One of the constant struggles of life as a working mom is making dinner after a long day at the office. For those of us working from home, it can feel like a continuation of the work day. Not only do we need to cook the food, we need to decide what we want in advance and ensure our cupboards stay stocked.
It is incredibly tempting to get fast food or takeout on a tiring day, but we know just how unhealthy it can be. Is there an alternative way to give our kids nutritious meals without hours of effort?
Food subscription boxes have been touted as the perfect solution. These boxes give you everything you need to make a healthy meal in no time. But are they worth the price tag?
What is a food subscription box?
Food subscription boxes or meal kits are based on a fairly simple concept. Most of the hard work when making dinner is in the preparation. Cooking the food generally takes the minority of your time and is mostly passive.
A food prep box comes with all the ingredients prepared in advance. They are all freshly chopped up and portioned that very day. All you need to do is follow a simple recipe and pop the meal in the oven.
The subscription service not only makes the process of choosing meals in advance easier, but also makes it possible to build a healthy meal plan for your family. You choose your family’s meals from a menu of nutritious options, and can ensure all the important food types are included.
The fact that most of these food prep services cater to various diets is an extra selling point that will attract many exhausted moms.
This sounds great, but how much does it cost? Is it worth it?
How much do food subscription boxes cost?
There are food subscription boxes that start as cheap as $5.50 per serving, but most of the best options come at between $7 and $12 per serving. If you don’t keep track of what you spend on groceries, this number probably means little to you. We need a baseline.
According to 2019 stats, the average American spends $7.64 per day on food. However, this is an average that includes eating out which generally costs a lot more. Meaning the average home-cooked dinner probably costs less than $5 per serving.
With this context, meal kits seem somewhat expensive. If you’re only paying for convenience, it may not seem worth the added cost. However, that’s not all you’re paying for.
Are food prep boxes worth it?
There are a number of benefits associated with meal kits that may increase how much you value them. For one thing, they prevent you from spending money on groceries that just go to waste. Americans waste about 31% of the food they buy. This is a drain on your finances as well as the environment. When you buy a meal kit, you only get the ingredients for one meal.
But the more significant value comes from the time saved. A meal kit will save you at least thirty minutes on food prep. Often, it will save you as much as an hour. It will also save you hours in meal planning and grocery shopping each week. Consider the dollar value of that time.
If you think the idea that time is money is too esoteric to use as a benchmark, look at the debate around minimum wage. At the moment, the very minimum an employer can consider someone’s time worth is $7.25 per hour (and people are looking to double that). Looking at this in a very utilitarian way, we can say that if you spent thirty minutes of meal prep time working instead, you would earn at least $3.62!
Of course, you’re probably not going to work during the hours you save on meal planning and prep, but that’s not the point. Our time is infinitely more valuable to us than what any employer will pay for it. Work is the lowest possible benchmark of how much it is worth, and even in that sense you’re short-changing yourself in trying to save an extra couple of bucks.
The reality is that the alternative to meal kits is often takeout, rather than spending time cooking a meal from scratch. You’ll probably spend as much as you would on a meal kit, but the more important cost is in your family’s health.
There is no shame in not having the time or energy to cook a meal from scratch at the end of a long work day, but using takeout as an alternative can lead to unhealthy habits. With a food subscription box, you can rest assured that every member of your family is getting the nutrition they need. Unless you have a strong grounding in nutrition, this is something that is difficult to achieve on your own even if you have the time.
I think it’s clear that I’m a fan of the meal kit subscription option. Personally, I enjoy cooking, and meal kits will never serve as a replacement for that entirely. However, the sense of obligation to cook at the end of a day can suck the joy from it.
In terms of how I see my time, I try to think of its value whenever I am deciding whether to spend on something which will save me time. Often, we are quick to buy something that serves an immediate purpose, but will skimp on things which provide actual value to our lives as a whole. Extra time is the holy grail of motherhood, and any dollar value we come up with pales in comparison to its actual value.
Meal kits are more expensive than cooking from scratch, but they more than make up for the few dollars by saving us precious time.
More Time-Saving Tips: