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Published on May 04, 2021

man looking at groceries he ordered online

Do Mail-Order Meal Programs Work for Your Family?

Whether you are looking for a way to avoid crowds at the grocery store, or spend less time on meal planning and prep, mail order meal kits might be the answer. There is no question this is a growing trend. But now with over 20 companies offering mail order meal kits you will need to do your homework before signing up.

Here are a few important questions to consider:

How much time do I want to spend in the kitchen?

There are options to fit every answer. Companies like Freshly and Factor have meals that you simply heat and eat. While companies like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh often require more like 30-45 minutes of prep/cook time.

Are there important dietary restrictions I need to follow?

Not all mail-order meal kits are focused on health, some are more focused on introducing unique and gourmet foods. If weight loss or weight management is your focus make sure to check the nutrition facts on the offered meals.

You might consider going with a company like Snap Kitchen which provides specific dietary patterns such as keto, paleo or others within a specific calorie range like 1,200-1,800 per day. Many companies offer meals free of specific allergens or that follow common diets including vegan, vegetarian, low-carbohydrate or others.

Am I comfortable with packaging waste?

It takes a lot of specialized packaging to ship perfectly portioned, temperature-sensitive foods across the nation. It just can’t be avoided. However, companies like Sunbasket take pride in their 100% recyclable and compostable packaging. So check to see if there are options that fit your mindset on this part of the decision.

Do they offer something everyone in the house will eat?

Although I would be delighted to try the honey miso broccoli donburi from HelloFresh, I feel like it might not appeal to my children as much as say the cheesy broccoli and meatballs from the more kid-focused meal company, Yumble. The size of the weekly or monthly menus really varies among the companies, too, so make sure you can find plenty of options that would work for your family.

What is my budget?

A budget of $150-$200 at the grocery store can pretty easily feed my four-person family their three meals a day for a week. A price tag of $100-$150 for three meals designed to feed four people would be tough to fit into my budget. However, I could make $70 for three meals designed to feed four from Every Plate, which is focused on tasty value and convenience, fit the budget. For many of the companies the more meals you buy the better the deal.

Is there a subscription?

Make sure to read all the fine print. Can you pause meals if you are traveling? What happens if there are shipping delays? How long do I have to commit to get the sign-up deal? Can I vary the quantity and types of meals? Do your homework to avoid mistakes.

If you’d like to learn more about healthy diet choices, contact the Avera Heart Hospital Dietitian Team.

Lauren Cornay, RD, LN, is a registered dietitian at Avera Heart Hospital.

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