire in bulk quantities at wholesale prices, they’re able to pass along savings to consumers while restaurants price their menus to account for overhead costs like staff wages, building rent and utilities, and other expenses beyond just the cost of the food itself (don’t forget you have to tip wait staff at restaurants too!).
Although meal prep services may not beat out the affordability of good old-fashioned grocery shopping, they almost always beat out restaurant prices of the same quality meals.
Not Ideal for Singles
The downside to meal delivery services is that they’re designed for couples and families, not folks who live alone or only cook for one person. While 80 Fresh is single-friendly, the bigger names like HelloFresh and Blue Apron are more geared towards family meal plans.
If you don’t mind heaps of leftovers of the same meal each week, then ordering a meal kit of two servings per meal (approximately 6 meals’ worth in the average meal delivery) could be a possible solution. However, if you prefer variety when it comes to food and you are only cooking for one. Meal delivery services might not suit your situation (yet – some companies claim they’re working on single-serve kits for future release).
No Time or Energy to Cook?
The idea of having all the ingredients you need with fancy, easy-to-read recipe cards delivered to your doorstep might sound super convenient, but all too often, it’s hard to break out of our habits. If you’re not accustomed to spending 30+ minutes cooking each night (or cooking at all), then making the switch to a meal kit from your current mealtime habits might be difficult.
Unfortunately, these meals do expire if left unused in the fridge for a few days, so if you come home too tired or too late to whip up dinner in the kitchen, you could end up wasting your money with unused ingredients that spoil before you use them. On the other hand, if you love cooking and discovering delicious new recipes, switching to a meal kit could be a seamless and money-saving transition to expanding your culinary horizons.
What Meal Kits Are Out There?
There are several different meal kit delivery services out there, including Blue Apron, HelloFresh, Plated, Sun Basket, Home Chef, Purple Carrot, Crock-Pot Cuisine, Marley Spoon, Chef’d, and even Amazon just launched their own meal kit service for Prime members. Or, what about AmazonFresh? Prices vary based on your meal plan (2 or 4 people, typically) and how many meals you order per week (2-5 for most meal prep companies), though HelloFresh and Blue Apron have been rated as most affordable by several meal kit reviewers, with average prices per serving to range from $8.75-9.50.
Consumer Reports has also reviewed several meal kit delivery services to test for pricing, taste, nutritional value, healthiness, and other factors. The results varied depending on the meal and company (e.g., Blue Apron was the least expensive with “so-so recipes”), but Consumer Reports pointed out that for spices, in particular, meal kit services could be useful because they provide only what you need so you don’t need to spend extra money purchasing a whole bottle of spices you likely won’t need for future recipes.
Coupons and Free Trials
A major obstacle people cite for not wanting to sign up for meal delivery services is cost. If you want to try it out before signing up for a regular subscription, many delivery services offer 50% off or $20-30 off coupons for the first delivery. If you know a friend or family member who has tried a meal prep service, they might even be able to refer you to their program with a free trial (be sure to cancel if you end up disliking it because these companies typically auto-charge your card instead of canceling automatically).
Are meal kits for everyone? Of course not, but they’re an increasingly popular industry that will only become more common over the next several years as people seek convenience and cost savings over their current grocery shopping and dining out habits. Before signing up for a meal kit, be sure to get a coupon or free trial to minimize your financial risk as you test out the service to see if it might work for your lifestyle.
What about you? Have you tried a meal kit delivery service? Which one is your favorite?