The single most irritating question anyone in my house asks on a daily basis is “what’s for dinner?” This is likely due to the fact that I’m preparing their breakfast and attempting to speak with them about their days at school ahead of them and they are asking about dinner. Child; you have not even put your breakfast in your mouth and you’re worried about dinner already? My kids are a special kind of schedule-oriented. Either way, the age old question of what’s for dinner is one I could live without, though I do remember doing the same thing to my mother when I was a child. The biggest problem in our house is that our schedule is so hectic.
And I am a terrible cook. I don’t mean that I’m not a person who enjoys cooking. I actually do enjoy cooking; but much of the time my food is inedible and our house looks like the remnants of a fire by the time I’m done. If you don’t believe me, allow me to repeat a conversation my husband had with our two older daughters just recently. He was cooking and it went like this, “Daddy, when is dinner going to be ready?” asked our 7-year-old.
“In just a few minutes, kiddo. It’s almost done,” my husband replied.
“If it’s almost done, daddy, why is there no smoke?” asked our4-year-old with a hint of satisfaction that she caught daddy in a lie.
“Because daddy is cooking; not mommy,” he said in a very matter-of-fact tone.
All heads then nodded in agreement and sudden realization. I could choose anger or sadness that they even had to carry on this conversation, but it’s true so it would be the equivalent of being sad or angry that people breathe. That said, it’s caused me to look heavily into some of the many meal-prep subscription services that are being offered by a number of companies these days.
What are these meal subscription services? Essentially, they are services that will bring you three meals a week via delivery service. You cook the meals yourself, but they are foolproof. You have instructions, prepared ingredients and everything is fresh and healthy. It doesn’t seem like a bad deal, and it does seem as if you could really get away with saving yourself some time, money and effort if you do this; but can you really?
Let’s take a deeper look into some of the meal-prep subscription services to find out if they are actually worth it.
Meal-Prep Subscription Services
There are so many of these out there right now it’s nearly impossible to remember them all. Some of the most utilized services include Blue Apron, HelloFresh, Plated, Gobble, din, Freshology, Green Chef, PeachDish and Sun Basket. Each of the meal services offers something a bit different, but all the ingredients and meals are touted as healthy, fresh and good for you, as well as under a certain number of calories.
For instance, PeachDish is a meal service that likes to infuse southern cooking with good health whereas Sun Basket is a service that offers paleo, vegetarian and gluten-free meals for subscribers. Blue Apron offers meals that are healthy and encompass almost the entire food pyramid, and Gobble is a meal plan that only provides subscribers with meals that take less than 10 minutes to prepare once you are home and ready to make dinner.
Basically, you have to go through each of them and figure out which one is best for you. We’re going to do a bit of the math for you so that you can see how you like each meal plan and what you are given with each one.
Blue Apron – $9.99 per person, per meal
This is, by far, the most affordable option if you are going to order a monthly meal plan subscription box. The food quality is always highly rated by their users and d those who do utilize the service seem to feel that it is among the best there is out there. Subscribers have a little bit of say in the customization of their meals as far as choosing proteins and vegetables you like most so that you always receive meals you enjoy. Basically, the service provides you with three meals per week so that you have dinner easily planned out and easily taken care of most nights. All meals are between 500 and 700 calories, and the recipe cards are easy to read with simple instructions. Additionally, you can subscribe for weekly meals, but you can customize your delivery options to have meals more or less often.
HelloFresh – $9.80 – $11.50 per person, per meal
Depending on which dish you choose, you will pay more or less for this service. The more is for a traditional meal while the less is for the vegetarian meal. What’s unique about this service is that each meal is made together by a chef and a nutritionist, and they are quite good. These are dishes that require only 30 minutes of your time to cook each night, and they offer five meals from which you can pick three each week. What customers really like is that HelloFresh has an app that makes ordering really simple, and they send large servings so they always have leftovers for other days.
Plated – $12 – $15 per person, per meal
More expensive than some of the other meal plan services, this one is unique in that you will find you have more options. Instead of finding that there are only a few dishes to choose from each week, you can choose from nine different dishes. Additionally, you are not required to subscribe, so you can actually pick and choose meals one at a time on evenings that you know ahead of time you will be just too tired to cook. Furthermore, they serve almost everything you could ever imagine and they do love to use their own locally sourced ingredients, which is always good for the world.
Gobble – $11.95 per person, per meal
Another meal-prep service that offers a flat rate, people really like that about this company as there are no surprises when it comes to the cost and the fees associated with an account here. Each of the meals in this plan take less than 10 minutes to prepare, and that is a huge factor in popularity for this company. Whether you are a total beginner or actually a good cook who just doesn’t have time to do all the meal-prep associated with healthy meals, you can follow the instructions and come up with a great meal using this service option.
