Meal Kits: Pros and Cons From a Nutritionist

Meal Kits: Pros and Cons From a Nutritionist

family cookingSally Kuzemchak, MS, RD - BlogsBY SALLY KUZEMCHAK, MS, RDRegistered dietitianSEPTEMBER 03, 2020

For anyone who doesn’t like the hassle of cooking, the promise of meal delivery kits can be incredibly appealing. How it works: You pick a few meals online, and kits arrive at your doorstep with everything you need to make them, including step-by-step instructions and all the ingredients measured out and prepped for you.

Though they’ve been around for several years now, meal kit delivery services have been enjoying a huge boost lately, due to pandemic-related shutdowns, stay-at-home orders, and a general trend toward staying in. Sales of these kits in the spring were reportedly double what they were last year during the same time. Restaurants are getting in on the action too, boxing up their own kits for customers to take home and make themselves in lieu of dining in.

As a family, we’ve tried a handful of different meal kits over the years, and I’ve formed a few opinions along the way. If you’re wondering whether you should try a meal kit service, here’s my take:

What I Like About Meal Kits

The convenience: Beyond ordering take-out, you can’t beat the ease. Everything is corralled together in one box. No rooting around in the fridge, no running to the store for a missing ingredient. (It’s like being on a cooking show with everything prepped and measured for you!)

The skill-building: If you’re not confident in the kitchen, these kits can help you pick up new techniques and give you a sense of pride at creating something delicious yourself. It’s also a great way for your kids and grandkids to learn their way around the kitchen and feel a sense of accomplishment (without lots of extra, messy prep work).

The healthy choices: I’m impressed by how many healthy options are offered through meal kit companies, with lots of emphasis on fresh vegetables and plant-based meals. It’s easy to find meals based around specific patterns of eating, like vegetarian and vegan.

The inspiration: Meal kits can give you new ideas for food combinations and recipes. I’ve kept several of the meal kit recipe cards to recreate the dinner again with my own store-bought ingredients.

What I Don’t Like About Meal Kits

The packaging: The plastic bags and containers, bubble wrap, insulated foam, and cold packs create a mountain of disposables with every delivery box. Some delivery companies use recyclable materials, and others connect subscribers to places to help with recycling. But still, it’s a lot. If you can buy these kits at your local grocery store (versus ordering them by mail), that’s one way to reduce waste.

The cost: No doubt they can be pricey – between $5-10 per serving in most cases, but sometimes more. That’s less than a typical restaurant outing, but generally more expensive than cooking from scratch. And that price point means they’re not feasible for everyone, especially on a regular basis. You can save money by looking for special promotions and shopping around.

The limited menus: Not all recipes will appeal to all eaters, especially picky ones. Some services let you customize more than others, so be sure to check that out before signing onto a subscription.