Can you benefit from meal subscription boxes?

With Thanksgiving approaching, I cannot help but chuckle at how my family decided to plan our holiday meal last year. Instead of the traditional homemade turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, we ordered eight individual meals from Blue Apron. Initially, the idea was strange to me, but everyone thought it would be convenient, allowing us to save hours in the kitchen.

Foodies and aspiring chefs alike have been raving over meal kit delivery services such as Blue Apron. Companies such as Plated and HelloFresh have taken the food-delivery service (provided by companies like Walmart online grocery, Amazon Fresh and Instacart) to the next level by giving subscribers everything they need to cook a meal, sent to their home in a box. Other companies like GrubHub and Seamless also developed with this movement. Adopting similar models, they deliver restaurant food right to your door.

What makes these services so appealing? First, it’s easy to subscribe. You simply choose a two-person or family subscription, and then each week, you select the type of cuisine you want. The ingredients are always freshly prepared and pre-portioned, which helps limit food waste. Menus vary, but typically, every service offers meat and veggie options and come with easy-to-follow recipes. (While food critics have reported mixed reviews when it comes to the taste of the food provided by these subscription services, reviewers have suggested recent improvements in quality and recipes.) Once you’ve selected your options, input your delivery date, and your ingredients will be sent to you. For the typical consumer, it’s all about convenience. Who likes driving to the store, parking in a crowded lot, navigating every aisle and then lugging everything home? With meal subscription boxes, your meals arrive on time in a secure, refrigerated box.

Cooking can be fun, especially for beginners. Learning a new gourmet recipe with exotic ingredients can become an adventurous hobby. For couples, it could mean a creative date night activity. For families with children, it could be an escape from dino-nuggets and frozen French fries.

But considering cost, is it actually worth it? The average meal comes out to be around $10. For instance, Blue Apron starts at $8.74 per person, Hello Fresh costs $9.08 per person, and Plated prices at $12 per person. Depending on where you live and your motivation to buy groceries, this could lead to savings. On the other hand, preparing your own meals could be more cost-effective. In addition, the value of your time plays a significant factor with subscription services. Most recipes come with an estimated time for cooking and can range from 30 minutes to an hour. However, reviewers note it can take hours to prepare some of the “pre-prepared” ingredients. Additionally, cleanup is not considered in the overall time. And the potential stress from being constantly subscribed and needing to cook can bar some from continuing as well.

In our modern world, we are constantly looking for ways to improve productivity. For some, meal subscription boxes may increase efficiency when it comes to mealtime. For others, the cost and time it takes to meal-prep may outweigh the benefits. Ultimately, the choice rests with you. Weigh the pros and cons of subscribing to a meal kit service. If you think it can help you be more effective, it might be worth trying.

~Chloe Tsang, Arizona ’20

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About Chloe Tsang

Originally from San Francisco, Chloe Tsang is a second-year student at Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health in Mesa, Arizona. On her spare time, she enjoys being outdoors and picking up new hobbies. Running, yoga and painting are essential to her.

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