I’ve written previously about how having a weekly plan in place for your meals can make a huge difference in both the quality and healthfulness of your meals, regardless of whether weight loss is a goal of yours or not. It requires a fair bit of thoughtfulness, and even more time – a luxury some of us feel we don’t have. If you’re in that boat, I want to let you know some ways in which you can outsource your meal planning.

You can track down a made-for-you weekly meal plan – either pre-done or custom-made just for you – and they come in a range of dietary needs and levels of time commitment in the kitchen. In fact, I have several recommendations if you are interested in going this route. Then you just put together a shopping list, get your items, and cook. The problem is that doesn’t save a whole heck of a lot of time, but it does take the guesswork out of the process.

To save some more time, especially in planning and shopping, there’s my favorite – meal delivery services. The most common send you the recipes and ingredients needed to make anything from 3 meals to a full week’s worth of food, and there are ones that send you veggie smoothie ingredients. Like anything in life, there are pros and cons to them all.

Pros

    • Convenience. A box is delivered to your door with all the items you need for each meal, along with the needed recipes. You just unload into your fridge and pick which recipe to cook each night. Depending on which service you use, cooking usually takes a max of 20-30 minutes per meal.
    • No Food Waste. You’ll be sent exactly what you need, no more. If the recipe calls for one lime wedge, that’s all that’s sent.
    • Pre-portioning. If you tend to go back for seconds, you probably won’t be able to.
    • A Great Way To Try Something New. You might be sent a meal inspired by a foreign dish you’ve never even heard of, or use an ingredient you’ve never even seen in the grocery store. It’s a fun way to venture away from the same recipes you cook over and over again.

Cons

  • Cost. This is a big one, as you’re definitely paying for the convenience. Depending on where you’re ordering from and how many meals you’ll be getting, expect to pay at least $50-100 per week.
  • Packaging Waste. Everything comes in a big cardboard box, stuffed with ice packs (that are reusable, but how many ice packs do you really need to accrue, and I’ve never found a place that wanted them returned). Remember that one lime wedge we were sent? It’ll be in it’s own little plastic cup. Nearly everything will come in its own separate little cup or bag. Its almost all recyclable, but it’s still a big carbon footprint.
  • Your Order Might Get Delayed. I hate to gripe about one delivery company, but I’ve found most of these services use a certain delivery company that’s usually more “off track” than on. You come home from work expecting a box on your doorstep so you can make dinner, only to find it wasn’t delivered and you’re stuck scrambling eggs or raiding the pantry.
  • Little to No Control Over What You Get. If you don’t eat fish, you can select “no fish”; if you’re vegetarian, you can tell them that. But if you don’t like onions, there’s nothing you can do except to not include them in the recipe when you’re cooking.

Variable

  • Healthfulness. This varies TREMENDOUSLY based on the service you’re going with, so…

…I’ve tried out several services to give you my reviews.

Blue Apron

This was the first of these services that I heard of. Lured in by their ads on social media, I gave them a try a few years ago. We enjoyed nearly everything they sent us (me more so than my rather picky husband). Cooking time was usually in the 30 minute range. $60 gets 3 dinners that each were supposed to serve 2. I found that nearly every meal was enough for both my husband and I at dinner, plus leftovers for at least one of us for lunch the next day. I would consider the meals to be decently balanced, but definitely high calorie (which is why we had leftovers). Since you’re cooking every part of the meal, it was easy to control the ingredients. Don’t like spicy foods – don’t add so much cayenne; watching your sodium – don’t add salt; etc.

Green Blender

I’ve been a fan of veggie smoothies for a while now, and was excited to try a service specifically for that. Green Blender sends you what you need to make 5 smoothie recipes, 2 servings each. That’s 10 smoothies, at a cost of $50. It was kind of fun to try expensive, trendy “superfood” ingredients I wouldn’t otherwise buy in large quantities from the store (here’s a refresher on my opinion on “superfoods”). But NO prep has been done, and depending on the strength of your blender, you might still have a lot of chopping to do beforehand, which for me, made the price of this service that much less appealing. Ultimately it just wasn’t that much food – all produce – for $50, and there was still a lot of work to do in prep and cleanup.

Daily Harvest

Taking veggie smoothie convenience to a whole new level, this service sends you all the ingredients already chopped and ready to go, in a single use cup to boot. The cups store in your freezer, you just dump the contents in your blender, add liquid of your choice (you supply that), blend, then pour back into the same cup to drink (they came with lids so you could blend and go). Depending on how many you order, and whether you’re getting deliveries weekly or monthly, you’ll pay $7-8 per smoothie. This was the least waste option of any delivery service I’d used. Just the shipping box and insulating material (both recyclable) and the cups go in the trash. They use dry ice so you don’t have ice pack waste. They’ve since ventured out to soups, overnight oats, and more. The flavors are somewhat limited though (16 choices). This definitely felt like it was the priciest option I tried, given what I got for my $7. They made for very healthy breakfasts, lunches, or snacks though, and were particularly welcome in the heat of the summer.

Hungry Root

I’m currently (occasionally) enjoying this service. It’s completely vegan, and as eating more veggies and less animal products has been a goal of mine, it’s helping tremendously. I also love that much of the prep is already done; if the sweet potato is supposed to be diced, it arrives already diced. That makes cooking super fast – usually 5-10 minutes is all you need. Because of that added convenience, you’ll pay a premium. $99 per week (but I’ve got $30 off codes for anyone interested in trying it). Since I’m the only one in the house eating these meals, that’s my Monday-Friday lunches and dinners, sometimes with a bit left over for the weekend. Because most of the work is already done for you, you can’t control the ingredients as well, which means many meals are high in sodium (some are VERY high). The flip side of that is I often have extra sauces leftover which helps me stretch the delivery a bit. For instance, one of my favorite meals is “Sweet Potato Mac N’ Cheese” – diced steamed sweet potatoes in a cashew-based “cheese” sauce. I order this every other delivery and buy an extra two sweet potatoes at the store so I can enjoy it a few extra times. Calorie contents are very reasonable with all their items. One last “con” is that there is a limited selection of items they build their meals around, so things get repetitive pretty quickly.

If you have experience with a meal delivery service, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

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