Earlier this month, I shared my objective review of two home meal delivery services, Hello Fresh and Blue Apron. (I encourage you to go back and take a read in case you missed it!) As I was going through my review, I spent a lot of time asking myself, “What problem(s) is/are these services trying to solve for customers?” and “Are there other, less expensive solutions to those problems?” After some contemplation, I believe the answer is a resounding YES.
Today I wanted to share some of these ideas to help you save time and money on meal planning, but without having to resort to over-priced home meal delivery services.
Problem: I don’t know what to cook. I’m in a dinner rut!
Solution: Eat at Home.
It’s been awhile since I mentioned Eat at Home, but it feels appropriate to talk about them again. Eat at Home gives you structured meal plans, recipes, and color-coded grocery lists for just $14 a month (and less than that, if you opt for the 3-month or annual plan).
You’ll get the full month all at once, so you can work to minimize your shopping trips and save money at the store. While you still have to go the grocery store and prep your own food, this service takes care of a huge piece of the puzzle (meal planning and list making).
Problem: I’m busy and don’t have as much time to cook during the week.
Solution: Freezer Cooking or Weekly Food Prep.
I get it; we’re all busy. Particularly during the week when you’re likely juggling work, kids’ after school activities, and errand running. But the truth is, we usually see the busy coming. If we took a few minutes to look at our calendars, we’d be able to identify the days that are going to be the trickiest to get dinner on the table. And those are the days we can plan ahead for.
One of my most popular blog posts to date was this incredibly simple, yet brilliant guest post my friend Kelly assembled. Her idea is to prep your meals ahead of time. You buy bins for each day of the week and fill them with whatever you need for that meal. In this regard, it’s an awful lot like the home meal delivery services, except you’re just doing it yourself! If you wanted, you could even take this a step further and print out the recipe to include. Make sure to see the weekly meal prep post in case you haven’t yet.
My other solution to this problem is to consider freezer meal cooking. You can do this in batch and simply throw one of the meals in the slow cooker on your busy day.
Problem: I really don’t know how to cook.
OK, maybe that’s a bit rude of me to say! But you really don’t have any good excuse to not learn to cook. There are so many FREE resources for you to learn including Pinterest, YouTube, and the good old fashioned library.
Another option may be to check out Craftsy, which offers a wide-variety of online cooking classes. There are a number for beginners and you’ll have the opportunity to have your questions answered by the instructor, too.
Learning how to cook is such an important life skill. You’ll likely eat better and save money in the long run.
Problem: I dislike grocery shopping.
Solution: Fred Meyer/QFC’s ClickList or opting for grocery stores that offer delivery.
I have been singing Fred Meyer/QFC ClickList’s praises for over a year now and I really think more people need to try it! For a modest $4.95 fee (your first 3 times are free), someone will gather all your grocery items for you and you pick up curbside – no need to go in the store. I’m honestly befuddled when I see my friends complain about going grocery shopping yet refuse to try this service. I’ve had no issues with it – they do a great job picking out meat and produce. You can read more about this service from my ClickList FAQ post.
Some stores, such as Safeway, also deliver right to your home. Nina recently shared her experience with this service. She also shared recently how she used Google Express to get Costco groceries delivered.
In any of these cases, you order what you need and avoid having to set food in a grocery store. Most of the time, the prices you pay online are the same as you’d get in the store (this is true for ClickList), so you can still access all the same deals.
Problem: I’d really like a couple nights a week off of having to figure out dinner.
Solution: Buy takeout, pre-prepped Costco meals, whatever.
In my review of home meal delivery services, I discovered that the cost per meal was $35. For a meal you cook! No thank you. For less than that cost, you could pick up a Papa Murphy’s pizza, a couple of delicious prepped meals from Costco’s refrigerated section (or a $4.99 roast chicken), or heck, just go through takeout. You’ll spend less money and you won’t have to cook or clean!
I hope I’ve given you some practical suggestions for solving your meal-time woes. As you can see, there are many other solutions for tackling the question of “what’s for dinner?” than some over-processed, over-packaged meal that was delivered to your home for you to cook.
In case you missed it, I hope you’ll read my review on home meal delivery services. I’d also love to hear your ideas for saving money or time (or both!) on meal planning and prep. Leave a comment below!