It is notoriously difficult to find time to cook every night, especially with a full-time job, social obligations, and a family.
Restaurants are an expensive alternative, but regardless of how well off you are, the financial strain of eating out every day will eventually catch up with you.
So, to avoid the financial burden of eating out and the time sink of cooking dinner every day, you can choose a meal prep service.
But is a meal prep service a viable alternative?
A meal prep service will certainly cut down on your overhead if you have been getting dinner out on a daily basis. It can also make the time needed to cook half of what it used to be, if not more.
Given that it can alleviate both of these concerns, a meal prep service can definitely be worth it, depending on what your current eating habits are and what type of lifestyle you live.
By the end of this article, you will know the ins and outs of meal prep services and why they may be a good investment or a bad one.
What Does a Meal Prep Service Do?
Meal prep services came as a response to the growing frustration people had with having to eat out every day or being unable to cook at home, despite desiring a home-cooked meal when they clocked out of work.
Meal prep services solve the issue of wanting a homemade meal while also being significantly cheaper than most restaurants.
They also aid inexperienced home chefs in learning new recipes and in the basics of cooking by offering all the ingredients and instructions for fairly easy to make dinners.
They are also great for making sure you don’t over-purchase groceries that inevitably expire before you ever get a chance to use them.
With their easy-to-use, compact boxes, you get all the ingredients you need with no excess food cluttering your pantries, fridge, or cupboard.
These services also allow you to eat healthy without having to look up healthy recipes, go to the store, or even settle for a less than ideal alternative at a local restaurant.
Depending on which type of meal prep service you order from, they will offer one of three services.
The first service is a meal kit delivery service that gives you instructions and ingredients that allow you to cook the meal you have picked out.
The second service is a fully cooked meal that is sent to you, which you will only need to reheat before you are able to eat it.
The final service, which is a lot more expensive, is that a cook will come to your house to prepare the meals that you will eat for the week. This can range anywhere from $100 to $400, depending on the number of servings, the reputation of the chef, and what he is preparing.
This service, unlike the previous two, might be comparable to the cost of eating out every day, depending on where you dine out.
The Positives of Meal Prep Services
When you are choosing how you are going to get food to your house every day, a lot of the thought goes into what makes a plan worthwhile.
Not only do you have to think of cost, but you have to look at what type of nutrition you are after, what food allergies you may possess, and how willing you are to pay the higher price associated with meal preparation.
To make the choice easier for you, I will be going over the positives and negatives of meal preparation services.
Diets are difficult. If they were simple, everyone would successfully be at their ideal weight.
Thankfully, with a meal prep service, you can pinpoint exactly what you allow yourself to eat and easily follow your plan by choosing the guidelines of your personal service before purchasing it.
This can go as far as making sure your food is light in calories to ensure that everything you eat is both vegan friendly and gluten-free.
This wealth of choices makes it incredibly simple for those on very restrictive diets to be able to easily get the food they need without the hassle of checking the nutrition facts on every box that looks appetizing in the grocery store.
Expand Your Knowledge in Cooking
The ability to learn new recipes is invaluable, and once you start getting the same recipe a few times a month, it will become second nature how to make it.
The value of getting new recipes and the ingredients to test them out is incredibly high, especially when most recipes we look for over the internet come with about twenty different seasonings we don’t have in our cupboard.
Aside from pulling into a drive-through, few things are easier to prepare than the food provided in a weekly meal kit.
The simplicity offered is a huge positive for those with little time after work or for others who just don’t like spending time in the kitchen.
This healthy, modern alternative to TV dinners and fast food creates a bigger market for people who are looking to eat healthier without having to spend a few hours turning vegetables into vegan noodles.
It is also a great way to feed a larger family without having to slave over the stove for hours. It’s hard enough feeding yourself, but when you are looking at a couple of kids and a spouse that you have to look after as well, the pressure can start to add up.
In a society where most couples both maintain full-time jobs, it can be hard to keep up with the three square meals a day we managed in our single days.
We are all at times guilty of letting a vegetable or two go to waste.
