What You Need to Know About Food Subscription Services

Food subscription services are taking over the internet. They are intended to help you plan and prepare meals at home with ease by providing all of the ingredients and instructions you need to prepare a complete meal.

In some cases you can follow along and cook the recipe yourself, while other subscriptions provide entirely premade meals. Ideally, this could cut down on the time you spend planning and shopping for your meals, as well as help you to make healthier choices.

While food subscriptions are relatively recent, they have been quickly growing in popularity. Many companies across the U.S. now offer their own versions of this service. Subscribers can make selections for their dietary and health preferences, as well as choose options suitable for families with children. However, this meal planning approach is not always suitable for everyone. The expense, the potential environmental impact and other factors could turn you away from the idea. Make sure to consider all the pros and cons of these services before deciding if they could work for you.

How They Work

Each meal subscription service requires you to sign up on a website or app. To get you started, many offer a free or discounted trial before you commit to a full subscription. When you are ready to sign up, you get to choose the plan you want, depending on your dietary or palate preferences. For example, you might select an option such as vegetarian, vegan or child-friendly. Certain food preferences such as a particular cultural cuisine may also be available.

Different services offer a variety of weekly plans to choose from based on the amount of meals you want to purchase. Some might bring you meals for the entire week, while others provide an option for meals every two or three days. The delivery may depend on the available schedule.

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The food will be delivered to you in the freshest and most convenient way possible. Refrigerated items should arrive in a cool box. For meal preparation kits, every ingredient is divided up into the amounts you will need to prepare the selected recipes. There should also be a recipe card or pamphlet with the information required to cook the meal step by step.

Costs

The cost of a food subscription varies depending on the service you use, though most come out to about $10 per meal. Factors such as ingredients, subscription levels and meal types can all affect the price you pay. For example, meals that have been prepared for you will cost more than meal preparation subscriptions.

For a meal preparation kit, all the ingredients for your meals are included, except some base items such as oil or salt. However, the cost of a food subscription plan covers more than the ingredients themselves. Depending on the service, the following may also be included:

  • Preparation for the various ingredients. Some services provide pre-cut vegetables, for example, although this option varies.
  • Measured ingredients such as spices, grains and cuts of meat.
  • A recipe plan, detailing the steps required to make the recipe. This may also come with pictures to help novice cooks.
  • Additions such as desserts, snacks or breakfasts might be an option for some meal subscription plans.
  • Delivery might be included for free, depending on your plan and schedule.

Comparison to Home Cooking

When compared to planning and preparing meals yourself, food subscription services are generally more expensive. Depending on your budget and cooking habits, one serving of a home-cooked meal could be as little as one or two dollars.

However, you may also consider the cost of your time when calculating the price of a home-cooked meal. If you have to travel far to reach a grocery store, you might consider food subscription services to be more affordable. However, with other conveniences such as local grocery deliveries and online retailers, these tasks may not be as difficult as they once were. This can lessen the overall timesaving factor of a subscription service.

Another potential benefit to using a food subscription service is in meal planning. If you have to spend hours planning your weekly meals, or are in the habit of forgetting to purchase key ingredients, a food subscription could be a solution to your needs.

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On the other hand, those who use home cooking as a way to experiment in the kitchen may not enjoy the prescriptive nature of food subscription services, even those that require preparation. However, you may choose to have only a few meals a week through a subscription service, leaving the rest of the week for your own ideas. Some cooks might also like the challenge of recreating certain subscription recipes on their own.

Comparison to Eating Out

Dining at a restaurant or getting takeout are other popular and convenient meal options. However, these are likely to be more expensive than the meal you might make with a food subscription. If you find yourself relying on restaurant-prepared food every night when you are too tired to cook, food subscriptions could be a preferable option.

With many of the more affordable food subscription services, you must still prepare the meal yourself. While the tasks of planning and shopping for the ingredients are taken care of for you, it might be difficult to choose a food subscription meal over takeout when you are in need of the quickest possible option.

Those who are conscious of their health might consider food subscription to be a better alternative to eating out as well, as many of the services focus on providing healthy meals. If you do not have many healthy dining options in your area, food subscriptions could meet your needs.

Environmental Impact

For those who are worried about their environmental impact, it is important to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of food subscription services. While the carbon footprint of the deliveries may be a concern, for example, you should compare this to your carbon footprint when traveling to purchase the groceries yourself.

One downside to food subscriptions is the use of packaging. Generally, the items are pre-measured and pre-packaged. While some ingredients may require less packaging, using a subscription does mean there is more packaging involved than there would be if you purchased your ingredients in bulk.

It is also important to consider the problem of food waste. Food waste accounts for a large part of household waste, which contributes to your carbon footprint as well as wastes money. By having the ingredients for your meals pre-planned, you may find there are fewer items left to go bad in your refrigerator.

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