Food News

The Reason Why People Aren't Using Meal Kits

July 21, 2017

“To me, meal kits sound like cheating, not cooking,” Dirt Candy’s Amanda Cohen wrote in the opinion pages of The New York Times last month. Cohen expressed some healthy skepticism over meal kits and their profusion in American homes, insisting they were too scientific to encourage experimentation, guided by recipe cards that were more constricting than freeing.

Though I saw some grumbling over Cohen's piece, I’d say she was pretty even-keeled in her assessment of meal kits, her piece almost acting as a summary of the varying opinions that meal kits have inspired. Are they a hindrance to really learning how to cook, or necessary aids for those of us who'd like to feel more confident in the kitchen?

Earlier this month, Morning Consult, a company that measures customer satisfaction through surveying, polled 2,191 adults across the country to better understand their relationship to meal kit services. The company released the results earlier this week. Morning Consult asked respondents if they’d ever tried a home delivery meal kit service—say, Blue Apron, HelloFresh, Plated, Sun Basket, Martha & Marley Spoon, PeachDish, Green Chef—or if they, at the time of polling, still subscribed to one. Among those surveyed, 19 percent (419) had tried a meal kit service, and, of those 419, 62 percent (260) had canceled their subscriptions for one reason or another.

Of that group of respondents who no longer used meal kit services, an overwhelming majority cited the price point as the main reason they didn't continue. Of those who’d previously subscribed to a meal kit, 49 percent canceled their subscriptions because they found the kits too expensive. (For reference, a family meal plan from Blue Apron sets you back $8.99 per serving. A family plan from Hello Fresh is $8.74 per serving. Quite a wad of capital!) The second most common reason people canceled their subscriptions was that they didn’t like the recipes offered (13 percent).

Pricing was also a deterrent for those 1,772 respondents who never even subscribed to a delivery meal kit service in the first place—59 percent claimed the price point was the main hindrance, while 15 percent said these meal kit services didn’t deliver to their areas.

I’d read the survey results in full to find some other compelling nuggets, particularly about the demographics of those people surveyed. I’m wary of extrapolating too much from this poll, but, at the very least, the results point to where this slightly confused industry may be headed, or confirm moves that’ve already been made. Take a look at Marley Spoon’s Dinnerly, the just-launched $5 per serving meal kit box that's billed as “the only affordable meal kit on the market.” Maybe Amazon will change the game.

Do you use a meal kit service? If you did but no longer do, why did you quit? Let us know in the comments.

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40 Comments

Jennifer R. November 29, 2017
Here is Sun basket website - https://sunbasket.com/
 
Xandra B. September 11, 2017
Being single, sometimes I just want a bowl of soup and a salad, from my own cupboard and fridge... I wish I could buy individual meals at will when I'm in the mood to cook and have no inspiration. Like at the store or something.
 
vanniannie September 11, 2017
I have been using different meal kits for six months or more. I vascillate between different companies, trying them out to see which I like more. They've all been good. They take commitment to preparing them, sometimes I'm tired but I enjoy them more than some people might. I've had a great variety of meals and I do feel they help me do more interesting things and I don't think they're too expensive. I spend much less and have less waste by doing this.
 
Ilona F. August 30, 2017
<br />After 47 years of marriage and cooking hundreds of meals (including dinner parties), I'm done with cooking. I have all my events catered and I rely on Blue Apron to ease at least two weeks of each month. I like the "ethnic" approach to the meals and I have either renewed my knowledge or learned something new from their techniques. The best thing about using BA is that my husband loves it, so no-brainer. After reading Amanda Cohen's piece in the NYT, i wanted to write her that after she has cooked for her husband (and children) for the better part of half a century, then she can talk to me about the value of using a service like Blue Apron (or any others). Everyone is busy and overwhelmed these days. What women and men choose to do in their kitchens is up to them and they don't need to be told that cooking from a recipe card is "constricting." Many cooks find freedom in not having to think about "experimentation" after a long day. <br /><br />
 
Sherry K. August 30, 2017
I have found it surprising that some people find these services constricting. I find just the opposite. They have taken us out of our comfort zone, caused us to try new cuisines, taught us new ways of preparing familiar ingredients, and expanded our repertoire.
 