It’s hard to keep up with every grocery we’ve purchased, and eventually, we will spot that hidden vegetable in the back of our fridge that is quietly growing its own ecosystem in its immediate vicinity.
With a meal kit, you almost completely eradicate this troublesome issue in its tracks. Every single ingredient has a purpose in your weekly diet.
First off, that is a horrifying statistic to all of our grandparents who scolded us for not finishing our dinners, but second, it is costing us.
Every time you purchase something that you won’t eat or use, you are throwing that money away. The next month you buy groceries, keep a running tab of all the things you have to throw out, and mark their price. It will horrify you.
This is conditional on what you spend on food per month.
If you are aggressively couponing, buying only things that are on sale, and purchasing exclusively generic items, you probably won’t save money with a meal prep service.
But if you go out to eat three to five times a week or simply purchase hundreds of dollars of groceries and only use half of them throughout their shelf life, then a meal prep service could be incredibly helpful in saving you money.
While a valuable tool for those without the free time and a desire to eat healthier, meal prep services undoubtedly have some downsides that should be illuminated for anyone looking into them.
These services can get expensive at times and sometimes be comparable to most restaurants, making the higher-end services seem irrelevant for those looking to save money.
If by the end of this list you don’t want a meal prep service, at least you were offered both sides of the coin!
I know it seems a bit hypocritical to put a negative that was previously listed as a positive, but hear me out.
For those of you who are going to the grocery store with a prepared list of ingredients for every recipe you will cook in the week, meal prep services are not for you.
The benefit comes in when you are wasting too much of your week shopping and prepping ingredients, or you are going out to eat at expensive taverns and pubs.
But for those already deeply invested in shaving off pennies on their grocery tab by checking the amount per serving on every food item they purchase, you may want to skip these services.
The only upside for the cost would be the efficiency, which these services have in spades.
May Not Be Sufficient Amount of Food
Some people can munch on three croutons and a leaf of lettuce and be good for four hours. Others can take down a few buckets of chicken like it’s a dainty appetizer.
If you are a person with a voracious appetite, sometimes the food given in these meal prep services is not satisfying enough to keep you satiated throughout your day.
There is little point in purchasing a meal prep service if it leaves you starving and unsatisfied.
You Still Need to Hit the Store
Reality is super disappointing, and when you realize that your home meal kits still don’t fill up your weekly liquids, hygienic supplies, bathroom essentials, and cooking accessories, you can start to feel like the cost isn’t worth it.
The truth is, whatever dietary lifestyle you have, you will have to go buy a certain amount of things for yourself unless you find someone you can pay to do it for you (which would be pretty cool).
It can help to do a trial run where you buy your weekly groceries but exclude food to see the total cost of groceries and your meal kits.
Some Services Will Not Cater to Your Diet
Have you ever seen something online you decided was objectively essential for your mental and physical wellbeing just to realize it doesn’t ship to your location?
Finding a meal prep service that insists on red meat when you’ve been a vegetarian for years can feel very similar. If you have nutritional restrictions stemming from diet, lifestyle, or allergies, it can be very discouraging to fall in love with a service only to find out they don’t fit your needs.
Thankfully, nowadays, there are so many different options. You will almost certainly find one that can fit your needs, even if you have to shop around a little!
You Are Gonna Have a Lot of Excess Packages
Boxes can be a real hassle, especially if you don’t have a nearby facility to recycle at.
These little packages can begin to add up when you realize that these guys ship as much as twice per week.
Aside from the ridiculously impressive fort you will be able to construct with your newfound cardboard wealth, you are going to have to deal with a lot of waste. This can be annoying and time-consuming to remove from your residence, especially if you live in an apartment complex.
If you are okay with spending more money than you would at the grocery store, the ease of use and overall convenience of one of these services really is very nice.
Though if you are a more frugal type of person who prides yourself on the amount of money you save per month, no shame in that. Maybe skip this luxury. Regardless, now you can competently know what to look for and avoid if you do start seeking out weekly dinner alternatives!