Meal Kit
Photo by myasinirik

It can be difficult to find new, exciting dinner ideas that your family won’t get sick of. That’s where meal kit delivery services can help. You’ve likely seen and heard the names Blue Apron, Green Chef and HelloFresh — but do you know much about them?

Preparation perks

Meal kit delivery services have been taking a bite out of the restaurant industry for the last few years, and they’re such a hot dish for plenty of reasons.

“Meal delivery services save time by eliminating the need to go to the grocery store to purchase all the individual ingredients needed to prepare the meals,” says Lisa Jones, a registered dietitian nutritionist with the Pennsylvania Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Cost and convenience are another part of the successful recipe for meal kits. A report from the USDA’s Economic Research Service suggests that Americans spend about 37 minutes per day preparing and serving food and cleaning up.

“The average household meal preparer saves about 30 minutes of meal prep a day by purchasing prepared food, saving them almost 4½ hours per week, equating to more than nine 24-hour days per year,” says Caroline Cederquist, founder of BistroMD, a delivery service that provides prepared, nutritionally balanced meals in Naples, Florida.

At BistroMD, you can find meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner and pick from a variety of programs. “For your first week, meals can cost under $7 per meal,” Cederquist says, adding that prep, shopping, cooking and cleaning are all taken care of.

Meals for two to four people with HelloFresh with two to four recipes per week can cost $8 to $10 per meal. At Green Chef, you can get three dinners for two people delivered weekly for about $10 per meal.

What’s on the menu?

With many meal kit services, you don’t have to worry about tossing out the food you don’t end up eating.

“A service usually will not send more ingredients than are necessary to prepare the meal for two people or a family, depending on what service option is selected,” Jones says.

And being an expert chef isn’t necessary. Meals come fully prepared, so anyone can make them. Preparation involves heating them up in the microwave or oven.

Terra’s Kitchen, a meal kit service in Baltimore, provides Paleo, vegetarian, vegan, low-calorie and gluten-free meals. “We also offer prepped salads, snacks, bento boxes and more,” says Lisa Davis, nutrition director at Terra’s Kitchen. “Our recipes are developed by a chef but can be cooked by anyone. You don’t need fancy knife skills or extensive knowledge, but you’re learning new tips and tricks as you cook.”

Variety sometimes isn’t the spice of meal kit programs. “Some meals can get repetitive, but I know they try to focus on seasonal produce, and I feel this might be the cause,” says Pennsylvania registered dietitian Mary Miller.

Because most meals are portioned per person, serving sizes can seem on the smaller size, Jones says, especially if you compare them to restaurant portion sizes.

“You do not have the option to have seconds,” Jones says. “This can be seen as con to some people. However, it can also be viewed as a pro since it is helpful for weight management purposes.”

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