Tamara August 29, 2017
I tried Blue Apron for two months & loved it. The quality of the ingredients was wonderful & the recipes delicious. Even my teenager love them! The issue for me was cost - just too expensive.
 
Mary R. August 29, 2017
I used Sun Basket for a few weeks. My husband and I are empty nesters and I had become uninspired in the kitchen trying to come up with weeknight dinners for two. I thought the cost of Sun Basket was quite reasonable. They offer Paleo options and everything is organic, which appealed to me. I stopped because the organic produce I received was not of the quality that I can get locally. Peaches and nectarines that were either hard as stones or dry and mealy in texture, and cucumber that was mushy and slimy. In the end the guilt I had for not buying locally sourced organic produce far outweighed the convenience of my subscription.
 
Janet August 29, 2017
I am in Canada, used Chef's Plate for a few months. I am single, pretty handy in the kitchen, but don't enjoy the prep when it's just for me. I liked the convenience of having just the right amount of perishable seasonings. I found the selection broad enough that I could order things I had not already tried preparing, so I learned new food styles. I quit because the minimum order (2 meals for 2 every week) was too much food. My schedule just didn't allow me to eat all my meals at home, and with the hearty portion size, that's what it would have required to consume everything.
 
Sophia R. August 29, 2017
I tried Home Chef for a few months, and like the recipes, and the fact that they offered gluten-free options. I did cancel due to the cost though. My only other issue was thinking something sounded or looked good when I selected my meals for the week, but when it actually arrived I might not be in the mood for it.<br />I don't think the meal kits are cheating, and can be very useful to people who need to boost their confidence in the kitchen (thanks to helpful step by step directions, and being given the exact ingredients needed [some of which people might never use again if they bought a full-sized version]) or for people going through a life adjustment that makes meal planning or prep a strain (new parents or new job, etc).
 
Teri S. August 29, 2017
We have tried Home Chef, Plated, and Terra's Kitchen. Of the three, we liked Terra's Kitchen the most. They do some of the prep work for you so you spend less time chopping, etc. They also use shipping vessels that prevent food from being damaged in transit and that are reusable - FedEx picks it up the day after you receive your delivery. They also seemed to have the best menu selection and offered options to purchase additional items aside from meals. I have celiac disease and many of the other services offered very limited gluten free options. <br /><br />So why did we stop? Cost wasn't a factor. Like others I think we actually saved money because we ate out less frequently. We stopped because we became bored with the monotony of it. There is no creativity involved and no spontaneity. We also found that after a while we were repeating the same meals and there wasn't enough in the way of new items coming on the menu.
 
Nan M. August 29, 2017
My partner is a picky eater and I don't eat seafood. The lack of control/choice of ingredients and recipes kept me from signing up.
 
Steph G. July 24, 2017
I was getting Blue Apron fairly regularly a couple of years ago and LOVED it. I love cooking but I had just bought a house and didn't want to bother with meal planning, so it seemed like an interesting premise. What I soon realized, having moved to a restaurant-desert in the suburbs (after living in the city for years), was that Blue Apron was perfect for trying different cuisines and dish styles. We didn't/still don't have access to most ethnic restaurants where we live, and while BA isn't complete authentic in its handling of those food cultures, it definitely gave us flavors and ingredients that were new to us. I considered it an entertainment expense swap: we didn't go out to eat, but we got to make restaurant-quality food at home. I've kept all of the recipe cards for dishes we liked and have made them again many times, doubling or tripling recipes so that we could have leftovers or freeze parts.<br /><br />I'm not sure if the quality has changed since I used it, but I've heard that now they're partnered up with local-ish farmers and emphasizing organic/pasture-raised, etc. If I had the disposable income to keep doing it, I would - just had a baby, so that entertainment budget is now for diapers!
 
