How to Choose the Best Meal Kit Delivery Subscription
Whether you're a fitness fanatic and health nut or are simply looking for a more convenient way to prepare and consume healthier meals without the hassle, meal kit delivery subscriptions have become all the rage.
Simply put, meal kit delivery subscriptions function like other subscription boxes which are delivered to your doorstep on a weekly or monthly basis. Countless meal kit brands have dedicated themselves to offering low-cost, boxed meals which provide you with all of the ingredients - and instructions - you need to prepare what are considered healthy, fresh meals. Often, meal kit delivery brands will tout locally-sourced ingredients and convenience as the main benefits of subscribing to a weekly meal kit delivery, but are the supposedly low-cost kit subscriptions worth your money?
Here's the thing: the cost of a meal per-portion with most meal kit delivery boxes is often cheaper than heading out to a restaurant for a bite to eat, but when compared with the cost of shopping for your own food, are typically more expensive. That's because the average cost of one portion per meal with these meal kit boxes ranges from $12-$17 which, when looked at more closely, isn't a bargain for savvy shoppers who know how to shop for their own food and meal items economically. One portion of stir fry from a meal kit box could cost $15 versus the $8-$10 it typically costs when you purchase the ingredients on your own.
But if the cost for convenience is actually higher, why should you choose to use a meal kit delivery services?
I tried a popular meal kit delivery subscription to discover just why, exactly, these kits are so popular and whether their benefits outweigh the costs. And to my surprise, I actually ended up enjoying the meal kits and found myself saving money on food costs when using them. There is, however, a catch.
These kits really only work if you're single, feeding less than three people, and/or have disposable income. Why? Because you can stretch the meals. And I'm totally not kidding.
When using the meal kits I ordered through Chef's Plate, a popular Canadian meal kit delivery service, I found myself more than capable of splitting the meals found in the most basic meal plan (a 2-person plan) amongst my meals for the week. For $60/kit, I get 3 meals a week with 2 portions in each meal; and each meal often makes hefty enough portions that I can get three of them out of one meal, which means I have leftovers to last me through the week. For me, $60 spent on 3 recipes which get me more than 7 meals per week is economical, but I'm also single, have no dependents, and don't cook for anyone else. So, of course, these kits are perfect for others like me - even students or those who need to feed less than 3 people.
Because there are countless articles and posts detailing the best meal kit delivery subscriptions out there, I'm going to focus on providing you with a few tips which will help you choose the best meal kit subscription for your needs. I'll also provide links to a few resources which review meal kit boxes so you can decide which subscription is best for what you're looking for.
Tip #1 - Balance Your Budget
Prior to subscribing to Chef's Plate, I sat down and looked through my receipts and bank account statement for the last month to see how much I was spending on food and groceries per week. I did this in order to gain a better understanding as to how much money I was "investing" in food costs and what that money was getting me. In other words: how much bang was I getting for my buck? What I discovered was a bit shocking: between buying local and organic produce, and free-range meat, I was spending anywhere between $70-$100 per week on food. I wasn't buying much, but the cost of my meals was so high due to the type of food I was buying. Balancing my food budget so I could figure out where I could cut costs to save money and still make healthy meals helped me decide whether a meal kit subscription was worth it for me.
Tip #2 - Consider Your Weekly "Meal Plan"
When I say "meal plan," I don't mean you should sit down and make a mock-up of a meal plan you'd ideally like to stick to each week. Rather, you should go over (mentally or using a checklist) the types of meals you tend to make each week, and how many meals you can get out of each one you make. For example, when I make a stir fry, I can typically get two dinners out of one stir fry, with enough left over to eat for lunch one day throughout the week. That's basically three meals out of one. If your weekly "meal plan" is similar, or you'd like to scale down your portions and get more out of your meals than you currently do, a meal kit delivery subscription might actually benefit you.
Tip #3 - Ask Yourself What You're Looking for in Your Meals
You don't have to be vegan to cook and consume vegan meals, but perhaps you'd like to incorporate more meatless or vegan meals into your diet. Maybe you'd like to eat healthier, consume more balanced meals, or discover new recipes when you become bored with the usual ones you prepare throughout the week. Whatever you're looking for, you may consider meal kit subscriptions beneficial if you're interested in getting started with new meals or healthier ways of eating. The great thing about most meal kits is that they are portioned out for you and can help cut back on food waste because they provide you with only the amount of ingredients you need to make those portioned meals. For instance, 22 Day Nutrition is a popular meal delivery service (though not an actual kit but, rather, prepared meals) as it provides vegan meals as a subscription which are already portioned out for you.
Tip #4 - Look at Your Own Dietary Needs
One of the main objectives behind my desire to try a meal kit delivery subscription service like Chef's Plate was to try my hand at creating healthier meals that are also simple and quick to prepare. It can be difficult to find the motivation to cook healthy meals after a long day of work or studying, and for those of us looking to limit, say, sugar intake, or incorporate vegetarian dishes into our weekly meals, searching for recipes or shelling out lots of dough for expensive ingredients can be tiresome. A meal kit delivery subscription may make healthier meals more approachable and accessible for some while providing inspiration for new meals that you may never have tried before or considered cooking yourself.
Tip $5 - Cut Out the Dining Out
Look, dining out is great, and fun, and often a part of our social activities with friends or family. But it's also a surefire way of spending too much money on a fleeting meal when we could cook something equally as delicious (and likely healthier) at home. One thing I've noticed since using a meal kit delivery subscription is that my penchant for wanting to dine out with friends or family has become more minimal. That's because I get to try new recipes every week that are fresh, unique, and so tasty - all for the cost of what one meal usually costs when dining out. So, if you're looking to scale back on your take-out or restaurant costs, this could be the answer to your prayers.
What to Look for in a Meal Kit Delivery Subscription
When searching for a meal kit delivery subscription, keep in mind the following...
- Your subscription service should give you the option to pause, cancel, or modify your meal kit delivery subscription at any time; in other words, avoid subscription services which rope you into pricey, hard-to-get-out-of delivery agreements
- Does the subscription service offer variety? There are some meal kit subscriptions which specialize in specific cuisines or dishes, such as all-meat kits or strictly vegan meals. However, unless you actually are vegan or have a strict diet, you should choose a subscription service which offers a good variety, like the option to choose both vegan/vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes as part of your weekly delivery
- Can you choose the number of meals you receive? Many meal kits will allow you to choose the number of meals you can prepare each week, which is key when deciding how much you can or are willing to spend on a weekly or monthly subscription
- Ensure the subscription service you choose offers full-meal kits, meaning the kits you receive are geared towards full meals and not, say, snacks or side dishes
- Check to see whether you have the option of choosing which meals you'd like to prepare out of a roster of menu options; some kits will only delivery specific dishes each week based on a pre-set menu!
Resources for Choosing the Best Subscription Box for You
- Urban Tastebud's list of 18 meal subscription boxes
- Forbes' ultimate guide to meal kit delivery services
- My Subscription Addiction's recommendations for 7 meal kit boxes
- Fitness - 4 meal subscription services to try