8 Reasons Why Meal Delivery Services Are a Rip-Off
Are those fancy meal delivery services worth it? Will they really save time or money or help you eat healthier? Here are 8 reasons why meal delivery services are a rip-off, plus what you can do instead to save time and money on food!
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Have you tried meal delivery services?
I’m talking about companies like SunBasket, Hello Fresh, Blue Apron, or Green Chef (there are more) that portion, package, and ship entire, ready-to-cook meals to your door.
In theory, it’s a good idea.
If your choice is between drive-thru burgers or chicken breast with sauteed vegetables from SunBasket, then it’s obvious which one is healthier.
For busy families, it’s a novel idea to have someone else do the grocery shopping, meal planning, and prep work for you — leaving you to put it all together and follow the recipe.
Except, I think meal delivery services are a rip-off.
And, I’m not alone.
8 Reasons Why Meal Delivery Services Are a Rip-Off
When I discussed this issue on my Instagram Stories, I got an overwhelming response agreeing with me. People have been sold this luxurious idea for meal delivery. But, when they bought into it, it wasn’t as great as they had been led to believe.
Our family has tried 3 different meal delivery services — and we’ve been disappointed all 3 times.
In this post, I give 8 reasons why meal delivery services are a rip-off. Then, I share what I believe to be better alternatives.
#1 — Tiny Portion Sizes
I’m feeding 4 adults, y’all.
Ok, technically, I’m feeding 2 adults and 2 teenagers… who sometimes eat more than adults. So, basically, I’m feeding 4 adults.
The average meal delivery portion size is just NOT enough food for my family.
If your family is 1 or 2 adults and 1 or 2 small kids, a 4-serving meal will probably be enough.
The meat portions are 2 or 3 ounces — which is even smaller than most restaurants’ meat portions, which are usually 4 ounces.
Some might argue that smaller portions are better. They help people stop over-eating and lose weight. For most Americans eating a Standard American Diet, I believe this is true.
However, no one in our home needs to lose weight nor are we eating Standard American Diet food.
Truly, if you’re paying for one of these meal delivery services and hoping for a meal that’s going to fill you up, I think you’ll be sorely disappointed.
Here’s what my Instagram audience had to say about meal delivery portion sizes:
Agree! Such small portions for so much money! — S.T.
Spot on what you said. Too small, too $$, so much trash! — J.W.
#2 — You’ll End up Making Extra Sides
I think these meal delivery services must think there are little elves who don’t eat much ordering their food!
Every time we ordered a box of meals, I always ended up making extra sides. Here are 2 reasons why:
- Often, the “meal” was little more than a 3-ounce portion of meat and a small bit of rice or vegetables.
- The portion sizes of the sides was just as small as the meats.
When rice was included, it was about 1 cup for 4 people — 1/4 cup per person. When veggies were included, it was roughly the same amount.
I always had to dig through my pantry and freezer to come up with extra side dishes to fill our plates.
When I asked Instagram about their experiences with meal delivery services, my audience agreed:
100% I had to supplement every single meal with another veggie. I’m sorry but 2 carrot sticks per person is not a serving. — K.D.
#3 — So. Much. Packaging.
This might be the worst part of meal delivery services — THE TRASH.
Every. single. thing is individually wrapped in plastic!
You get exactly the ingredients you need to make that one meal — and every ingredient is either in a plastic wrapper, plastic bag, plastic ramekin, or plastic clamshell.
So, for a meal with 4 chicken breasts, 1 cup of rice, 1 cup of green beans, 1/2 an ounce of a fresh herb, some vinegar, and a sauce, that’s 4 plastic wrappers for the chicken, a plastic bag for the rice, a plastic bag for the green beans, a plastic clamshell for the herb, a plastic ramekin for the vinegar, and a plastic sauce packet.
By the time you’ve cooked the meal, your countertop has a pile of trash on it! Don’t even get me started on the huge styrofoam coolers, packing paper, and ice packs!
Y’all, these meal delivery services are just not sustainable or good for the environment.
Here’s what my Instagram audience had to say about the trash issue with meal delivery:
I did enjoy grocery delivery, but I agree, too much plastic. — J.B.
Too expensive and I agree, too much trash. — G.M.
I haven’t tried meal delivery strictly because there’s sooooo much waste! — L.W.
#4 — Mystery Ingredients
One of the first meal deliveries we tried was a chicken dish with a sauce. To make the sauce, you had to combine a small plastic packet of “chicken broth base” with a small plastic packet of “ginger lime sauce”.
Unfortunately, we were unable to find the ingredients for both. The ingredients weren’t listed on the packets, nor could we find them on the service’s website.
So, we have no clue if they contained MSG, gluten, yeast extract, preservatives, or GMOs!
Whether my food comes from the store, my backyard, a local farm, the farmer’s market, a restaurant, or a meal delivery service, I want to know exactly what’s in it. I believe we all have the right to know what’s in our food. Period.
Thankfully, our family doesn’t have any anaphylactic food allergies, but if your family does, then what? How can you know for sure that the meal you’re making is safe if the ingredients in sauces or seasoning packets aren’t listed?
#5 — Not Really Time-Saving
Ok, I know it seems like a total luxury to have everything for a complete meal pre-portioned, ready to cook, and delivered right to your door.
Except, there’s still prep involved…
You still have to cut up the onion, grate the cheese, cook the rice, chop the herbs, etc.
I’ve timed how long it takes us to cook a delivered meal, and it’s often been more than an hour from start to finish. I can easily cook less expensive, less packaged food in the same (or less) time.
I’ve also discovered that the recipes are sometimes complicated and require several steps. If you’re comfortable modifying recipes, you can often omit or skip steps to save time.
