Are they worth it?
We want to share with you some of the comments we have heard, give you some thoughts to consider, including pros and cons, and Zonya's personal review of one popular service called Hello Fresh after a 3 week trial.
First of all, what is a meal kit service?
With meal kit delivery services, and there are many to choose from, you select and order a meal online and it's delivered to your door, pre-packaged and broken down into individual ingredients, along with simple and easy to follow directions for you to cook this meal at home.
Sounds almost too good to be true, doesn't it?!
One of the biggest benefits?
If you lack cooking confidence, this is an ideal way to get you in the kitchen and give you an easy guide to get a delicious, and decently healthy, meal on the table. This can be a great way to get kids (age appropriate, of course) involved in the cooking process, because the "kit and directions" create a challenge for them to accomplish.
What are some of the pros and cons?
HelloFresh meals are absolutely flavorful, with thoughtful combinations of ingredients. Many meals include ingredients for homemade sauces, which we prefer vs. the pre-packaged varieties. They also try to use in-season ingredients in their meal lineups, which is of course an excellent idea.
"Their recipes are tasty and expand our families taste buds with new flavors." It's true, and probably what Eat REAL America has most in common with services like this one - helping people get out of their comfort zones!
Ingredients and nutrition:
The ingredients are generally good quality; however, there are a couple of things that drove us crazy. First, there aren't enough vegetables...there is typically just one vegetable serving. If you want healthy, delicious, vegetable-forward meals, you would have to supplement the meal kits with additional produce, roast some vegetables or build a big salad. We also noticed a lack of whole grains. We all know whole grains are critical to a healthy lifestyle and these meal kits typically fall short.
"They ship me just the number of green onions I need so I don't have the rest of a bunch to rot in the fridge."
While this may sound good...think about it. If you want to truly make REAL food part of your every day lifestyle and be healthy for life, it's crucial to learn the skill of making a salad or whipping up a stir fry on any given day, that sweeps up any leftover produce like this. So having a few extra green onions (or other fresh produce) screaming to be used is actually a GOOD thing!
"I like that they do the menu planning, I just pick the picture that looks best." This is brilliant and convenient, and at EatRealAmerica, it's the same way, especially with our in-season meal ideas every Thursday!
"I like how they ship me all the ingredients." Keep in mind, convenience can still be at your fingertips even without using meal service kits -- we have Eat REAL America members tell us they hand off the customizable shopping list to family members (such a great life skill to teach teenagers!), or tell "Alexa" what to add to their list, and take advantage of their local grocery store's delivery or pick up options.
You can expect to pay around $10 per serving when using meal kit services like HelloFresh. That means $20 to feed 2 people, or $40 to feed 4. This is definitely more expensive than preparing your own ingredients at home. For example, last night, we had a delicious stir-fry and a huge salad using ingredients we picked up at the farmers' market. The total cost of this meal was ∼$10 total, and this easily fed 4 people and we even had leftovers. If you opted for the meal kit service for just 2 meals each week, it would cost you an extra $60 weekly to feed 4 people -- that's over $3,000 per year! (For that cost, we are thinking..."shouldn't the meal be cooked for me?!")
Inspiration and joy:
If you are just looking to get a flavorful meal on the table without having to go to the store or farmers' market for your ingredients, HelloFresh may be something worth considering. The tradeoff is you will miss out on the joy and inspiration that comes from selecting your ingredients. Personally, there is NO WAY we would trade our weekly trips to the farmers' market in return for receiving our ingredients in a box (picked by someone else no less). Also, while you will learn how to follow the directions to prepare your meal, it won't help you develop the ability to improvise and customize your meals based on a fantastic ingredient you found or whatever you may be craving in the moment.
There is little food waste with the meal kits, which is good. The complaint we have relates to the packaging. There is A LOT of packaging, some of which can be recycled, but much of which just gets thrown in the trash.
We were both left pondering..."This a lot of work to produce a single meal with no 'planned-overs'." Our Eat REAL Cookbook is a master at the concept of "cook once, eat twice" and we also plan next-day lunches around leftovers from dinner. This saves us time and money when it comes to lunches, because we are typically packing up lunches as we do dinner clean-up. We have heard the comment from others, "it was a delicious dinner, but disappointing that it was only enough for just one meal."
If you want someone else to do your shopping for you and are willing to pay "a little" more, HelloFresh may be worth considering. However, we just don't think the trade-offs are worth it. There is just something about selecting your own in-season ingredients, getting out of the box and learning how to create masterpieces (vs. just following step-by-step directions using pre-selected ingredients), not to mention taking care of our environment.
So, this will come as no surprise! We encourage you to let Eat REAL America do the thinking and planning for you...choose from over 1,000 meal ideas, use the customizable shopping list and enjoy flavor-bursting, nutritious meals!
Watch Zonya's review (Part 1)!
Just so you never think we are not "down on what we're not up on," watch Zonya's review (Part 1) and see what she learned!
Special offer! Watch Zonya's review (Part 2)!
Say "hello" to 4 days of our meal planning solution!
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Remember, all you have to do, no matter your goal, is keep it simple and EAT REAL!