Jo C. July 24, 2017
We are both good cooks but I hate food shopping and neither of us has time to think up a new meal every single day. However, the only reason we do use meal kits occasionally is that we found one--Chef'd--that doesn't require a weekly subscription plan and that offers hundreds of options. We looked at Purple Carrot but that would have been 3 meals a week, every week, and they pick the three. I don't want to be bound by such constraints. So we might order two meals from Chef'd one week but then not order again for another couple of weeks. Gives us a break from thinking and shopping on our own schedule.
 
Cecilia July 23, 2017
One common thread seems to be that people put a price not only on the cost of the meal service, but also on the value of "lost goods" when groceries bought at the store go unused and are eventually trashed. That's a really good strategy for determining the value of these kits, and if it helps reduce food waste, I'm happy for it. However, I guess my deeper concern is why people let food go to waste in the first place. If I have too much produce in my fridge...I eat it. Just cut up the wilted lettuce and make a big salad for dinner tonight--it requires no effort whatsoever. Pretty much anything else can be frozen (another reason why I've never understood having "stale bread"--as a single person, bread is sliced and kept in the freezer so that I have it ready whenever I want a piece). Almost any dairy product (including cheese), a lot of vegetables (I won't use frozen baby spinach or carrots in a salad, but they're really easy to pull out of the freezer and add to a soup or stew), condiments, and even herbs can be frozen until necessary. Meal kits are totally fine if you enjoy them and they fit with your lifestyle--all the better! But I think learning how to avoid food waste in the first place is imperative--from my experience with roommates, a lot of people simply don't know that you don't have to throw food away if it's been in the fridge for a few days or the magic power of the freezer, and this is good information to spread.
 
Alexa M. July 24, 2017
Blue Apron may reduce food waste, but for me a huge deterrent for these companies is all the OTHER waste they create -- every tiny thing is packaged in its own plastic wrapper. It seems like a crazy amount of trash compared to buying foods fresh, in bulk, or in more sustainable packaging.
 
Karenteacher July 23, 2017
I tried Blue Apron for a couple of months, and there were pros and cons. I enjoyed the meals, and it expanded my cooking skills. However, as a single person, I ran into problems. The meals were very good when fresh, but much of it did not reheat well, leaving me with unappetizing leftovers, particularly at work, when I only had time to use a microwave. Also, most of the meals asked for salt and pepper in a great many places - one recipe actually said "salt and pepper to taste" in 7 different places between the entree and side dish. I don't use much salt, so "to taste" means I use very little - so many of the dishes were blander than the recipe probably called for. In addition, many of the meals were sauteed or stir-fried, and while I enjoy that style of cooking, I don't like it as often as the recipes called for. I had to stop shipment periodically because life would happen, I wouldn't get all the food made, and the prep kits would pile up. I'm glad I tried it - but I won't be trying it again.
 
BerryBaby July 23, 2017
Some of our grocery stores make mesktime easy. In the meat butcher section you can buy meat skewered, seasoned and ready for the grill...instructions included. Produce has packages of mixed vegetables for stir fry, with cooking instructions. They will deliver groceries to your home as well. You have to be there for delivery but you could be doing things around the house in the meantime.
 
Anne K. July 23, 2017
I hope Amazon doesn't change this game - the company already controls too much of our purchasing. Dave Eggers' The Circle presents an all-too-realistic imagination of how Google/Facebook/Amazon pervades our lives. That said, I have several friends who use Blue Apron and like it more as for variety and creativity than as the main source of their groceries. I think if you find out you like a dish, then you can purchase ingredients and experiment to your heart's content. But it doesn't make sense to me to experiment with a cuisine with which you aren't familiar. These services give you a chance to explore. And ... it's a pretty first-world problem to kvetch over the fine points of a meal plan delivery service.
 
Susan July 22, 2017
Our summer home is in a remote mountain town with one small and expensive grocery. As an alternative to driving hours down a dangerous mountain road to a grocery with reasonable prices and selection, I am trying the delivery services. I started with Sun Basket. The first week was great. The second week's package didn't arrive. I was afraid of that--we are remote. I hope they can get the delivery worked out, because the produce is fresher, the meats are better and the variety is wonderful. Besides that, even this more expensive service is cheaper than the local grocery.
 
