Back in 2019 when I first shared meal planning, home delivery of meal kits was relatively new, however things really took off in 2020 with the changes the pandemic brought. Changes in our eating and cooking habits meant we were going to have to make many of our own meals, instead of eating out a few nights a week or getting cooked food delivered. But how?
If you come from my generation, Home Economics in high school was out of vogue– everyone was going to have a career!
All I knew about meal planning is that my mom went to the supermarket on a Saturday (day after payday) with a list and mapped out what we were going to eat for the rest of the week, with a few treats mixed in too. She was pretty good at it. She had to be, with five kids!
But now, forty years later, meal planning has nicely segued into meal kits, delivered right to your door, and there are so many options, including pre-cooked, vegetarian, and paleo. Let’s take a look at a few.
Before we do, though, a little history. The first meal kit business was launched in Sweden, with Middagsfrid (Dinner Peace) in 2007. More companies were started in Europe, such as Blue Apron and Hello Fresh, who shortly thereafter entered the U.S. market in 2012. Currently, 17% of Americans have tried meal kits, with a 90% referral rate. Most of the subscribers are young, urban, men who make a decent wage. Not surprising.
Here are some of the players:
Blue Apron – One of the first ones I tried and I liked the tasty meals. However, I wasn’t a fan of the convoluted recipes I sometimes received. I just did my own thing with the supplies and seasoning on hand, but I thought they were making a simple meal unnecessarily complicated. I branched out to others from there.
Hello Fresh - Was good until it wasn’t. I liked getting the boxes of fresh whole ingredients. I did not like the timing of my deliveries, and one time I got a delivery that had obviously sat in the delivery truck overnight. I threw it out and called for a refund. Our relationship, which started strong and lasted for a while, fizzled out. But it is a leader in meal kits, mainly for its generally high-quality, healthy and affordable options.
Sun Basket – One of my favorites, as they provide high-quality, easy to make options. Easy to order from, gift to others, and you can order snack items from them too.
Martha & Marley Spoon – Marley Spoon has been around for as long as Blue Apron, but now they have added Martha Stewart to the mix. Healthy meals, lots of recipes and who doesn’t like Martha (especially with Snoop Dogg)?
Home Chef – another favorite, as the plans are flexible. Depending on the size of your family, you can order 2, 4, 6 meals and if someone is a vegetarian, you can choose a vegetarian option for them. There are lots of meals to choose from, lots of delivery date options and the food is good.
Thistle – this is a new option that I haven’t tried yet, but I know that this West Coast plant-based meal plan company is moving into Burlington County. Just like Sun Basket, which has a location in Westampton, our meal delivery will be more local. If you are ready to go plant-based, this one is for you.
Every Plate – affordable. Meals start at $4.99 a serving. Everything is simple, standard fare and you can see the menus before signing up – bonus.
As you can see this industry has blossomed and is offering many opportunities to supplement your homemade meals with some pre-prepped, and in some cases, already cooked options. This helps you more effectively eat well, especially when you are busy.
Yes, it is more costly than home-cooked, however, when you have many competing priorities and timetables, it beats going through a drive through, for health, nutrition, and I would even say, cost. Have you eaten out lately?
These meal service deliveries are a convenience so there is a price point to consider, however you may want to try to incorporate a few meals into your week and compare it to going to the grocery store, the time involved shopping, putting things away and even wasting food that you didn’t get a chance to prepare.
I still believe in meal planning, as there are many benefits such as:
Save Time – by planning out what you are going to eat for the rest of the week and organizing it to use multiple food items for several different dishes, you are going to the store once for all of your ingredients.
Save Money – planning allows you to a) use sales circulars to your advantage and plan your meals around these specials and b) cooking at home is always cheaper than eating out.
Manage your Health – you know what you are putting in your food, and if you prescribe to eating a whole foods diet, you know all the ingredients and can pronounce them. You can manage your portion sizes, and we all know the size of the meals we get at restaurants could feed a small army.
Family Relationships - we don’t often think of this, but I know from experience how valuable it is to sit around the table and give each other our presence. We practiced this with my stepson so that our meals together were a time of communicating with each other, not distracted by devices. Liam and I often spent time together in the kitchen, prepping our meals and these are great memories.
Mindfulness – yes, preparing and eating your home-cooked meal has a certain attentiveness and presence associated with it. I will be sharing this aspect in a workshop in January - stay tuned.
Isn't it nice to have options for when you can’t, or don’t want to plan, go food shopping, and prep your meals during the week?