by Kevin Gray

After a long day of working, taking care of your family, running errands or otherwise dealing with all of life’s obligations, cooking dinner is often the last thing you want to do. That goes double if your fridge is empty and a trip to the grocery store is required. So, it’s understandable many people turn to restaurants and fast-food options at the end of the day. However, meal kits are emerging as another option.


According to a CDC national survey, more than 1/3 of Americans eat fast food daily. And per a recent Zagat survey, the average American dines out about five times per week across breakfast, lunch and dinner. All those meals out can really increase your calorie intake. In fact, a University of Illinois study found the following: “When Americans go out to eat, either at a fast-food outlet or a full-service restaurant, they consume, on average, about 200 more calories a day than when they stay home for meals.” The report shows they also consume more fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium.


The obvious lesson here is to eat more meals at home. One way to make that more manageable is through meal subscription plans. Companies like Blue Apron, HelloFresh, Freshly and Sun Basket deliver meal kits straight to your door, complete with ready-to-cook food and instructions. You’re still on the hook for making dinner, but you’re saved the time and effort it takes to think up meals and buy groceries. Most plans come out to about $10 per serving — roughly the same as visiting a fast-casual restaurant — and offer a variety of options that you can pick each week.


I first tried a meal delivery kit because I was in a rut. I like to cook, but I hate being hungry at 7 p.m. with no groceries and no plan — which was where I often found myself at the end of the day. Rather than trekking to the store to pick up ingredients for a homemade dinner, I would usually resort to something fast and easy, like my neighborhood Chipotle or Thai place. So, I hoped that having ready-to-cook meals on deck in my fridge would encourage me to get back in the kitchen. It worked, and one year later, I’m still onboard the meal kit train.

I currently opt for a three-meals-per-week plan, and before each delivery, I can choose my three favorites from a menu of eight different meals. When the cold, cardboard box shows up at my door on Mondays, I’ve got my marching orders. Meat, seafood, whole grains, fresh produce, sauces and seasonings are included, along with explicit directions for turning raw ingredients into cohesive dinners.

Now, when I’m hungry after a long day, I’ve got food in my fridge and a plan in place. This holds me accountable (I don’t want the food to go bad) and also makes those desperate Chipotle visits much less frequent. Most meals can be cooked in 30–40 minutes, and the serving sizes are just right. All that conspires to encourage good eating habits — cooking more, eating out less and paying attention to what, exactly, I put into my body. I’ve even learned some new tricks in the kitchen that I can deploy when cooking other meals on my own.


We all know that home-cooked meals are the healthier way to eat. So, anything we can do to make eating at home, and managing our portions, a more common occurrence is a good thing. For me, it’s meal kits. Maybe they’ll work for you, too.

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