Wednesday, November 22, 2017

In Defense of the Meal Kit Delivery Services

I've been seeing a lot of hate about the meal kit delivery services around, and I get it...until I tried it I never understood the point. Its expensive & time-consuming & there is so much packaging!  But we've been trying them for about a year now, and I have to say, I find the occasional box to be a helpful addition to our dinner-cooking arsenal.

Most weeks we still use our tried and true strategy of batch-cooking a big meal on Sunday and eating it all week. Burrito bowls, chili, lasagna, curries, etc... work really well for this. But sometimes we get tired of eating the same recipes we've been having for years (and you really have to test the recipe a few times before you can agree to commit to a week of it!) Also, not everything works that well as leftovers (i.e. seafood). If you have to cook some portion of the meal fresh each night it doesn't end up saving time.

So once a month on average, I order a box with 3 meals that look good for the adults. G and I take turns making them that week, though I tend to make more, because I enjoy it, whereas he has a bit of undiagnosed ADD and has trouble following multi-step recipes. We will have the kids try a few bites (sometimes) from our meals, but they generally get easy kid-food on these weeks.

We've tried several so far (Hello Fresh, Blue Apron, Marley Spoon, Terra's kitchen, and Plated) and my favorite is Plated. They have the best selection, easiest process to choose/order, and best tasting recipes. But these are all subjective attributes, so try them yourselves if interested, they all offer free/reduced kits for new customers.  There are many more out there that I just haven't tried.

What I like about the kits:
  • new and interesting recipes
  • learning new cooking techniques
  • portioned ingredients (no waste)
  • ingredients that are hard to find (i.e. would involve going to ethnic stores or multiple stores for one recipe)
  • eliminates mental energy needed for meal planning and then finding all the ingredients, and especially planning meals with overlapping ingredients to reduce waste because you cannot buy just one stalk of celery for example (but they will send you one in your kit!) 
The kits are not cheap. They are not for people on tight budgets. But I actually went this summer and bought the ingredients for 3 meals and I spent MORE than the price of a box. Organic, free range meat and exotic veggies and spices are not cheap.  I do purposefully choose more "bang for your buck" options so I feel like I am getting my money's worth----I avoid vegetarian meals and choose seafood for 1-2 meals.

They are not "easy" meals. Part of this is by design---I choose things that look challenging and fun to cook & eat. I can make "easy" meals on my own without step by step recipes! I enjoy cooking and learning new techniques that I can then translate to our own meals. Something about the fact that everything is portioned and packaged together, and the step by step instructions, make the whole process fun for me. You just grab the bag from the fridge, pull out the card for the recipe, and get started.

The one big con I have is the packaging. There is some waste. It is getting better, with more of the packaging recyclable or biodegradable, but still...there is cardboard and ice packs involved. Various services to vary somewhat on this, but not by much.

I totally get that its not for everyone, but its working for us right now. We had a yummy Plated dinner last night (cod cakes with creamy mustard sauce over arugula) and I'm looking forward to another one tonight (fish tacos with avocado sauce and crunchy slaw) and Friday (chicken chili rellenos)! 


  1. We use meal kits very similarly. With two kids under the age of three, going out to eat in restaurants is just not a relaxing or fun experience and we don't have great take-out options. After a few months of not eating out I realized that I didn't really miss restaurants but I did miss the variety of meals and chance to eat something a little more complex that my typical cooking.

    Ordering a kit once a month or so gives us a chance to try some new things, a number of which we have since incorporated into our regular rotation. The cost of the three meals in a kit isn't too different from a good dinner out so the cost doesn't really bother me. I actually get a lot of the vegetarian dishes (even if it's not the best deal) because they have taught me a lot about incorporating different veggies into tasty meals. It is very satisfying to unpack a box into our fridge, see the produce bins overflowing, and know that it's all going to be transformed into meals that will probably be very good.

  2. The other half of our blog loves purple carrot.

    As for me, the recent popularity of meal subscription services has gotten me to feel like we should be doing more takeout!

  3. Ana, I can see those exact uses of a meal kit service. I might look into it...

  4. What a good idea! Maybe we'll try this instead of going out sometime.

  5. even though they are not something I've gotten on board with, I definitely can see that for the right situation, they make sense. i think i'll try Plated while my parents are visiting b/c I bet my mom would have fun making it and it would take the meal planning/shopping part off of her hands (not her fave).