Who might benefit from delivered meal kits like Blue Apron, and how to make the most of them.
For those of you who want something completely different, I am here to talk about the very important subject of box meals. These are the boxes that you can order from Blue Apron or Hello Fresh or Home Chef. You get a box, it contains all the ingredients for several meals, and all you have to do is follow the accompanying recipes. It’s usually a weekly service.
The thing is, the Boston Globe’s Beth Teitell reports that “nearly half of consumers (49 percent) were less than satisfied with their kit experiences, and 83 percent who tried a meal-delivery service have stopped using it (up from 76 percent in 2017).”
But why? There are several complaints, Teitell reported:
“A meal-kit dinner costs about $9 to $12 per serving, according to one estimate, putting the expense somewhere between eating out and buying the ingredients yourself at a grocery store.
“Then there’s the pressure of it all. The box that arrives with an expiration date. Cook me within three-to-five days. Or else….
“Here’s the problem: If you’re not the kind a person who can handle regular old-fashioned cooking, in which you measure your own ingredients, even a meal box may not be able to save you.”
I’m the primary cook in my household, and I also use a New England-based meal-kit service. So here are some brief bits of advice about the strengths and weaknesses of box meals.
The first observation is a simple one: If you do not like to cook but think that this kind of service will make it more fun, then a meal-kit subscription ain’t for you. Some of these services are getting better at the sous-chef stuff, delivering pre-chopped vegetables and whatnot. But such moves also take some of the freshness out of the ingredients, thereby dragging the quality of the meal down.
More importantly, Teitell is right: A box meal subscription will not make someone who does not enjoy cooking into an enthusiastic chef. You could never have to chop a single vegetable, and you’ll still have to actually cook these meals. If you don’t like hot oil or hot stoves, then a meal-subscription service is lost on you.
Drawing from my own experience, these meal kits provide two very useful functions. First, they prevent one from getting into a cooking rut. All cooks have their roster of meals that can be easily prepared and that their families will actually eat. If that roster is too small, however, then the family dinner can get boring. The great thing about my box service is how many varieties of ethnic cuisine have been on offer. I have learned to cook way more South Asian, Latin American and African meals than ever before. Not all of them are hits with the family, but the occasional misfire is worth it do discover that, say, one of my children really likes spicy curries.
The most valuable function of these meal kits is that they save time. I like to cook, but I do not like to shop for missing dinner ingredients at 5 p.m. in a sense of last-minute urgency. That is particularly true if I want to try out a new recipe and must procure unfamiliar ingredients. The meal kits are timesavers, but the time saved is less in the kitchen and more in the supermarket.
If you do not like to cook and think a box meal program will make things easier, you will not get much out of it. If you like to cook and you like to shop for your ingredients, then a meal-kit subscription is superfluous. If, however, you enjoy cooking but not shopping, then sign up for a service now. You are the target demographic for this sector.