Welcome to ‘dinner on your doorstep’
There you are, at the end of a long workday, standing in front of an open refrigerator, wondering, “What in the world am I going to make for dinner?”
For a growing number of Americans, meal kit delivery services provide the answer, says Consumer Reports. Every week, you pick several meals from an ever-changing list of offerings on a company’s website, and a few days later, a box packed with chilled, premeasured ingredients and detailed cooking instructions arrives on your doorstep.
It’s a trend that began in 2012, then took off. Today there are more than 100 meal kit companies in the United States, and new ones are springing up all the time.
But do the kits deliver on the easy, healthy and fresh fronts? Consumer Reports’ food and nutrition experts, admittedly experienced cooks, ordered from five popular services to try them. They also asked 57 meal kit users (some of whom describe themselves as beginners in the kitchen) to report on their experience.
Are they healthy?
The ingredients were indeed fresh, but not all of the services provided enough nutrition info for their meals. Hello Fresh listed the most – calories, fat, saturated fat, carbohydrates, protein, fiber, sodium and sugars – on their recipe cards. Others provided only calories.
Most of the meals included a
generous amount of vegetables. For example, Green Chef’s recipes had 2½ to 4½ cups (before cooking) per serving. But that wasn’t a given: Blue Apron’s Pork Tteokbokki Asparagus with Spicy
Black Bean Sauce had just five spears of asparagus for two people.
Consumer Reports’ biggest concern was the high sodium content of many of the meals. Almost every recipe that was tested called for seasoning the ingredients with salt several times – as many as five times for one recipe.
Do they taste good?
Yes! Twenty-four of the 27 recipes Consumer Reports tested received an Excellent or a Very Good score for taste. What’s more, they may be a smart way to broaden your family’s palate.
Some consumers, especially Gen X-ers and baby boomers, are driven to use
the kits to escape a cuisine comfort zone, according to Michael Joseph, founder and chief executive of Green Chef, one of two services with an Excellent Rating in the testing. Practically every person on the user panel said they liked being able to explore different flavors.
What’s the cost of convenience?
All things being equal, you’ll usually pay much more per portion for a meal from one of these services than you would if you cooked the same meal with ingredients you bought yourself at a supermarket.
But all things may not be equal. For example, if you have a cabinet full of spices you’ve used only once or you often throw away most of a bunch of parsley because a recipe calls for only ¼ cup, these kits may actually be a good financial deal because you aren’t buying more of an ingredient than you need.