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Meal Planning Kits & Services: A Great Fit for You?

January 10, 2019

Meal delivery kits are a multi-billion dollar industry and they’ve only been around for 6 years—Blue Apron was the first in 2012. So, the industry is booming and there are lots of good options out there! They’ve clearly identified a major need and if they fit your lifestyle, they can be a major help to you. I’ve personally tried three: Munchery, which delivers fully prepared meals daily, Blue Apron  which once a week delivers kits that include recipes and ingredients which you prep and cook, and Daily Harvest that offers healthy breakfast and lunch options including smoothies, soups, and ‘bowls.’

As mentioned in Meal Planning Part 2: Achieving Your Perfect System, Meal Delivery Kits can be a great fit for many people. As a reminder, I recommend Meal Kits if:

  • You want to expand your recipe repertoire.
  • You’re in the early days of following a strict diet like Keto or Paleo.
  • You’d like to learn some new cooking techniques and be exposed to a wide variety of more gourmet or healthy or ethnic options.
  • You’re in a particularly busy season so skipping the grocery store would be a huge help; a meal kit service combined with an online grocery delivery service would save you a lot of time.

Prepared Meals

Munchery saved me during a very challenging period of life. Literally. My youngest was 3 months old when my mother passed away which meant that my father moved in with my family the day she passed; this meant we had to buy a bigger house in November (no easy feat in Seattle where most things go off the market then), renovate the new house and move in January. Then, days before our move, my father-in-law was involved in a plane crash and subsequently passed away a few weeks later. Oh, and I needed to sell my parent’s house, and the house we were living in originally. Steven and I were literally in cope mode for almost a year. Goodness knows what I would have fed my family if not for Munchery (a whole lot of pizza, Mexican take out and burgers?!?) so needless to say they’ve earned a place in my heart forever.

I hope that you never experience such a challenging period!! Yet if you do have an especially busy period or a period with challenges, Munchery and other companies that offer prepared meal delivery can be a God send.

Here’s my take on Munchery: some dishes were very good and others only so-so and bland, thus take time to read the reviews before ordering and salt helps 😉. I am personally extremely picky about fish freshness—like I prefer it straight out of the ocean or lake—so I rarely liked the seafood options but others in my family did. Overall, they were very healthy and fresh and compared to going out to eat, were a good value. The delivery people were outstanding and so polite, as was their customer service. After a year plus of eating their food for between 2 to 7 days a week, we got tired of their offerings. But that’s probably my fussy food standards as I know many people have ordered from them for years and are happy.

Freshly is another big player in the national prepared meal game and it seems they have positive reviews and strong following as well.

It’s very likely there are local options for prepared meals as well although often they don’t deliver but are generally easy to pre-order and pick up at. Little ‘ole Vashon has two great options Sugar Shack and Maven  so I’m guessing there are a lot of options in your area as well.

Meal Preparation Kits

It seems like more of more firms are popping up all the time. Even Amazon  has entered the marketplace with kits like Vietnamese Pho and Indian Butter Chicken.

The only one that I’ve tried is Blue Apron. I’ve tried it a couple of times and both times enjoyed them for a while (4-6 weeks each membership period) but in the end, decided that for my family I can get better value and a higher level of enjoyment out of my own recipe choices. I will say that I have kept at least 5 of their recipes and incorporated them into my monthly menu plan so if you want to up your game and add some new things to your families line up, I do recommend them. The ingredients are extremely fresh and the recipes are for the most part very well thought out.

Blue Apron does have some time saving options for 30-minute meals but overall, the dishes we were attracted to often took at least an hour to prep and cook, plus they felt a little complicated at times. You do however save time grocery shopping though so there’s some bonus time earned there. If you opted for a company, like Gobble, that offers pre-cut and prepped ingredients, the kits would be even bigger time savers!

I’m what I’d rate as a very skilled but not fabulous cook so I feel that other people that aren’t confident in their cooking skills would either be frustrated by this or could use it as a learning opportunity to up their culinary game. I’d probably suggest waiting to try complicated recipes until the weekend though if you have little kids and are trying to get dinner on the table at a reasonable hour. I remembering thinking I would have loved a Meal Kit service like Blue Apron when I was in my 20’s and newly married to my first husband plus not as dialed in with my cooking abilities.

I did some research on the other Meal Kit companies out there and found that the same couple handful of websites rank over and over again by reviewers. In reading, I did see two companies that I’m planning to try: Chef’d  because it features menus by some extraordinary chefs—really big players in the culinary field—and Peach Dish because it offers Southern-based cuisine which I love. I’ll do another article once I give them a try!

The only other Meal Kit option that I’ve tried is Daily Harvest. I liked most of their fare a lot and we stayed subscribed for a few months and both my teen and I were happy with the choices and service. My weak spot is lunch and that’s why I sought out Daily Harvest. I often get so absorbed in work that I forget to eat lunch until I’m absolutely starving so the super quick option of smoothies and near instant soups was very appealing to me. I enjoyed some options more than others and although I would consider myself very health conscious, some of them tasted a bit like lawn clippings to me. Isabelle really enjoyed them and in particular liked the Oat and Chia Bowls. I would say that neither of us loved the soups—most weren’t very flavorful and for the price, we were underwhelmed.

Because I haven’t personally tried all the best-rated companies, I’d recommend reading these articles as of the many reviews out there, these 3 seemed the best information and most knowledgeable:

  • Money Magazine’s reviews were interesting because they had a group of their staffers try each brand so it feels very authentic and likely quite accurate.
  • Epicurious is consistently great with their recipes and reviews in general so I can’t imagine this article would be different; they discuss more options than other sites and include those that offer specialty diets, family-focused brands and some very interesting options that aren’t as well-known.
  • Self Magazine’s also take had good insight as well as a nice variety of services reviewed.

Meal Planning Guides and Classes

In general, instead of most of the Meal Kits, I’d probably advise either coming up with your own meal plans or learning for a while from other experts before launching on your own. I say this mostly because you will save money and you have more control over your options and timing.

I’ve taken a couple of courses from Jessica Fisher in the last year and really enjoy her! She’s very budget-oriented which may not be an issue for many of you, yet she’s a skilled cook, focuses on healthy yet tasty family-friendly meals and I use her Good Cheap Eats Dinner in 30 Minutes or Less Cookbook at least once a week. She’s got an on-going training that includes pre-done monthly menu plans called Kitchen Winners that I’m enrolled in at the moment and am enjoying and it’s only $15 a month so you should check it out.

There are a lot of other options available similar to Jessica and in the coming weeks I will write up a review on some of the other options out there—stay tuned for it.

In Conclusion

It’s likely that you could benefit from one or perhaps a combination of the above options to really suit your needs and I’d encourage you to try the ones that seem like they’d help you and your family. Just keep in mind the overall value and return on your investment of cash and time will vary. Remember that to really find the right solution though, you need to be super clear on which part of the meal planning and making process causes the most pain. Once you do this, you’ll likely find it easy to select the option or combination of solutions that will make your life better.

Feature photo by Angela Carlyle

*This contains some Amazon affiliate links but only if No Qualms Mom thinks highly of the product or service. While NQM may receive a small commission if you purchase from Amazon yet it will not affect your pricing in any way; and know that all other links are purely information – listed only to help you.