Meal delivery services seem to be everywhere these days. Maybe it’s because I follow a lot of cooking pages on Facebook (after I found my passion for cooking when I got laid off), but it seems that I see at least 2-3 meal delivery services advertised each day if I’m scrolling through Facebook. Blue Apron, HelloFresh, Home Chef, Plated, Sun Basket…the list goes on.
If you’re unfamiliar with them, the concept is simple: You sign up for a service which delivers all of the ingredients to your doorstep for a nice dinner. You can cater it specifically to what you need – for example, just dinner for two for couples like Kristin and me – so that you don’t get more food than what you need, or not enough. With most of these companies, you can select how many meals you want per week so that if you’re planning on other meals you prepare yourself you don’t get too much delivered.
Each day that you’ve got something scheduled, somebody will deliver this food to your doorstep in a cooled package to make sure the food doesn’t go bad if you’re not there right away. When you come home, just open the box, follow the directions, and boom dinner’s taken care of.
At first I thought these were kind of an awesome idea. It’s less expensive than going out in most cases, and are designed to make things pretty dead-easy. It’s nearly impossible to screw this stuff up, since they measure everything out for you. After looking into them a bit further, however, I’m pretty much completely uninterested in actually using one, for two big reasons.
This is definitely the #1 reason. I did a bit of digging on the nutrition facts for the recipes they have, and most of them are not really that healthy. In fact, lots of flat out bad for you. Tons of saturated fat, an insane amount of sodium (as in, 50%+ daily recommended value, some as high as 70-75%), and relatively high cholesterol. Kristin and I have been in wedding diet mode as of late, so perhaps it’s going through the past four months eating healthier that really turned me off to this idea, but we’re watching our sodium intake like a hawk now. We’ve dropped a combined 35ish pounds and both feel absolutely amazing. Well, except when we go and party with our friends – then we have two day hangovers.
As a result of eating cleaner and healthier, it actually makes eating unhealthy things less appealing. After eating a relatively unhealthy meal, it is more difficult to get back into the swing of things and back to eating healthier. After the first few weeks of clean eating, our cravings for more processed foods were easier to manage. I’ve read that over time, people’s taste buds adapt to what they eat. As they eat more sugar and more processed, flavorful foods, it’s actually more difficult to taste the “true” taste of unprocessed, raw foods. As a result, we rely heavily on some seasonings – in particular salt – to help bring out the flavor of food. As you eat healthier over time, your taste buds will adapt and you’ll begin to realize things like how sweet carrots are (seriously, they’re one of the sweetest vegetables and used to be used as a sugar substitute).
That’s a long-winded way to say: since we’re eating healthy now, I don’t see a compelling reason to go back to eating less healthily. What we eat tastes great, and meal delivery services nearly universally are unhealthier than what one could make at home.
Nutrition and personal preference aside, meal delivery services still aren’t worth the money for us. These meals end up at about $7-$10 a plate, which is definitely cheaper than going out in most places, but still more expensive than just buying the ingredients yourself. Kristin and I cook at home 6 nights a week most of the time, and so this definitely is a hindrance for us. When we do go out, it’s completely intentional – like date night or going out with friends – and rarely out of necessity. That means that using a meal delivery service would actually increase our food costs, as opposed to decreasing it.
Right now it costs Kristin and I about $90 a week to eat, give or take, and our dinners normally run us an average of ~$5 or less per person. Using a meal delivery service would likely nearly double our cost per meal for the ones we get through them.
Biggest Upside? Convenience.
This is really what these services provide, first and foremost. It’s convenient to not have to think about dinner. Kristin and I used to frequently wonder what to do for dinner, then in our haste and hunger either go out to eat somewhere relatively quick and unhealthy (Chipotle, I’m looking at you). I wouldn’t strictly be opposed to trying it maybe a couple of times just to change things up, but ultimately I’d much rather buy everything myself and change recipes to better suit our taste.
Now, there are some great target demographics for who could really find good value in meal delivery services. Kristin and I just aren’t in that demographic.
If you’re one who goes out to eat very frequently and wants to cut back on your food expenses, but don’t really consider yourself a cook yet (though you aspire to be, perhaps), these services are aimed pretty squarely at you. They lay everything out in an easy to follow way, and may push you out of your comfort zone a little. If you want to learn to cook but don’t know where to start, it may be worth a shot to try one of the meal delivery services out.
There are plenty of alternatives to meal delivery services. Making crock pot meals in the colder months is always a hit around here, and it’s just as easy – if not easier. There are also web sites like The Kitchn and Skinnytaste (plus a plethora more) which either have a huge list of weekly meal plans, and many that continue to produce new ones each week. If you prefer to buy your food fresh at the store a day or two in advance, it’s easy enough to find simple recipes on your own. I guess that’s the main reason I never found these particularly valuable to me. I’ve got the time, the interest, and the skills to do it myself…so why pay a premium for something I’m capable and enjoy doing on my own??
Have you used a meal delivery service before? If you have, which one(s) and what are your thoughts? If you haven’t, are you in the “strictly opposed” camp or just waiting to try it out?