Are Meal Kits Worth It? Here’s What You Should Know Before You Subscribe

updated Mar 10, 2020
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Meal kits are a little bit magical. They offer up all the delicious comfort that comes with a home-cooked meal and all of the convenience that comes with ordering takeout. We’re fans of anything that helps get dinner on the table and, honestly, we’re kind of surprised someone didn’t think of them sooner. But, as with anything in life, there are trade-offs: Cardboard boxes and plastic tubs and bags, lack of fridge space, and ingredients that have to be cooked pronto before they turn to mush.

Ultimately, are meal kits worth it? The answer, of course, depends on who you are. What’s right for one person may not be right for someone else. In order to help you figure out the right answer for you, here are a few things to know before you subscribe.

1. You can (and should) shop around for meal kits.

If you’re interested in meal kits, here’s a universal truth: They are interested in you, too! They want you as a customer and they’re willing to woo you with significant discounts for first-time customers. There’s no shame in shopping around to see what works best for you; in fact, you really should try them all out. Try one company out for a week, put the subscription on hold or cancel (it’s always super easy to stop it and/or re-enroll if you want to come back), then try out a different company. Just be sure you know the deadline for changing or canceling your order — it’s usually a week ahead. 

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2. Meal kits have an expiration date.

Meal kits should arrive in good shape and if you spot something that’s obviously bad, you should contact customer service. But, you should also know that the items you get will be on the tail end of freshness. So when you get a meal kit delivery, don’t put off making the recipes! Cook any seafood first and pay attention to delicate stuff, like salad greens and herbs. And plan your delivery day so boxes arrive on days when you really do have time to cook.

3. The recipe cards are not set in stone.

Meal kit companies cater to a wide audience, which means the recipes can often use a little help in the flavor department. Don’t have to be a slave to the recipe! If that stir fry sauce seems bland, fix it. Get out the chili oil, the Chinese black vinegar, the fish sauce. If the mashed potatoes could use a little oomph, sprinkle in some truffle salt. It’s very likely that your pantry already has everything you need to tailor the recipes for your own tastes, so don’t be afraid to go off script. 

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4. You’ll need to make room in your fridge — and your recycling bin.

If you have a jam-packed fridge, take heed: Meal kits require a significant amount of refrigerator space (especially the veg-heavy meals from Sun Basket). And the same goes for your recycling bin. There is no way around the plastic bags, tubs, bottles, and clamshells that come with your kit, not to mention the large cardboard box, insulated liner, and gel ice packs. Some companies are better about their packaging than others, offering things like screw-top jars that are sturdy and reusable, biodegradable bags, and insulation that’s curbside recyclable or compostable. Each company has a link on its web page explaining what packaging it uses and how to dispose of it. This info is good to keep it in mind when deciding which company is right for you.  

5. You don’t have to commit to enjoy the recipes.

Many companies offer their full recipes online for customers. In fact, they often let you mark your favorites and save them to your own recipe folder online or in the app on your phone. Some companies even have bonus recipes for things like cookies and desserts that aren’t offered in kits, but can round out your meals. Because most of these recipes are developed for kits, they’re usually simple and quick to make. So, why not take advantage and use the database for inspiration on those days or weeks when you don’t have a kit?

Do you have any other tips to add to this list? Leave them in the comments below.