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Are meal kit delivery services worth it?

There are more meal kit options now than ever. But should you purchase them?

A person in the kitchen preparing the food to cook.
FAIZZUL FIKRI / Shutterstock

Whether you love them, hate them, or are indifferent to them, meal kit delivery services are here to stay. Over the past decade, these services have been growing, evolving, and improving. Whatever your dietary requirements are, chances are you can find something that fits. For example, maybe you need a vegan meal kit delivery service. So the question on everyone’s mind is — are meal kits worth it?

The overall value of any purchase is subjective and varies person-to-person. Some people are willing to pay premiums for certain things. In contrast, with others, nothing out there warrants a premium, and thriftiness trumps all. For these reasons, we can’t provide an answer to whether meal kits are worth it that everyone will agree with. But, we can highlight all the points to consider before you subscribe to a service so that you can make your own informed decision.

Plate of sliced steak
poszarobert / Pixabay

The price of meal kit delivery convenience

There’s no denying that putting in the legwork yourself to buy your groceries at the supermarket will be cheaper than a meal kit delivery service. The cost of meal kits is built largely around the convenience of having things magically show up at your place. Built into the meal kit delivery cost are a few other things as well.

  • They develop recipes that can be prepared by anyone, yet are still creative and delicious.
  • They source the ingredients, which are often organic.
  • They portion out and package the ingredients to minimize food and packaging waste.
  • They monitor and operate a supply chain that delivers the meals to your doorstep.
  • They employ a customer service team to help if you have any questions or if anything goes wrong.

All the things mentioned above are just a few of the overall daily operations of meal kit delivery services that they must oversee and fund. All while providing a delicious meal well below the cost of an equivalent one at a restaurant. After all that, it’s a wonder how these companies retain enough profit to stay in business.

So is the convenience worth it? That all depends on how you feel about finding recipes and going to the store to buy groceries. There is definitely no shortage of recipes online. However, for some, the pandemic has made grocery shopping more stressful than it needs to be, for more than one reason. There are obviously health concerns, but lingering supply chain issues can make finding the right ingredients tough as well.

When you subscribe to a meal kit delivery service, you don’t have to worry about either of those things. Also, some companies take it a step further by prepping the meals or partially cooking the meals for you. In those cases, you have even less work to do, bumping up the convenience premium.

enginakyurt / Shutterstock

Meal kit delivery service quality and taste

Because of all the competition out there, meal kit delivery services can’t afford to send low-quality or spoiled foods to their customers. So, that happens very rarely. However, we’re all human, and mistakes can happen. But these companies work diligently to source quality ingredients from reliable suppliers. So, in our experience, ingredient quality has never been an issue.

We all hold different standards in terms of taste. Those who are well-traveled individuals and have experienced many different cuisines by acclaimed chefs probably hold food to a higher standard than those who are perfectly satisfied by a diner meal. The same goes for people who have some professional cooking experience. The recipes could seem too basic or bland.

In terms of taste, it’s essential to take meal kit delivery services for what they are and curb your expectations. You’re getting the convenience of a pre-portioned (or in some cases pre-made) meal. It’s not going to be a Michelin-Star-level experience. Also, in general, the recipes must be able to be made by novice and intermediate-level home cooks. So, there are limitations in that area as well.

That’s not to say that the meals aren’t going to be tasty, but some might not blow you away — which is OK. The beauty of a meal kit delivery service is that you get a pool of go-to recipes over time. With all that considered, we believe that meal kit delivery services deliver in both quality and taste.

Umami mushroom pasta red wine
Plateresca/Getty Images

Meal kit delivery flexibility

While some meal delivery services offer plans that can cover almost every meal of the day, many do not. Meal kit delivery services are primarily intended to be periodic breaks from cooking. If you never cook at home on your own, then they’re designed to bring you into the kitchen and let you take a break from eating out.

When meal kits first started, a significant barrier to people utilizing the services was the commitment. What if you happen if eat out a lot one week, or maybe you go on an impromptu vacation? The fear of getting a meal kit and not being able to cook it in time was real. Companies listened to their customers, and now almost every service lets you pause or skip a week as long as you do so far enough in advance.

Subscriptions became more flexible by having the customer pay per shipment, not via an upfront subscription fee. The downside to this is if you maintain a subscription, it can become burdensome to remember to pause or skip weeks, especially if you subscribe to more than one service.

A good way to avoid this problem is to choose the fewest meals per week option. Even if you forget to skip a week and get the delivery, it’s not such a chore cooking two meals within a week or 10 days (which is the typical window before ingredients go bad).

A bowl of a keto-friendly dish on a table.
Sea Wave / Shutterstock

Are meal kit delivery services eco-friendly?

Many people think that the convenience of meal kit delivery services is not worth the toll it takes on the environment. That might have been the case in the beginning. But over the years, companies have come to realize how important sustainability is to their customers and have made considerable efforts to reduce their carbon footprint.

While the packaging for meal kits can be extensive, most of it is recyclable. But, in terms of environmental impact, it’s not the packaging that matters most. A meal kit delivery study from the University of Michigan found that meal kit delivery services vastly cut down on food waste, a massive contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

Also, although it might not seem like it, supply chains are way more efficient than the overall food distribution system. That means fewer emissions from food transportation. So if reducing GHG emissions is important to you, incorporating just a couple of meals delivered to your door per week can be helpful to the environment.

Healthy diets for men.

What are the cons of meal kits?

As mentioned above, meal kits tend to be more eco-friendly than one might think. There are environmental costs to shipping the stuff, but the bigger issues tend to deal with the actual ingredients. Because meals lumped together, there is the health risk of cross-contamination, should items not have a proper seal. Additionally, there could be sourcing issues. Many meal kit providers are becoming increasingly transparent about where the ingredients come from and how they’re grown — important factors when thinking about the health of not only the planet but the labor force that brings these items to your doorstep.

Should the ingredients not be natural or somewhat fresh, you may be robbing yourself of health benefits, too. But again, with so many options out there, you can tailor a kit to your needs.

Cutting carrots on wooden board and fresh spring vegetables for vegetarian cooking on the table, top view.
Anjelika Gretskaia / Adobe Stock

A few final thoughts

Soup to nuts — there’s not much to complain about when it comes to meal kit delivery services. You get delicious meals conveniently delivered to your doorstep at a reasonable price. They’re also flexible and don’t require that much of a commitment. And while the packaging can be overwhelming, especially if you do a lot of online shopping, the service is fairly environmentally friendly. So, in a word, yes, we think meal kit delivery services are totally worth it. It’s up to you to decide if you agree.

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Mark Stock
Mark Stock is a writer from Portland, Oregon. He fell into wine during the Recession and has been fixated on the stuff since…
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