It’s time to answer the question of what’s for dinner yet again, and you’re out of idea and ambition, or maybe you’re just bored with your usual rotation of dishes. Meal delivery services have grown more popular in recent years because they provide an alternative to meal planning, grocery shopping, meal prep, and all the other details that go into creating a great dish.
You’ve probably heard of some of the more popular meal delivery companies, like Blue Apron or Green Chef, but aren’t entirely sure of the ins and outs of how they work and if they’re a good fit for your lifestyle. Before you give up on the idea, here are the details about how a meal delivery service works and if they’re worth it.
Meal Delivery Vs. The Grocery Store
The name can be a little misleading, so let’s start with the basics of what a meal delivery service is. Most of us have ordered take-out and picked it up or had it delivered. You’re probably also familiar with the pizza delivery guy showing up at your doorstep for the third night in a row. Technically, this counts as having meals delivered, but that’s not really what we’re talking about here.
Meal delivery is for people who are tired of takeout, fast food, and leftovers. They crave home-cooked goodness but either don’t have the time, desire, or feel they lack the culinary skills to put something edible together. Meal delivery solves this problem by shipping meals or meal kits to your home, usually on a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly basis.
Each company is a little different, so you’ll find some slight variances in how each service works, but most share the basics in common. You choose from a menu of meals offered each time you order. The number of entrees you choose usually depends on your plan, but some companies let you order a la carte to suit your needs.
Then, on a designated day, a box will arrive at your door. It will either contain prepared, packaged dishes made from fresh ingredients, or a meal kit, with all the pre-portioned ingredients you need to make delicious meals in your own kitchen.
Do You Need a Subscription?
This depends on the meal delivery company you choose. Many will ask that you sign up for a subscription and choose a meal plan, including how many dishes/servings you want per delivery. Many companies also offer plans for dietary preferences. Sun Basket is one example of a meal kit delivery company that offers many types of plans, including paleo, diabetes-friendly, and vegetarian options.
There are few companies that offer the option to just choose a la cart whenever you choose, with zero commitment. This sounds ideal, but there are some perks to subscribing to meal deliveries.
First, it often costs less to subscribe, and usually, the more meals you purchase per delivery, the more you save. You might choose one, two, or three meals per week. It’s up to you. If you’re hesitant to buy into a subscription because you’re worried about commitment or spending extra money on meals that won’t get eaten, you can relax. Most companies offer the option to pause, suspend and skip deliveries, or cancel your subscription with zero penalties.
What About Meal Selection?
This area here is what really sets meal kit delivery services apart, and it’s one of the first things you should look at when considering signing up. Blue Apron typically offers about a dozen choices of meals each week, which is more than enough if your order is on the small side.
If you’re thinking of using this to cover more than a couple of mealtimes per week, you’re going to want some variety. This is also true if you’re ordering for a family with various tastes, or you have a special diet that you follow and don’t want to be bored with the same couple of choices every week.
If you’re looking for more variety, Freshly, Martha & Marley Spoon, and Sun Basket all offer dozens of meals each week.
What Is the Difference Between Meal Kits and Prepared Meals?
Most companies offer either kits or prepared dishes for you to choose from, but there are few, like SunBasket, that offer both. Prepared meals are simple. You choose the entrees you want, and someone else does all the prep work and cooking for you. The entrees arrive at your door, packed in either dry ice or cooling packs, and you keep them in your refrigerator or freezer until you’re ready to enjoy.
Fresh vs frozen is a significant consideration with prepared meals, especially for discerning taste buds. Generally, fresh tastes better, but this really all comes down to personal preference.
Meal kit services deliver all the food you need to make a great dish. The ingredients are pre-portioned and often have been prepped. If any prep is required, it’s usually minimal. Recipe cards streamline the instructions, and you can choose your meal kits based on your cooking skills. This is a great way to try new recipes and simplify mealtime for busy families and households that just don’t want to deal with the time-consuming cooking process.
Do Meal Delivery Plans Save Money?
They can, but this isn’t always the case. If you’re already cooking at home most nights, you might not notice significant savings, but if you’re relying on take-out most nights, these services offer some financial benefits.
One thing you need to consider when looking at whether this is a budget-friendly option for you is the value of your time. Ordering meal kits might not be cheaper than taking a trip to the grocery store and preparing everything from scratch, but you’re also saving a ton of time, which is difficult to put a monetary value on.
Another way to save money is to choose dishes that feature organic ingredients without spending a ton on them and then letting leftover ingredients go to waste. You’re also less likely to have food waste. Since most meals are perfectly portioned, there usually isn’t a lot of extra food.
In the end, only you know the details of your personal finance, but with the range of prices and services available, there’s an option for just about every budget. Plus, you can keep an eye out for discount incentives, free shipping, and even the occasional free box for signing up.
Meal kit services can be a great way to add a little variety to your life while avoiding the dreaded grocery shop and maybe even eating a little healthier. They’re simple to use and can easily become a welcomed addition to your dinner table.
There are so many great companies to choose from that you can find one that meets your needs, even if you have food allergies or special dietary preferences, like gluten-free. Are you ready to try one for yourself? Which one will you choose?