Just because it’s pre-portioned and comes with a recipe doesn’t mean it’s actually saving you time. These meals still require cooking.
Here’s what one of my Instagram followers said:
The meals were too complicated and time-consuming to cook. –K.D.
#6 — Issues with Freshness
How would you feel if you spent $60 for one meal delivery only to open your box and discover that your meat smelled funky or that some of the produce had spoiled?
Pretty pissed, huh?
Think about this: This food is packed in styrofoam coolers, often with ice packs. What happens if your food is delivered at 10a.m. and sits on your porch on a 90-degree day until you get home at 5:30? That’s 7.5 hours.
Would you eat chicken that had sat out for that long?
Or, here’s a real-life scenario from my own experience…
Our meals were delivered one winter morning when I was out of the house all day. The temperature was well below freezing all day. By the time I opened our box, the herbs and greens had frozen and wilted!
Unfortunately, as well as these companies try to package these meals, freshness is an issue.
Here’s what one person said on Instagram:
They suck. I consistently had issues with produce/meat freshness. — H.B.
#7 — Foods You Don’t Like/Foods That Aren’t Allergy-Friendly
I wouldn’t say our family is picky at all, but everyone has foods they don’t love or foods they can’t eat due to sensitivities, intolerances, and/or allergies.
Let’s address the “foods you don’t like” issue first…
Our family loves simple, real food. Nothing fancy, no special ingredients.
So, when these are the 4 meal options:
- baked salmon with white bean and artichoke salad
- coconut shrimp with cucumber salad and pineapple-ginger mayo
- spicy chicken with pineapple-celery slaw
- turkey meatballs with wilted greens in lemongrass broth
Um, NO THANKS.
I don’t know many kids who’ll eat a bean salad. 3 out of 4 members of my family don’t like cucumbers. None of us likes slaw. And, lemongrass broth? Ew.
Give me all the baked salmon, coconut shrimp, spicy chicken, and turkey meatballs! But, none of those sides, please.
See? I’d be paying for food we don’t like/won’t eat.
To address the “foods that aren’t allergy-friendly” issue…
- If ingredients aren’t listed for a salad dressing, sauce, mayo, or sauce, how do you know if it’s allergy-friendly?
- Often, dairy-free meals aren’t soy-free. Or, gluten-free meals aren’t dairy-free. Etc.
Depending on what offerings the meal delivery service has available in any given week, you could find options that you love or have weeks when you don’t want to order anything because nothing sounds appealing.
#8 — Meal Delivery Is Hella Expensive
When you grocery shop and cook, do you pay $11 to $15 per person per meal?
Think about this, now: If you have a family of 4, does it actually cost $44 to $60 to make dinner every night?
Probably not. (If so, you’re spending too much on food!)
Guess what? That’s how much you’re going to pay per person, per meal for a meal delivery service. Especially if you opt for the paleo or keto options or grass-fed meat.
That’s hella expensive, y’all!!
Most of us could take our families out to a nice-ish restaurant for that much!
And when you consider the small portion sizes, the fact that you’ll likely have to supplement with food from your own pantry or freezer, the mystery ingredients, the amount of trash, and that you’re not saving that much time… why pay more??
Regular meal delivery just isn’t an affordable option for most of us!
When I asked my Instagram audience how they felt about this, here’s what they said:
100% agree. Just eat simple real food. — G.P.
I honestly have no desire for them. It’s like paying to eat out every meal. — B.B.
So, what’s the alternative to meal delivery?
#1 — Insta-cart or other grocery delivery.
With grocery delivery, you can order ingredients (which is what you get with meal delivery), but they aren’t pre-portioned (saving waste). Rather than 0.5 ounce of cilantro, you can get a whole bunch and use it it multiple recipes. You pick what you want = your family is more likely to eat the food and you’re not throwing it out.
#2 — Thrive Market
I don’t know where I’d be without Thrive! My area is so sparsely populated that we’ll never have grocery delivery, so this is the next best thing.
Plus, Thrive is like Whole Foods meets Costco. You pay wholesale prices for real, whole foods. Because you pick what you want, there’s less waste, less packaging, and it’s always allergy-friendly. (Save 25% on your first Thrive Market order here!)
#3 — Meal Prep!
Take some time on a Saturday or Sunday and make a meal plan for the week. Then, do some prep work.
In fact, download my FREE 7-Day Instant Pot Meal Plan with printable shopping list right here!
Some examples are:
Cook a whole chicken, then use the meat broth for a soup, use the meat for soups, salads, or in chicken salad, use the bones to make bone broth.
Make a batch of muffins, waffles, or pancakes and freeze. These can be heated in a toaster or oven for breakfasts throughout the week.
Pre-chop veggies and put in glass containers with lids. Celery, onions, carrots, sweet potatoes, and Brussels sprouts are excellent for chopping and saving.
Cook a batch of rice, beans, and/or quinoa for quick, re-heatable side dishes.
Boil a dozen eggs for breakfast, packing in lunches, after school snacks, or adding to salads.
Here’s a list of 6 Instant Pot meal preps using 1 Instant Pot and 1 afternoon!
When Meal Delivery Services Might Be Worth It
Broadly, I think meal delivery services are a rip-off.
However, there’s always an exception.
Meal delivery services might be totally worth it for…
- families who’ve just welcomed a new baby
- a person who lives on their own
- a couple with no kids at home
- families who’ve just moved into a new home and are waiting to set up their kitchens
- families who are remodeling
- people who’ve just gotten home from vacation, don’t have time to go to the store, and who time their meal delivery box to arrive on the same day as they arrive home