In a world that prefers online shopping over going to the mall, it’s no surprise that subscription meal plans are becoming a household norm. As a result, many people are now avoiding grocery stores and big box shops as well. According to market research, subscription meal plans generated $1.5 billion in 2016, and further growth is projected. For busy professionals and working parents, the idea of having a full meal with all of the ingredients shipped directly to your door is extremely appealing.
Instead of spending weekends making lists and fighting the crowd at the grocery store, the entire meal or recipe is ready and waiting for you when you get home. With so many programs to choose from, there is something for everyone: different price points, different diet preferences, and program designed specifically for kids! But are these programs worth it, are they cost-effective, and are they for you?
First, let’s take a look at the different kinds of meal programs. Some subscription plans supply you with all of the ingredients, including seasonings and a detailed recipe. The box arrives with lots of ice packs that are, for the most part, completely recyclable. And who doesn’t love to unpack a fun box full of yummy food? If you don’t, unpacking and organizing the ingredients is definitely a fun task for the kids. Other programs send fully prepared meals that simply need to be popped in the microwave and heated up. These meals are sent fresh, not frozen.
Doing research ahead of time into the different programs is highly recommended. The costs of the subscription plans are as varied as the plans themselves. Some cost a little as $5.00 per serving and push upwards of $150 per week. The majority of subscriptions start with plans offering two meals per week. If you are cooking for a family, you are purchasing for more bodies, so it really comes down to the price per serving and whether that fits into your monthly food budget. Shipping is not always free, so although saving gas and time are two positive aspects of meal plans, shipping charges may eat up that savings.
Before investing the time researching a plan, an important question to ask yourself is: “Do I like to cook?” Although the recipes are really easy to follow and have step-by-step instructions, it’s important to note that real cooking is involved. These aren’t “one-pot” meals either. Some recipes require multiple pots and steps for cooking. It’s best to do some research about how your time is best spent. Do you want to save time at the check-out line or in the kitchen cleaning up?
One plus with the home-delivery meal programs is that there are usually additional savings offers or some other bonus to keep you subscribing. In checking one of the most popular names in subscription meal plans, the base price for a family of four is $90 per week with free shipping. That’s three meals for your family shipped to your door for free. As a new subscriber, this particular plan offers great discounts every week for the first month, ranging from $30 to $10 per week, saving your family an extra $80 off of the base price for the month. This brings per person price per meal down to about $5. That rate is hard to beat, even with the most frugal shopping and planning at the grocery store.
What some may dislike about subscription plans is that they do require making weekly meal choices by a specific deadline, which is generally about five days out from the normal delivery date. If the deadline is missed, you get another week of the same menu, or plans may even choose the menu for you. If you forget to do anything by the deadline, like cancel or request to skip a week due to a vacation, the shipment comes as scheduled.
At the end of the day, saving money and time are huge motivating factors in most of the choices we make for ourselves. The idea of not having to think about what to cook for three out of seven nights is really helpful when working full-time and needing to cook meals for a family.
If you are a single professional, it’s also a nice thought to not have to worry about having tons of seasonings, spices, and condiments around to make that cool recipe. A subscription plan includes all of that in the box for each recipe. Regardless, do the research ahead of time to get the best menu options, the freshest ingredients, and the lowest price. Bon appétit!
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