Apparently, 80% of us don’t have a clue; come to think of it, that describes me pretty much all the time . . .
Seriously, according to the Walmarts, “more than 80% of Americans don’t know what they will have for dinner tonight, scrambling to find a meal puts pressure on a family” This is the reason that Walmart will start offering prepared meals at its stores for the first time. 10 different meals are now available in 250 stores, and the program will expand to 2,000 locations by year-end. Prices of Walmart’s new prepared meals will range from $8 to $10.
I’ve been meaning to do a post on the most popular meal prep services like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh anyhow – so this Bloomberg article announcing Walmart’s entry into the mix was my cue to give these services a good look. Are these services worth your time and money? How do they taste? How long does it really take to prepare? How does the cost compare to grocery shopping or even going out to eat?
I should probably refresh my analysis but recall that restaurant meals cost about $12.75 per person per meal (on average) (www.thesimpledollar.com), while cooking at home costs about $2-4 per person per meal (USDA); I’m sure both those figures are a little dated and will definitely depend on what kind of food you order. I just wanted to start this analysis with some reference price points. I believe most of the meal prep services are about $10 – $12 per person per portion.
See below a link to my previous post about my weakness for food. I don’t miss too many meals. . .
Blue Apron claims that the grocery store is “70% more expensive” than their meal prep service. That statement seems a little outlandish to me but their thought process is also a little narrow minded (ignores other alternatives). On an ingredient for ingredient basis Blue Apron might actually be slightly cheaper (e.g., sustainably-sourced, farm-fresh, high-quality chicken), compared to prices at your local grocery store (www.lifehacker.com and http://www.thekitchn.com).
I believe most of the meal prep services are about $20 per meal (feeds 2) or about $10 per person per meal. So if you tried to recreate the exact same recipe from Blue Apron, without using cheaper alternatives, you wouldn’t really save any money by going to the grocery store; however, you could certainly prepare an alternative meal for less – I would argue you could probably do an alternative for $5 per person per portion, or less (ramen noodles anyone?).
These services provide the convenience of meal/recipe planning (including pre-measuring the ingredients), shopping, and delivery – this is the main reason that busy families use them. I would argue you will always pay a little more for convenience (time is money after all); but for some, this convenience may well be worth it. . .
My wife is a good cook and I’m extremely grateful that she plans and prepares most of our dinners (I got married so I wouldn’t have to be responsible). She really dislikes meal planning though. Having to decide what to prepare – the recipes, the ingredients, going to the store . . . What’s healthy? What’s quick & easy? What about variety and taste?
Since these services require you to complete the preparation and cooking of their meal kits, I believe the appropriate comparison is grocery shopping. Don’t forget that it will take 45 minutes to 1 hour to completely prepare and cook these kits so I don’t recommend these for folks who hate to cook.
Hello Fresh appears to have bigger portions than Blue Apron so I think I will give Hello Fresh a trial soon (maybe I will blog about that experience). I believe a number of the meal prep services have coupon promotions so I encourage you to check out a number of these services and determine if any are right for your family? There are a number of services out there but not all of them will be available in your area. Each service is a little different so do some research online (links below) – You Tube has lots of reviews of each service as well – with visuals (and opinions of course) of what you get in a typical meal prep box. If you have never tried one of these services, I suggest you pick one and go for it!
Blue Apron http://www.blueapron.com Probably the most well known of the meal kit services. I have not tried them but maybe you should get a coupon and give them a try. I understand that some of the online reviewers think their portions are too small – might be advantageous if you are on a diet or really want to reduce your food waste. I believe their normal pricing is $60 for 3 meals that serve 2 people. $10 per portion per person. The prep time is 30 to 45 minutes.
Hello Fresh http://www.hellofresh.com The only service that I have personally tried (only once). It was pretty tasty and convenient. They get good reviews online – some prefer Hello Fresh, compared to Blue Apron, based on large portions, tasty recipes, being well organized, and ease of use. 3 meals for 2 people is $69. $11.50 per portion per person.
Plated http://www.plated.com Appears to be one of the more complex (chopping, dicing, preparation) meal services out there. 3 dinners for 2 people is $72. $12 per portion per person.
PeachDish http://www.peachdish.com This is another one I really want to try because it appears to have a southern flare with a main dish, a side, and a vegetable (here in the south we call this a meat & two). Pricing starts at $12.50 per portion per person.
Purple Carrot http://www.purplecarrot.com All vegan service designed by a food columnist from the New York Times. These are fairly complex recipes with somewhat unusual ingredients. 3 dinners for 2 people is $68. $11.33 per portion per person.
Home Chef http://www.homechef.com One of the simplest from a pricing perspective – almost all meals are $9.95 per portion per person. Definitely not as “sophisticated” as the Purple Carrot. Described as a good choice for the consumer who isn’t dedicated to organic, free-range, non-GMO food.
There are others out there (e.g. Green Chef, Chef’d, etc.) but I think you get the idea. I also didn’t include Walmart or Amazon because I don’t think they are available in most places just yet. I found a good list of reasons to try these services from Forbes and I am going to share their list and a link to their article at the bottom of the post.
- You will most certainly improve your culinary skills and repertoire.
- It is SO much fun, and never gets old opening the box to see what’s for dinner.
- You will surprise yourself–preparing recipes you might otherwise gloss over in a magazine or cookbook.
- The ingredients are, for the most part, fresher, higher-quality and generally better than you might find at your average chain grocery store.
- Your children will get engaged with the process—because, see item #2, you are opening a box and it is like Christmas at dinner time.
I’m actually really curious if any of ya’ll have tried any of these services and what your thoughts are? Please comment below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org I don’t have a strong opinion for or against these services – as long as you budget for them and get good value for your family.
2 thoughts on “What’s for dinner?”
I tried Blue Apron when it first came out. It was so small at the time, that when I called customer service, the owner actually picked up the phone. The feedback I shared with him was that I liked the convenience of having all of my ingredients pre-portioned and ready to go, but the time to prepare the meals during a busy work week wasn’t something I could commit to long term. I also told him that when he put a tiny chef in the box to prepare the meals for me, (or came out with dinners you just stick in the oven), I’d be a customer for life. If you’re just an ok cook like I am, the cutting, chopping and measuring isn’t the problem. My meals came out nothing like the pictures on the recipe cards! I typically look for recipes with 5 ingredients or less, so for now, I think I’ll stick with Rachel Ray’s 30 Minute Meals. 🙂
Great new blog on the new ‘boxed meal’ craze!!! I think most of them are expensive but it could be fun to try one!!