Sherry K. July 22, 2017
We've been using Blue Apron and Home Chef for about 7 months and absolutely love them. My husband and I work long hours and often find ourselves without plans or ingredients for a decent dinner. With deliveries from these two services, most nights we cook an interesting and delicious dinner and enjoy spending some time cooking together. I take a few minutes each week looking at the next week's menus and our schedules. I usually select a delivery from the service with the best menu for the week, but sometimes I stagger the delivery days and take both. Since I travel a good bit, I cancel delivery for dates I know I'll be away. <br />We're actually saving money with these services because we don't over-buy when we shop and have food spoil before we cook it, and we eat out much less. Plus, we'd never try this many new recipes on our own, especially since they call for many sauces, vinegars, and other ingredients I wouldn't want to buy in large quantity for a small amount needed. We are both experienced and confident cooks, but we get many ideas for the days we're cooking on our own. <br />Both services have exceptional customer service. I've had one occasion each to contact them - an ingredient was left out of a Home Chef meal, and Fedex delivered a Blue Apron package a day late - and their resolutions were both fast and beyond what was required. <br />We've been pleasantly surprised at the quality of the ingredients. Proteins are exceptional, and produce is better than I can buy locally.<br />If I were only buying from one of these services, I'd probably go with Home Chef - the menu usually has more options we really want, there's more flexibility in how many days' meals you buy, and you can add fruit and/or smoothies to your box. But we've just finished a box of superb Blue Apron meals, and we enjoy trying meals that are more out of our comfort zone, which seems more prevalent with Blue Apron. For us, there have been zero downsides.
 
Mona C. July 22, 2017
My husband and I are in a similar situation and I agree with you 100%. I can also absolutely see why these kits can be expensive options for some people, especially for a family. For us, the time saved in meal planning and grocery shopping is well worth the price.
 
Lydia D. July 22, 2017
This was my experience as well. I live in Canada, and Chef's Plate recently began delivery to my province. In the 5 months we had the service, we saved money because we weren't buying grocery-store quantities that spoiled before we could eat them.<br />I disagree with the assertion that the services discourage creativity; no one forces the cook to stick with the recipe card (and we've made some tweaks to bring them more in-line with our personal preferences). <br /><br />My partner and I are both experienced cooks, and lead very busy lives. We ended up cancelling because we're moving in September and wanted to eat our way through our chest freezer, and do plan on resubscribing once we're settled.
 
Nanette July 22, 2017
I have friends who live far from any food sources. The nearest grocery is an hour away; the nearest coop is 1 1/2 hours away. They plan and make the trek about every 3 weeks. The meal kit companies deliver to their general store, a few blocks away. For them, it's an excellent deal, and provides something different from their usual fare.
 
sarah July 22, 2017
Right after I gave birth to my first child, someone gifted us a week of Blue Apron. I was not excited. I love to cook. I'm a creative person. I really didn't I needed some formulaic cardboard box of ingredients in my kitchen. It somehow felt like selling out. How would it even be fresh. Seriously? Ew. <br />I WAS WRONG. :)<br />I've given up my foodie snobbery, and am now a total convert. My husband and I work full-time, and our (admittedly adorable) two year-old also demands every spare second of our time. It's great to be able to fall back 3x a week on Blue Apron.. The meals are surprisingly tasty, w subtle flavor combinations I really appreciate. They're fun to prepare - I still get to "nest" and make a lovely mise en place and savor things like the smell of garlic simmering in butter. They save us time - lately, time is the most valuable commodity in my life. And yes - they even save us money. In my foodie zealousness, I realize that I as always buying entire bottles of yuzu sauce or hoisin or miso or zaa'tar, that would then moulder unused after one meal. Entire packages of asparagus/brussels sprouts/lettuce that we wouldn't eat all of. So Blue Apron has preventing us wasting money on food too. <br />I *will* however say that if we were a family of 4, I think the value goes way down- it's easier to make meals/budget stretch when you're cooking for a larger group. But for two, Blue Apron is just right. <br />FINALLY - we've tried two other meal kits (Marley Spoon & Plated), BA's still our fave. And no, I am not getting paid by BA to post this, this is just dead honest feedback from a busy, working parent. <br />