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Are Meal Preparation Services Worth the Money?

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With the booming popularity of clean eating and the newfound excitement about farm to table and sustainable food consumption, it’s not surprising that more people are cooking at home. Pinterest has changed the game for a lot of people when it comes to meal preparation, but there are services that are taking that one step further with food services like Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, and Plated.

These services offer all of the ingredients necessary to prepare a specific meal. These ingredients are fresh, high quality, and are typically part of a gourmet meal that most people would consider too difficult to attempt on their own. The ingredients are packaged in a box with a recipe, that is complete with step by step detailed instructions, and it is shipped to your door. Each week there are specific samples recipes meant to whet the appetite and draw people in, and for a lot of these services, it’s working.

The Details

Each of the aforementioned plans differs in small ways, so Blue Apron will be used as the benchmark. They claim that their mission is four fold; to create better standards, to regenerate the land, to eliminate the middle man, and to reduce food waste. Each ingredient is sustainably grown on farms using regenerative agriculture techniques to increase the farm’s yield without increasing their reliance on pesticides and chemicals. Beef comes from grass fed cows that aren’t pumped full of antibiotics, seafood comes from resources recommended by the sustainable experts at Seafood Watch, and everything is free of GMOs.

Blue Apron is available in two different plans; a two person or a family plan. Subscribers choose their frequency for delivery and how many meals per week they’d like. If you don’t have the funds or you’re on vacation, they make it simple to skip weeks and you’re free to cancel without penalty at any time. If you choose the two person plan with deliveries coming three times a week, your total will be right around $60. For the family plan with four times per week delivery, the total will run you a little under $150, which isn’t bad considering the healthfulness of the recipes, the freshness of the ingredients, and the comparison with what would be spent at the grocery store.

The Plus Side

  • Portion Control – When one of the leading causes of obesity in this country is a lack of portion control, this system could be quite advantageous as each box comes with just enough food to feed two people or a family of four. This is part of how they’re attempting to reduce food waste as well because if prepared properly and portion size adhered to, there shouldn’t be leftovers that won’t get eaten. For a single person, it means not cooking a recipe planned for four people and becoming bored with the food by the end of the week.
  • Broadening Horizons – With their detailed instructions, these food services are making gourmet meals extremely approachable for even the novice cook. They define any terms they use and give examples and everything is conducted in a step by step fashion. Not only are they making fancy food easier to obtain, but they’re also including ethnic variations that people likely wouldn’t be trying otherwise.
  • Cost Effective – For a family of two or a single person, three days a week delivery is pretty comparable to what groceries would cost. For a single person, it means lunch at work the next day, thus extending the cost effectiveness of the plan. For $50 a week, you’re getting three delicious, fresh, and home-cooked meals that you can turn into a couple’s experience as you cook together.

The Downside

  • Not Budget Friendly For Everyone – For most people living on a respectable salary the service is pretty affordable, however, they don’t offer price variations to suit every budget. These services are not going to reach the people who eat boxed, canned, or frozen meals on a nightly basis due to their budget-friendliness.
  • The Likability Factor – Likely the biggest deterrent for most people is what happens if you don’t like the meal you were sent? Some of these ingredients are a little strange for some people, and there’s a chance that these recipes won’t appeal to everyone even though you’re able to select your food preferences.

Is It Worth It

If you’re looking to broaden your culinary horizons and introduce yourself to some new foods, Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, or Plated may be very much worth the expense. In some instances, you can have a wine selection added into your meal for an additional thus educating yourself about what pairs properly, which is another plus. However, if more than one meal a week is hit or miss it’s likely not worth the cost.

The recommendation? Try it for a couple of months, expand your recipe library, and maybe find some foods you weren’t aware you’d enjoy. If it’s working out after those few months, it’s probably a good thing. If it’s not, cancel your membership and go about your day.

 

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