Meal prep services have become increasingly more common over the past few years. During the COVID-19 pandemic when people limiting their trips out of the house, food delivery services increased drastically. In addition to straight food delivery like DoorDash or UberEats, services that delivered meal kits became more and more prevalent. While these meal prep services aren’t a great fit for everyone, they can make sense for certain budgets.
What Is a Meal Prep Service?
A meal prep service, also sometimes known as a meal kit, provides you with a certain number of meals per week. You select the number of meals and which meals you want, and they will be delivered to your door. The ingredients are measured out in exact serving sizes, usually to make one to four portions.
It is common for meal kit services to offer a certain number of “free” meals when you initially sign up. The idea is that you can try out the meal service for less of a financial commitment to see if it’s something that will work for you.
One thing to be aware of is that these free meals usually don’t all come upfront. If you sign up for a deal that offers 10 “free” meals, you won’t just get 10 meals delivered to you for no cost. Instead, it might be a discount that is equivalent to 5 free meals for the first week, then 3 for the second week and 2 for the third week.
What Are Some Popular Meal Prep Services?
There are many, many meal prep services. Each of these meal kit companies shares several characteristics, though they sometimes differ in a few key areas. Here are a few of the most common meal prep services:
- Blue Apron — Blue Apron has you choose from their Signature recipes, Wellness or Vegetarian. You can also pair your recipes with their monthly wine subscription. Cost is $63 for three meals a week for two people
- Freshly — With Freshly, you can choose from 4, 6, 8, 10 or 12 meals per week, with each serving one meal for one person. The cost starts as low as $8.49 per meal, plus shipping
- Home Chef — With Home Chef, you can choose from a variety of different meals each week based on your preferences and dietary restrictions. Meal plans start as low as $6.99 per serving. You can also find Home Chef meal kits at select Kroger grocery stores nationwide.
- HelloFresh — HelloFresh has over 27 fresh recipes each week designed by chefs and nutritionists. Prices start at $7.49 per serving and you can easily swap, skip or pause your order at any time
When Does a Meal Prep Service Make Sense?
While a meal kit or meal prep service may be more expensive than cooking your meals at home, it may make financial sense for some people. If you find you are eating most of your meals at restaurants, a meal prep service could save you a significant amount of money.
The best way to figure out if a meal prep service might make sense for you is to take a look at your current food budget. How much are you spending each week or month on food? Is that primarily spent on groceries, single meal deliveries, or restaurants? Track your spending with a tool like Mint to figure out where your money is going now.
Then you can take a look at a few different meal prep kits and their prices to see if that might make sense for your budget. Remember that many of these companies offer introductory rates so you might even be able to try a few options to find one that works for you. Another thing to remember is that some of the meals might have large enough portions that they could work for leftover lunch the next day as well, further reducing your per-meal cost.
The Bottom Line
Using a meal prep service may be more expensive than buying your own food and cooking at home. But, if your culinary skills, time, or energy don’t allow that luxury right now, using meal kits might be cheaper and healthier than ordering delivery or eating at restaurants. You may even find preparing meal kits are a good first step to more confidence in making your own meals.