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Outsourcing Everything But Cooking

posted Aug 31, 2015, 6:24 AM by   [ updated Nov 4, 2015, 12:31 PM ]

Last week, we discussed how to grocery shop without ever leaving the comfort of your home. But even if you use a grocery delivery service, you still have to plan meals, pick out recipes, and decide what to buy. If you don't have the time or desire to do that extra work, new web-based services may be a solution to getting a tasty, home-cooked dinner on the table most nights. Companies like  Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, or Plated provide you with the ingredients and recipes you need to prepare home-cooked meals. While these services generally cost more per meal than you would spend if you shopped for groceries yourself, they offer significant time savings and often feature higher quality ingredients. These services might be for you if:

  • You’re extremely pressed for time. If you use one of these services, you don’t have to spend time picking out recipes, finding the right ingredients, or grocery shopping. Everything you need is delivered right to your door along with guidance on what to make and how to make it. That being said, you’ll still have to spend significant time cooking the meals.
  • You frequently order take out or eat out for dinner. These services typically cost between $9-12 per person per meal. If you eat out, you’re probably spending at least that for food that may be less fresh and less nutritious.
  • You have a hard time using up ingredients before they go bad. These services only deliver the amount of food you need to make each recipe, meaning you won’t have to buy a whole bunch of cilantro when you only need a tablespoon.
  • You like eating high-end foods. Although we haven’t tried these services ourselves, they promote the high quality of their ingredients and their recipes appear similar to what you would order in a high-end restaurant.
  • You’re a novice cook. These services provide recipes that give you detailed instructions and sometimes provide links to videos that further explain techniques. This can be really helpful if you don’t have strong cooking foundation.
  • You’re a vegetarian. All three services can accommodate vegetarians, pescatarians, and people who don’t eat red meat. If you're a vegetarian, be sure to review the recipes offered by each service and make sure the service you choose includes a variety of plant-based protein sources such as beans, peas, soy products (e.g. tofu, edamame), nuts, and seeds. 
These services may not be for you if:
  • You’re on a tight budget. While the cost is less than what you would spend at a restaurant, and these companies would argue that they’re less expensive than purchasing comparable ingredients at the grocery store, you can definitely feed your family for less than $9-12 per person per meal if you’re a smart shopper. Depending on your budget, the high quality and time savings may be worth it or it may not.
  • You have severe food allergies, need to follow a specific diet for medical reasons, or are very concerned about eating balanced meals. Most services pack everyone’s box together in one facility, so they can’t guarantee their products are free of allergens. They also don’t accommodate diets for specific medical conditions. Recipes typically fall within a preset calorie range, but they may not always be nutritionally balanced or include the recommended servings from each food group. They’re not billing themselves as health food companies; rather, they’re just trying to get you cooking tasty meals at home.
  • You like to have a lot of control over what you eat. These services often allow you to make substitutions if you don’t like specific meals, but you won’t have an unlimited selection of recipes to pull from.
  • You want to develop a repertoire of dishes. These services don’t repeat recipes very often, if at all, which can be great if you like a lot of variety. However, if you want to perfect a few dishes, you’ll have to use their recipes and do the shopping yourself.

Considering trying a recipe delivery service? Read more about your options here.