Meal prep subscriptions seem to be the newest trend. Do you know what I am talking about?
The company, like Blue Apron or Hello Fresh sends you a box of meals to cook with all of the ingredients, instructions, and usually a cook time of 30-45 minutes.
Sounds pretty intriguing, right?
A couple months ago Nick and I started a subscription with two different meal prep subscription services. We loved that you could pick the meals that would arrive at your door-step ready to cook and eat.
We chose Hello Fresh and Plated. Both subscriptions we chose 3 different meals a week, with 2 servings each meal.
Choosing a subscription service
I chose Hello Fresh first because I read that they had the least amount of plastic waste, their meal cook time was true to the 30-45 minute scale, and the meal options for Hello Fresh fit our dietary preferences (dairy-free).
Hello Fresh subscription was about $10 a person per night. So about $20 a meal. Which at the time, sounded wonderful because I was comparing that price to the price of a meal out at a restaurant.
I chose Plated because I was given a coupon code for one free week from a friend. That was really the only reason why I went with the service.
The meal choices were more exotic than the choices offered by Hello Fresh. There also seemed to be more plastic waste. I also didn’t really enjoy the way the ingredients came shipped. They were all just kind of thrown in a bag. With Hello Fresh, each meal had it’s own brown paper bag. That made it easier to keep my refrigerator organized.
Again, Plated was about $10 a person, per night for 3 meals with 2 servings each.
Why I no longer use a meal subscription service.
Alright, so at first I was all about subscription meal service. I thought it was convenient to have meals to cook delivered to my door once a week. I throughly enjoyed making dinner at home as a couple and I especially loved that we weren’t getting take-out 3 nights a week.
But I happily cancelled my meal subscription service after 2 months.
I didn’t save any money!
I cancelled the meal subscription service because $10 per meal really isn’t a savings when you add it up. Cooking your own, healthy dinner can be done for much less. I actually ended up spending more money on food throughout the week because we were eating lunch out, instead of having leftovers.
There were no leftovers!
Nick and I were used to meal prepping and having leftovers for lunch the following day.
The meal subscription was one meal, one serving per person. Leftovers didn’t happen, which meant we spent more money finding take out options for lunch the following day.
Our grocery and eating out expenses shot up and with a new baby on the way, that had to change.
I wanted organic food for less money!
During all of this we were making the switch to all organic foods in our home. I was recovering from my second miscarriage and I made the decision to reduce the toxins in our home. Organic and non-gmo foods were the first step.
Hello Fresh and Plated did not offer all organic and hormone/antibiotic free ingredients. The only company I found that did was Sun Basket and Sun Basket was more than $10 per serving.
I was determined to find a way to make our own meals, with organic produce, and hormone/antibiotic free meats, for less than $10 a serving.
Meal prep service, without the expense!
It took me awhile to find, but I found a solution. I wanted to be able to make our own meals at home, without a subscription, but I didn’t want to have to try to stress over making a grocery list.
In the past I tried pulling recipes of Pinterest, figuring out the ingredients I had or needed, and putting together a meal plan. I always failed at this because I would either forget an ingredient or I’d become overwhelmed with the options on Pinterest.
but… I found a solution. A free solution!
Mealtime!! Which until today I thought was MealTime with a “t”, but it is actually Mealime!
You have to download this app!!
Here’s some of the features:
First, it is free!! There is a premium paid version of the app, but I have been using it for 2 1/2 months just fine without the premium choices.
Second, you choose the meals from database of different options. Photos are included and you can choose dietary restrictions, dairy-free, no seafood, low carb, etc. You choose your meal size. I choose 4 servings per meal. This allows us to have leftovers the following day.
I ALWAYS have more than 4 servings per meal, by the way. We usually get dinner that night and at least 3 or 4 servings for lunch the following day.
Third, it builds your grocery list using ALL of your meals you have selected for the week. On Saturday I build out meal plan for the following week choose 4 different meals. I try to choose meals with ingredients that are on sale at the grocery store.
After you choose your meals, it will give you a grocery list with exactly the amount of ingredients you need. For example, if 3 recipes call for onions the grocery list will list “yellow onions – 3”.
Meal prepping on a budget.
My grocery and food bill has been cut about in half using this app. I don’t waste food because I aimlessly picked up ingredients at the grocery store. I get lunch leftovers which means we aren’t eating out for lunch or snacks. I am able to choose organic produce and hormone/antibiotic free meats when they are on sale or at Costco AND stay within our budget.
I will also choose meatless meals for one night a week to save money and reduce our consumption of animal proteins. Every meal we have tried so far has been delicious!
Overall this app has completely changed the way we eat meals. We get a variety of meals, so we aren’t eating the same “meatloaf on Monday…. tacos on Tuesday… Burgers on Wednesday…”.
Do you have a meal prep app that you love to use or another way you meal plan on a budget? I would love for you to share it with me in the comments below or on Instagram!
I hope this helps you plan healthy meals for your family on a budget, without the heft price tag of a meal prep subscription service.