PeachDish – $12.50 per person, per meal
This is a company that loves their southern roots and wants to share them with everyone. Their dishes are all infused with some southern flavor and delicious as can be. Meals are already ready to cook when they arrive, but it does take anywhere from 30 to 40 minutes to cook them, which is a bit of a drawback for some. Furthermore, there are no customization options available with this plan; you get what they send you whether you like it or not.
Sun Basket – $11.49 per person, per meal
With a long list of gluten-free, vegetarian and paleo meals, there is some customization available here. You will find that you can order what it is you enjoy the most, and the ingredients are all GMO-free as well as seasonal. The award-winning chef preparing each of the meals ensures that each one is artfully prepared and delivered to you in a manner that allows you to simply and easily put together the meal using the ingredients. You can opt to have your boxes delivered as often as you’d like, or as infrequently as you like, but a subscription is a requirement with this particular meal-plan subscription service.
Green Chef – $10.49 – $13.49 per person, per meal
With three different boxes to choose from, including the least expensive vegetarian box followed by the omnivore box and finally the most expensive carnivore box, you have your choice when it comes to dinner. All gluten-free, organic, vegetarian and paleo meals are made of fresh ingredients, and each one is capable of being modified to include any specific dietary concerns, which is not something every service offers. All the meals are only 20-30 minutes long in terms of cooking time, so you’ll have time to make sure everything is ready to eat each evening when you get home and handle all the other things in life that require your attention at the same time.
Din – $15.00 per person, per meal
One of the most expensive options on the meal plan service is the din meal company. What’s good about this option is that the meals are the best recipes from the best chefs in the world, so you can almost guarantee that you will love anything that comes your way. Additionally, you get to choose your recipes yourself or allow the company to select options for you when you are feeling bold. The app allows you to manage your account as well as see recipes that might inspire you the rest of the week when you actually have to prep and cook your own meals. The good thing with din is that you can add additional servings for any meal you want if you plan on hosting a dinner party and want to eliminate the need to actually cook for your friends and family.
Freshology – $15.99 per person, per meal
The most expensive meal plan of all, this is one that charges more than any other company and charges an additional fee of $3 per delivery. What makes this company a little bit unique is that you work with a personal nutritionist who helps come up with meal plans for your family that are based not only on your family’s personal dietary needs, but also on weight loss and overall health. Your nutritionist will choose meals that are going to benefit you in a way that will get you looking and feeling your best in no time. If your doctor wants you to cut back on your cholesterol, lose weight or get in shape, this is the company for you because it is happy to personalize your meals to meet these standards and these dietary requirements.
Are Subscription Meal Plans Worth It?
This is a question I cannot answer for you. I can tell you that for some people, dinner would not be a possibility for them without a meal plan service. I can also tell you that for many, it’s something that is simply unaffordable and out of the question in terms of price and affordability. Let’s take, for example, a family of four using the Freshology service for dinner. It would cost a family like this $191.88 per week for only three meals, and there is a $3 delivery fee each night, which means dinners are more than $200 per week. While that might not seem like much at first, it’s only three meals. You still have to spend money on groceries for the other two meals you have each day, in addition to dinner another four nights a week. To me, that does not seem like it’s worth it when many people spend far less than that at the store on healthy meals that last all week and all day. If they served families of six, I’d pay more than $300 per week for only three meals.
For me, it would certainly not be worth it. I spend around $500 per week at the store thanks to the fact that I have the twins and they do require diapers and wipes and things that we purchase but aren’t considered “Groceries” to us. Since we have four kids and we are a family of 6, we’d have one option; Blue Apron. No one else delivers six meals at a time, so we’d pay $60 per night three times a week. It’s a far better value than other meals, but it’s still $180 for only three meals. I’ll break that down for you.
We have a family tradition on Sunday evenings when we buy filet mignon and have filet Sunday. For six of us – and we only buy four filets since the twins are babies – we spend $45 on filets, another $5 on red potatoes that I cut up and roast with olive oil, garlic and wine seasoning and a little fresh rosemary, $3 on the Publix bag of already made Caesar salad and $1 on bag of whole pod edamame that I sauté with a bit of garlic, olive oil and salt and then mix with a tablespoon of panko bread crumbs and fresh parmesan cheese to serve. Our Sunday meal costs us $54 and we have leftovers forever. That’s one meal; and the rest of our meals are just as good, usually a lot healthier and almost always cost less than $20 to make.
Personally, I find that most of our meals are easy to prepare and take less than 30 minutes, they’re exceptionally healthy since we usually love chicken and vegetables or fresh fish and vegetables, and we always buy fresh. However, the programs are very useful for those who are not home to do any prep, for those who don’t want to spend any additional time at the store and probably for those without kids. Before my husband and I were parents, we ate most breakfasts and lunches out during the day and only ate at home once or twice a week because it was just easier to go out. We spent maybe $75 per week at the store, and mostly on wine. This would be a great option for us back then.
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