Pros and cons of meal kit delivery services

Meal kit delivery services Blue Apron in the U.S. and HelloFresh and MissFresh in Canada are really taking off — so Calgary food trends columnist Elizabeth Chorney-Booth breaks down the pros and cons.

Food trends columnist Elizabeth Chorney-Booth offers her assessment

Not everyone has time to buy and prepare fresh, homemade dinners on a daily basis nowadays. For those who want to make it at home, there are meal kit delivery services available. The Homestretch food trends columnist Elizabeth Chorney-Booth has details. (HelloFresh/Associated Press)

It's not cheap but it might work for people who value convenience and fresh, healthy foods. That's the assessment of meal kit delivery services by a Calgary food trends columnist. 

"Once a week, you get a box with all the stuff in it, all pre-portioned and measured out, ready for you to cook. You stick it in your fridge for the nights that you want to cook," Elizabeth Chorney-Booth told The Homestretch on Wednesday.

She's talking about services like Blue Apron in the U.S. and HelloFresh and MissFresh in Canada.

"I actually found a Calgary-based company that's new called Rooted Meal Prep that caters specifically to vegan [and vegetarian] meals. Those ingredients are a little harder to source so it's a good idea," Chorney-Booth said.

You go online, chose a package that fits, which includes frequency and number of people and recipes and the company delivers it to you and bills you once a week in most cases.

Elizabeth Chorney-Booth is a food and restaurant trends columnist. (David Bell/CBC)

"They send you everything, usually all completely prepped for an individual recipe and then you just put it all together at home and you have a home-cooked meal, without having to do any grocery shopping and without having to think about what am I going to make tonight?" she explained.

"There are all kinds of things: Kung pao pork, spicy shakshuka with chickpeas and feta, roasted trout with broccoli. Kind of fancy and really appetizing."

She said most of the meals take about half an hour to prepare and the only thing you need is cooking equipment, oil and salt and pepper.

Not cheap

"If you're doing it four times a week for a family of four, it's about $160 per week, which is a lot considering it is just dinner. There's no breakfast or lunch or snacks. They give you the exact amount you need," Chorney-Booth said, so generally don't expect leftovers.

"Some people say the portions are for a family of four, or three hungry adults."

That price, she said, can be valuable for people looking for convenience who dislike grocery shopping and want fresh, healthy food.

Whole lot of packaging

Downsides, Chorney-Booth says, include packaging waste and the hand-holding effect.

"There's a whole lot of packaging. You do save on food waste, but everything comes packaged. It's a lot of packaging that ends up in the landfill," she adds, although some companies have recycling measures.

"If you are using this as a gateway to learn how to cook, they really are holding your hand the whole way. You might pick up a few cooking skills, but if you rely on this, you are not going to be able to learn how to cook intuitively or cook with what's in your fridge."

Chorney-Booth says her friends who use a meal kit delivery service swear by it.

"But to be honest, I don't know if it's sustainable for a lot of people," she said.

"Once the novelty wears off, I am not sure that these things are going to be going as gangbusters as they are right now. But there is a trend towards convenience food that is still healthy and fresh so we will see what else crops up to fill that gap."

With files from The Homestretch